Jamey Johnson’s “Living for a Song / Tribute to Hank Cochran”

October 17, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  68 Comments

Hank Cochran

How important was Hank Cochran as a songwriter? I’ll let Willie Nelson tell you.

Well, really, when you start talking about songwriters, you’ve got to say his name first. Then you start talking about everyone else.

Jamey Johnson’s Living For a Song is a tribute to his musical hero; a man he met in 2008 when Cochran was already suffering from pancreatic cancer. Johnson would visit Cochran regularly in the hospital, and according to Hank’s widow Suzy, “Jamey was there when a lot of people weren’t coming around.” Hank Cochran died on July 15th, 2010. Cochran’s death is said to inspire this project.

I’ve always had great respect for Jamey Johnson the man, and his dedication and desire to see this project through elevates him yet another notch. It’s hard not to regard him as one of the most sincere and authentic men in country music today, and the hope is that this project will elevate the name recognition of one of country’s greatest songwriters.

And you will find no more critically-acclaimed performer in country music at the moment, or in the last half-decade than Jamey Johnson. And though I appreciate Jamey the person and his honest, traditional approach to the music, in both the recorded and live context, I’ve found his music to be fundamentally lacking energy, enthusiasm, or the ability to engage the ear in virtually any manner. And unfortunately, Living for a Song falls into that same category.

This is what I don’t get about this album: We are sold this idea that Jamey Johnson is the best songwriter of our generation. But here it is over two years after his last album release, and this superlative, prolific songwriter is putting out an album of someone elses songs. Granted, his last album The Guitar Song was a double album, but like I pointed out when the The Guitar Song was released, there was a curious amount of covers and co-writes there as well.

I understand this is a tribute album, but most tribute albums are side projects; something you do outside of your normal album cycle as an artist. Living for a Song however is Jamey Johnson’s newest major release in his country music career. Can anybody tell me what other hits or critically-acclaimed songs Jamey Johnson has written for other artists since The Guitar Song’s release? What I’m getting at here is I think our generation’s best and most-prolific songwriter is in the midst of a multi-year writers block. That’s the only explanation I can come up for releasing this album as his sole recorded contribution to music in the last two years, aside from some guest spots.

What is Jamey Johnson known as? As a performer? As a singer? No. He might be capable at these two tasks, but he’s known primarily as a songwriter. So how am I supposed to get excited about him singing songs written and popularized by someone else? Do we really think he can sing “I Fall To Pieces” better than Patsy Cline? Is what we really need in a demonstratively-glutted music world milder versions of songs we’ve already heard?

And for all the Jamey Johnson fans who sell him as the solution to how to get folks re-engaged with traditional country, how does this album do the trick? Are any of these songs radio singles that can compete with Taylor Swift? They’re songs that will make the kiddos put their hands over their mouths in the universal sign of sleepy time. Jamey Johnson is like the country music sedative. His super power is the ability to make any country music song boring. He’s the exact reason fans of Brantley Gilbert and Colt Ford say country needs to evolve. And in this instance, they are right.

What is the cliche about good cover songs? That the covering artist “made it their own.” At no time on Living for a Song does it feel like Jamey Johnson makes a song his own. Granted, these songs are country. They’re very country. They’re so country, they’re cliche. But just because something is country doesn’t mean it’s good. As I have said about other Jamey Johnson projects, I believe that people are so used to hearing country that doesn’t sound like country, when someone actually plays country music they’re charmed into thinking it’s superb.

If this was a side project cover album, such criticism may not be appropriate. But this album is being so ballyhooed by critics all over the place that it creates the need for a little perspective. Even when looking at Living for a Song as a tribute and a tribute only, the album feels way too busy. It makes the same mistake Willie Nelson’s last album Heroes does of having too many guests. And may I point out that both albums were produced by Buddy Cannon. Like I said about Heroes:

Where the album may come across as too busy or unfocused is the amount of contributors to each composition, and to the album as a whole…Sure, many of these names we love, but there’s too many of them, diverting focus from any one pairing or performance.

It’s difficult to focus on Hank Cochran’s songwriting–the purpose of this album–because the people singing switch back and forth so often. Every song but one is a duet, and one song has three singers, one four singers, and one five. Some songs feel mere steps away from “We are the World”.

Willie, Merle, Emmylou, Kristofferson, Bobby Bare and others, these are all great names and I don’t doubt for a second the love for Hank Cochran all the Living for a Song contributors have. But the music is diminished by the sheer number of contributions. For Jamey, this may be a sincere tribute, but to the label, it feels similar to the Hank Williams Lost Notebooks project, like an excuse to showcase talent and shovel money towards Sony/ATV who owns the publishing on these songs.

Aside from the excessive singing parts, there’s nothing wrong with this album. But there’s nothing right either. All the musicians and singers do excellent jobs. The issue is with the approach.

