CMA 2011 Preview – Where in the Hell is Jamey Johnson?

November 2, 2011 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  35 Comments

The 2011 installment of the CMA Awards is coming up in a week, and with a series of articles, we’ll be getting you ready for the biggest night in country music how only Saving Country Music can: with wildly-opinionated, ultra-idealistic bitch rants bordering on narcissistic rage. And where I think I’ll start is with the question:

Where in the hell is Jamey Johnson in the Album of the Year nominees?

Now look, let me level with you. I am not the biggest Jamey Johnson fan, and I have been vocal about that here over the last year or so. But I am also not against Jamey Johnson. I do think he is the real deal, and an honest, talented songwriter, and the best thing that mainstream country music has going for it. He just may not be the most natural or engaging entertainer. Some find that endearing about him, and I can’t blame them for that.

But even someone who is tepid on Jamey can see that The Guitar Song deserved a CMA nomination for best album. Of course it wasn’t going to win; that is not the point. The point is that if mainstream country music is going to accept Jamey Johnson into the fold, then they needed to recognize that this double album was his opus, his best shot, his marquee release, laying it all out. If they are going to use Jamey to say, “Look, we do have traditional artists that we accept and promote,” then they need to follow through with it. Many artists only have one marquee release like this in their lifetime. This may have been Johnson’s only chance at a CMA Album of the Year nomination, and the powers that be blew it.

And it isn’t like The Guitar Song is anchored down by obscurity. I have never seen such a positive consensus from country music critics about a modern album than what I saw for The Guitar Song, and that takes into consideration that my review was mixed. But it wasn’t just a critic’s favorite either. The Guitar Song was certified gold back in February, and has had steady sales since. And doesn’t his co-headlining tour with Willie Nelson on the Country Throwdown this summer count for anything?

But before the conspiracy theories start flying, there are a couple of very legitimate reasons The Guitar Song was not nominated, the first being timing. Being released in September of 2010, it was released too late to be considered for a 2010 nomination, yet it’s been over a year since the release. As the system works, it still should have been considered with the same weight as all the other albums from that period, but I think some “out of sight, out of mind” was in play here, that might have been helped if The Guitar Song was receiving more continuous air play or stronger sales than it has been.

And speaking of sales, that leads to the second reason, and probably the real reason Jamey got the snub: Jason Aldean. The massive, unpredicted success of Aldean’s album My Kinda Party completely disrupted order in the nominations, and is likely the culprit for Jamey getting knocked out. Aldean’s dominance of the nominations, and how he is poised to sweep the awards will be a theme throughout these Saving Country Music CMA previews.

I’m sure if asked, Jamey would say he doesn’t care about these awards with his common “aw shucks” attitude, and whether Jamey is telling the truth or not, country fans should care, because either Jamey Johnson is a legitimate A-list country music entertainer, or the country establishment needs to stop parading him around as one to answer criticism from traditionalist fans.

35 Comments to “CMA 2011 Preview – Where in the Hell is Jamey Johnson?”

  • I probably would have never spent my own money on a Jamey Johnson album, but I just happened to fing “the guitar song” in a random soldier care package last month and I have to say, it wasn’t half bad. Not great compared to the stuff I’m used to but still head and shoulders above any of “todays hot new country”. Sadly, songs like this just aren’t going to make as much money as your flavor of the week “dirt road anthems” of the world. Oh well, screw the CMA’s. When do we get the nominees for SCM album of the year?

    • December. Still plenty of important releases for 2011 not out yet.

  • I liked the concept of Jamey Johnson (our saving outlaw) and even bought the album. Even liked some of it til I heard his butchered version of “Mental Revenge”. What kinda “artist” could destroy such a great song in the way he did and still consider themself a “Country Musician”? I am sure Mel appreciates the royalty check but I doubt he will cherish the memory of his song being slaughtered in the public ear!

    • Seems that Jamey’s version of Mental Revenge was an observation that it couldn’t be done like Waylon did it. So to take it down a different path was a good tribute and version that gets better with every listen.

    • Oja-

      I am not going to disagree with your opinion on “Mental Revenge”, I think Mel’s is classic, Waylon did a nice job too, I don’t think Jamey slaughterd it, but…

      But I am curious why so many on SCM think Jamey is some “concept” or “conjured” up by the industry? What exactly has he done to make one think he is a concept? Again, I am asking what has HE, Jamey, done. Not what awards show put him on or gave him an award. Not what magazine or radio station said he was an outlaw cause he has a beard. Not what label tells him what to do, oh wait, no label does. What has Jamey done to be consider a concept?