God bless Jamey Johnson for putting together a heartfelt tribute to a country great that has passed on. But Living for a Song is about as lifeless as traditional country music gets. If you want to listen to a great classic country album released in 2012, listen to Don Williams’ And So It Goes. It resides in the same tempo, but brings a uniqueness and a soul that Living for a Song lacks. Or even better, go listen to Hank Cochran’s originals, or the original songs others made hits. These do a better job at selling Cochran’s legacy than this.

If Jamey Johnson wasn’t sold to us so hard, I might begin to appreciate his music on some level. But shoot me that I like my pulse raised when I put on an album.

1 gun up for a beautiful tribute to a fallen country great.

1 gun down for an album that is too busy, overproduced, and downright boring.

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Preview & Purchase Tracks from Living for a Song

68 Comments to “Jamey Johnson’s “Living for a Song / Tribute to Hank Cochran””

  • PLEASE NOTE: The comment section on this article will be very heavily policed. Please feel free to offer dissenting and spirited viewpoints with this article or each other. But please show respect to both Jamey Johnson and other commenters. Please and thank you.


  • Interesting article from The Rolling Stone about the tribute show last night based around this album. Apparently the crowd was left “wanting” and feeling the show was too short.



    • As someone who was at that show last night, let me first say that it was amazing. Sure, the set was only about 70 minutes but that 70 minutes included Allison Krauss, Emmylou and Willie Nelson. Hard to do much better. Also, tickets were not very expensive considering that this was a show at The Ryman. Would I have liked it to be longer, of course. I’m fine w/ the show last night and the length, I’ll forever remember seeing these legends on stage at the Ryman vs. the length of the show. That’s what it’s all about for me.


      • Trigger

        I think you bring up a great point I had not thought about. Why has Jamey Johnson been so quiet from “The Guitar Song” to this most recent album? And maybe I’m wrong, but I get the feeling that it is going to be another 2 years or so until we get another Jamey album. Maybe you are right….does this guy have writers block? Is he not that confident in the most recent songs he has written? The whole thing is fishy….but having said that…Jamey is an interesting cat.


        I have to disagree with you, and I realize people may have different views on this. I was also at the show on Tuesday. Let’s get to the positives first….the music was fantastic. Jamey sounded great. Having so many special guests….one of them being WIllie Nelson was awesome. I understand that Jamey’s intentions were. He wanted to make this night ALL about Hank and not about him. So he played the new album….the curtains closed….and he was off the stage. No encore. No past hits. The concert was over. He wanted the night to end with the memory of Hank.

        But here is where I disagree. We all paid 40 something bucks with taxes and fees included. Now that is not a great deal of money, but it’s still hard working money, and we have expectations that we are going to hear past Jamey Johnson material. I know what Jamey wanted….but it shouldn’t be about what HE wanted….it should be about the people who forked their money over, who make the concert/night possible, and about what THEY wanted.

        I know he did not likely intend to piss people off….but it left me mighty pissed. I wasn’t the only one either. I was in the bathroom after the show and everyone was vocally disgruntled. I mean come on….get your ass back out there on stage for an encore for your fans who make YOUR career possible….and play 3 songs we all know…Instead, he left a TON of people pissed so he could do things HIS way. I just don’t agree with it.


  • Dude, we have to disagree (again.) Jamey does have a laconic feel about him and he’s yet to produce a real classic, timeless song other that In Color (Honky Tonk Badonkadonk doe NOT count) but I love the approach and feel of these covers.

    They feel like they’re honoring Cochran without holding a wake. And extra points for not inviting Kid Rock to the gathering!


    • So now we’re giving points away for NOT inviting Kid Rock?

      This truly is a war of attrition.


  • I actually really like this album. I wasn’t expecting a barn burner in regards to the style and beat of the songs. It is what it is to me a sincere tribute to a great artist. Jamey Johnson’s songs have always been a slower more somber record, but that’s why I like it. I guess I don’t always need a fast pickin song to enjoy it. I see him the same way I see Chris Knight. They both create great songs but their persona is lackluster. Is that bad…hell no.


    • This has nothing to do with tempo. At all. And I can’t emphasize that enough. There are many great albums that are still slow. Rachel Brooke’s “Down In The Barnyard”, Don Williams “And So It Goes”. You can be slow, but you still need character. If you love this album, please don’t let my opinions sway you. But please don’t think my lack of enthusiasm has to do with tempo.


      • I get your issues with the critics proclaiming him as something he isn’t. Is he a good singer/songwriter hell yes. Is he the best singer/songwriter of our time no. You had this same issue when it came to Hayes Carll being proclaimed as the best songwriter. I really don’t think Jamey set out to make this as a record that will receive airplay or create hit moneymakers. I’m sure it was just a collaboration of friends to make a tribute to a friend. It’s the critics who put those artists on a pedestal to which they don’t necessarily deserve. I don’t think we can criticize Jamey for that. As for his own music and songs. It does appear he has been busy with other projects such as this, producing the Blind Boys of Alabama, Throwdown tour, Cash tribute, ZZ top Tribute, Waylon Tribute, collaborations with Willie, George Jones and Blackberry Smoke, Randy Travis, Chuck Mead, Tonya Watts, etc.