      I guess I go back to the idea that most that are critical of him and his image/style just don’t know that much about him. I think when you view someone as a “concept” you’re already going in with an slanted view.

      • IceColdCountry-

        I can answer your question. Most of the people who comment on this site deal entirely in cliches, stereotypes, archetypes, etc. Jamey Johnson=Major Label=Pop=Imposter. It’s almost like a race to see who knows the most obscure artist out there.

        Trust me Im a music snob too but I can recognize mainstream talent when I see/hear it, which is why I usually cannot stand to read the comments on this site. Theyre usually pretty closed minded and predictable.

        I have met Jamey Johnson for longer than 5 mins and there’s nothing fake or conceptualized about him.

        • Alright just hold on a second. I will be the first to admit that this site and many of my readers have an independent bent, but the point of this article was to cry foul at the CMA’s for neglecting Jamey Johnson. IceCold, as he always does, takes a few sentences and harps on their assertions instead of putting them in the greater context, as he always does. He wants to make this article a personal attack on Jamey, which it is not. And the same can be done with commenters: you can take one or two and then talk about “most” or “many” or “all”. Without question there is a segment of my readership that laughs off anything they consider “mainstream” without giving it a sniff, but there’s many that don’t either.

        • SaB3 If you feel the need to follow mainstream than that is your decision. Labeling the commenters here as closeminded and predictable is pretty laughable. You label (me, them, us) and then reprimand with the exact same mindframe as you accuse. Why don’t you just go slap your grandma?

    • Agree,but I’d say he made up for that one with the Vern Gosdin and Ray Price covers he did.Especially “For The Good Times”.Awesome version he does.

  • I like Jamey Johnson, but “The Guitar Song” just seemed to drag on, forever. I think I may have listened to the whole thing twice, at the most. That said, he’s one of the few “mainstream” artists that I will even listen to. I’m sure the suits will drop him like a bad habit, now that the crappers (country-rappers) are on the rise.

  • CMA 2011 preview – where in the hell is any good music?

  • I became a fan of Jamey after hearing his cover of Dreaming My Dreams. Why does it surprise anyone that an artist that actually has a taste in music get snubbed from the CMA’s?

  • I think its a damn shame that a masterpiece like “The Guitar Song” was overlooked for a half-assed record like Blake Shelton’s “six-pack” cd!

  • I’m a huge Jamey Johnson fan, but Im not at all upset that he was snubbed. Honestly I didnt even know the CMA’s were coming up soon and I could care less that they are.

    I loved “The Guitar Song” although I think that “That Lonesome Song” was better. Double albums usually have alot of filler, Guitar had none, although I think if shortened to a single disc it probably would have been a little better for me.

    Im not suprised at all that Johnson got overlooked. Hell the local stations here in Nashville dont play anything from him other than “In Color”. He just does not fit the mold of radio friendly pop country.

    • I agree. I enjoyed Guitar Song but it could of been just as stellar as Lonseome Song with they would of cut out some of the “fluff” as you called it. I think a couple of the songs just kill the momentum of the album.

      • Guitar Song is a great album, but can be long. It takes some time and creative listening to take it all in and follow the storyline/concept. It isn’t a immediate gratification like many of today’s songs are individually.

        I think the best run of songs on it are “Macon” through “My Way To You”. They really capture the concept and flow together nice from the two perspectives of life and relationships.

        Another note on Jamey, anyone heard his album “They Call Me Country”. First one he ever released? There are some knock out songs on there. “Maple Guitar” is one of the best country songs ever written.

  • Its very simple, Jamey doesn’t play the games that other artist do to win favor. He just likes singing country music. That’s not good enough for the Dj’s and industry executives that live by pat my back and ill pat yours. He just doesn’t do that .
    He is the real deal

  • […] Country Music wonders about Jamey Johnson’s absence in the list of CMA Award […]

  • I think a lot of people are spot on. I don’t think the Guitar Song really got any air play. “In Color” is the only song of Jamey’s that I consistently hear on the radio and that was from his last album. With more airplay (which will never happen unless he completely sells out) he may of had a shot.

    Trigger on a side note: kinda of off the subject

    Eric Church is nominated for New Artist of the Year. Really!?

    How does an artist on his 3rd album qualify as a “new” aritst? I really never understood this about the awards and it bothers me every year.

    • Yeah, this is pretty common for this category. If it’s new to the Music Row consciousness, then it is considered new. What this really means is Eric Church is now a legitimate country music franchise since he’s had a #1 album.

  • I am a huge fan of jamey, and i do agree that he should have been nominated, but big corperate nashville is scared of jamey, why? whether you want to admit it or not, triggerman, not shooter jennings, not hank 3, or hell bound glory…. but JAMEY JOHNSNON, is going to be the one who will tear down the walls, so that the XXX ARTISTS, And independent artists that you cover, will flood into the country industry, and drown out, main stream country… you think radio does not matter any more, that digital down load is dominating music right now… ever check the album sales lately ? why are so many country artists selling cds in the millions? ROLLING STONE magazine did a story say 85% of country fans STILL BUY CDS AS THEIR MAIN SOURCE OF MUSIC, AND LISTEN TO THE RADIO… NOT DOWN LOADING!!!!!!

    you are in the wrong music genre trigger, go to rock, there is where every thing you are talking about music down loading IS TRUE…. country fans want old outlaw music, put the industry is not behind it, which is why jamey johnson, will never get the credit he deserves… if jamey johnson where to bust down the doors, people would start to take more notice of people like, hank 3, shooter jennings , and your heros ,hell bound glory. every music changing society movent had a leader.

    the 50’s had elvis, the 60′ had the beatles, the 70’s had waylon, willie and johnny cash, and now , like it or not, it is jamey johnson’s turn, if he can change nashville, more and more country fans will be blasting CAR CDS, with XXX AND saving country’s great list of indie artists to listen to.. I am not a hater, trigger, I do like you, but I do not always agree with you.

    • I’m still trying to figure out why Trigger thinks the that the Nashville establishment is parading Jamey around as their traditionalist voice. I haven’t seen any corporate backing to Jamey from Nashville at all? Who is doing this parading/marketing?

      Also, I am confused as to how “The Guitar Song” was Jamey’s chance to shine in the CMA’s? He has been up and won awards before this album and this isn’t the peak of his work. A lot left in the tank.

      This article is kind of a slap in the face of Jamey insinuating that he got screwed because the establishment parades him around as the savior but then they don’t give him nominations. Last I checked, mainstream/pop country wants nothing to do with him outside of the song “In Color” played on the radio every now and then.

      • Never said there was corporate backing of Jamey, but I have seen his name used as evidence that mainstream country still has a traditional voice in too many places to name or link to.

        And saying this was Jamey’s chance to be nominated in that category was not to imply he had nothing in the tank. I has more to do with the double album concept, and how Jamey was really trying to make a big splash with this album.

        I am not slapping Jamey in the face. If I’m slapping anyone in the face, it is the industry. And yes, I do think they parade him around, but I don’t blame Jamey for that one bit.

    • Well first off, I’m not under any delusions that either Hank3 or Shooter are going to save country music at this point. Maybe I was in the past, but please don’t try to paint me with that brush any more. And Hellbound Glory might be better poised than any of them to make a big splash, but I just don’t feel confident that’s what they’re trying to do. Leroy Virgil might be one of those guys who runs away from too much success, because he’s scared it will hurt his songwriting chops.

      Make no mistake, I would LOVE for Jamey to take over Nashville and turn it on its head. You have no idea man, and if he got in position to do that, I would be right behind him, doing what I could to help facilitate that. But to do something bold takes passion, and I just do not see that passion in Jamey with all due respect. I see authenticity, I see wit and wisdom, but you can see the comments in this very article, a lot of people see his music as boring. Like IceCold said, you have to be a creative listener, and I agree there’s a lot of good stuff there, but to make a big change, you have to raise people’s pulses. If Jamey is the country music Jesus (as Eric Church likes to put it), then his best is yet to come.

      • Triggerman, you have to BELIEVE in Jesus to anticipate that Jesus is going to save people (or the industry as Eric Church tries to illustrate) and if you believe in Jesus and know anything about the Bible, you know that this is not what is happening when the greed is motivating the songwriting. They are using Jesus to sell records and that is quite offensive.

  • Jamey reached with that double record, he coulda cut it down to one record and it woulda been a classic. Its a shame he isn’t getting more attention for his work

  • I wouldn’t count him out just quite yet, it was only his 3rd major label release in 4 years, look at how long it took Waylon and Willie etc to breakout to major success, even after they broke off from the Nashville Sound it was a few years til they really broke out and had huge superstar success. If someone is going to do it and breakdown the walls again it sure aint gonna be some overnight success, could even take upwards of 10-15 years of just keeping at it before we start to notice some major change in mainstream country music. Seems the underground is alive and vibrant as ever so as long as all these great bands, artists and writers just keep on doing it something is bound to happen and breakthrough and I think Jamey has the potential to doing so as he is clearly very talented with his head in the right place and already has his foot in the door so to speak. And on another note, call me ignorant but when has a double album ever done really well?

    • Smashing Pumpkins maybe? Yeah, I don’t know. That’s probably a good point. I think the label made Guns & Roses split up Use Your Illusion for those very commercial concerns. The sticker price of a double album might scare some away.

      • agreed there are not many country double releases that come to mind (outside of a handful of live releases or greatest hits packages) … and Hank III’s Straight to Hell, but I think Johnson’s expanding of The Guitar Song into a double album was the tie in as “opus” but looking at a few other double-album releases of note: The Beatles’ White Album, Stevie Wonder’s Songs in the Key of Life, Drive-By Trucker’s Southern Rock Opera, (a large number of Jazz releases – notably) Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew, The Clash’s London Calling, Springsteen’s The River, Minutemen’s Double Nickles on the Dime, Zepplin’s Physical Graffiti, the Who (Tommy AND Quadrophenia), Stones’ Exile on Main Street (and Liz Phair’s amazing Exile in Guyville), Husker Du’s Zen Arcade, Notorius B.I.G.’s Life After Death, Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, Allman Brother’s Eat a Peach, Pink Floyd’s The Wall …etc etc… so while we could argue that folks aren’t putting out the monumental releases of yesteryear, I don’t think we could rule out Double Albums as a successful venture…..

  • well i see what you are saying trigger man and thanks, but for those who find jamey’s music boring, boy are you missing what his music is about. he reminds me of a story teller, with his words put to music. and just for the record, I am big fan of hellbound glory, I just wish that their new music was on cd, as well, people shouldn’t count cds out, they still sell. I think artist should put out both down loads and cds and let the fans choose which one they want. thank you for responding triggerman, usually, when i speak my mind, people get pissy with me..

    thank you for responding in a professional manner.. I love the website, and I order my cds based on what you and XXX recommend, I just ordered taom waits’ new cd, on this pages review, so cannot to wait to get it. keep up the great work.

    • I hear what you’re saying about CD’s man. I remember this coming up at some other point. Hellbound’s “Damaged Goods” WILL be available on CD. I can’t find the conversation, it happened on some article, but I believe they will have CD’s for sale at their shows, and as soon as the limited-edition vinyl sells out, they will start selling it on CD only. I’ll try to find that info.

      • The CD for Damaged Goods will be available for sale once the album goes live via Itunes on 11.15.11. Since Old Highs & New Lows wasn’t available on 12″ vinyl, the push for Damaged Goods to be sold, at first on vinyl with digital download card, was our way of saying thanks to all the Hellbound Glory fans as there was such a demand for it.

        The album production has had some delay beyond our control and we are just damn lucky to be able to get the album out this year, instead of having to wait until early 2012. This means Damaged Goods, will be available directly from our website (which is also the bands online store), live shows and as digital downloads. Then in early 2012 when it comes out via our distributors, it will work its way into all the stores that carry our albums worldwide.

  • Trig wrote, “The point is that if mainstream country music is going to accept Jamey Johnson into the fold, then they needed to recognize that this double album was his opus, his best shot, his marquee release, laying it all out.”

    They haven’t accepted him. His talent, style, smarts, and drive worked its way in. They couldn’t/can’t ignore it. Doesn’t mean they accepted it.

    The fact they didn’t nominate him is proof they are trying to push back on an artist like him. What do they do instead of accept him? They accept the idea of him and start churning out “outlaws”. But some in this scene think that Johnson was the “manufactured” outlaw that started it all. He wasn’t. He is the genuine article, and they may ignore him at this CMA, but that is just proof he shook them up.

  • There´s just one hope for traditional country music: Jamey Johnson.

    He produces his albums himself (last two) and don´t care about the record exec’s or DJ’s…
    Check this out on youtube:

    His choice of song for Country Radio Seminar 2011 in Nashville, TN @ the Ryman… building filled with DJ’s and exec’s and he didn’t say a word just sang “You Take Me For Granted”!! 1 minute and 44 seconds of pure kicking the butts of the “industry”.

    Jamey deserved to win an award for album of the year… I reckon he was not even there…

    Hankaboy in SWEDEN

  • To be honest i dont think Jamey really cares about the fame…isnt that what outlaw country is about saying fuck you and ill be happy with the music i want to make no matter how popular or unpopular it is. Jamey has great songs. Listen to back to caroline, his best work i think

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