        • “It’s the critics who put those artists on a pedestal to which they don’t necessarily deserve. I don’t think we can criticize Jamey for that.”

          That’s a good point, though I tried to not either criticize Jamey for this, or let it reflect on my criticism of his music.

          I like Jewly Hight as a writer so I don’t want to pick on her, and she for sure isn’t the only one, but look at this headline:

          “With his album of Hank Cochran covers, Jamey Johnson — premier songwriter of his generation — adds to his own artistic legend”


          How can we call someone the “premier songwriter of his generation” when he hasn’t released an album of original music in over two years, and it will very likely be at least another year before we see a new album?


          • FYI, Nashville Scene writers don’t do headlines. Not that I would want a fact to get in the way of your rant.

            Beyond that, I’ll just say that this is arguably the most imperceptive album review that I’ve ever read, and that’s a saying a mouthful. You essentially say nothing about the album – nothing, that is, other than a confession that you’re easily distracted (“It’s difficult to focus on Hank Cochran’s songwriting–the purpose of this album–because the people singing switch back and forth so often”) – and instead dish up a bunch of stuff about things that Johnson hasn’t said about and albums (actual or imagined) that aren’t this one, along with fatuous observations about what tributes are “supposed” to be like that shows only how badly you misunderstand some fundamental country music musical values.


  • Heard Jamey preform a few cuts on Imus in the morning a few days back and really enjoyed them. He has a laid back approach no doubt but for me that kind of style is enjoyable.


  • Like the clips. I’ve never been sold on Jamey Johnson. I still hate him for writing
    one of the worst pieces of garbage ever. Honky Tonk Badonkadonk


  • I bought this yesterday at Ernest Tubb’s in Nashville and haven’t listened to it yet.

    Since it doesn’t have Jamey’s cerebral songs, I haven’t expected to like it as much as his own works, but I will buy whatever he puts out because I like him so much.

    As an aside, I saw him on tour 2 – 3 years ago when he was sandwiched in between Colt Ford and Bocephus.

    Jamey has only one side to his personality and it is dark.

    But it resonates with me because I spent my youth living rioutously (Old Testament parlance) and I can relate to all the dark experiences which are the subject matter of his songs.

    His songs are the polar opposite of, say, the Bellamy Brothers (deep vs. shallow, thought-provoking vs. mindless).


  • Jamey is one of my favorites, stood close to the stage for a concert 3 years ago and was blown away. He is traditional in a modern way that really works for me. But when I read about this tribute album I couldn’t get real excited. I think he did it because he wanted to honor his friend, nothing wrong with that. I stayed up to watch him and Allison Krause on Letterman, they did a great job. I bet he will have an album of original material out in the next year.

    I called in to a local country station last Oct to request “Heartache” because the station was playing spooky songs over the noon hour for Halloween. The DJ claimed to not have the song or album, which left me almost speechless. I then asked if they could at least get Jamey on sometime that day. She referred to his song about in pictures and I had to come up with the name of “In Color” for her. The station was 101.1 KXIA in Marshalltown, IA, Dorris Day was the DJ.


    • That’s maybe the most rediculius thing I’ve ever heard!! Sounds more like she just didn’t want to play your request but, If she was for real, then I hope that stupidity doesn’t cross the border here into SD!!


  • You know one of the things that many people loved about Cash and Willie and Hank Sr, Jr is that they marched to their own drum and did what they wanted and when they wanted, and if people didnt like it, then they didnt buy their albums or came to their shows…….I as a 35 year old guy, I’m not looking for music that is accepted by teens and little girls like with taylor swift….I love old country and the sound. Some people are more energetic but other singers are the ones that stand there and sing to you about life,love,loss…….thats country music….PERIOD!! If you want flash and jumpin up and down, then Jamey Johnson isn’t your guy, and just cause you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean others don’t love it….Thank ya


    • Nobody is saying that Jamey Johnson’s music needs to appeal to teens or Taylor Swift fans. However Jamey has been touted as mainstream’s gateway drug to classic country many times, and I think an album like this proves why this will never be the case, much more than his previous two albums. And as I said in the review, and in other comments, this is NOT just about the fact that Jamey Johnson plays slow. I don’t know how many more times I can say it. I have no problem with Jamey’s tempo or laid back approach, it’s the lack of a uniqueness or originality along with the slow approach. I’ve heard plenty of music that is JUST people jumping around that is plenty boring.


  • “I’ve found his music to be fundamentally lacking energy, enthusiasm, or the ability to engage the ear in virtually any manner” <– that line right there makes me sad you're not hearing what I hear when I listen to a Jamey Johnson album! For example, have you listened to "My Way to You"? There is so much emotion in that song, in the lyrics and in the performance, that I find it hard to believe your ears and your mind aren't engage!

    You asked who he's been writing songs for lately…does he need to be? Maybe he's writing for himself, could a new album of originals be in the works? He's got money, he doesn't need to be writing for others – he himself said he was glad that George Strait picked up "Give it Away" at the time he did, because Jamey needed it.

    Also – as for the fans that were left wanting last night…did they really understand the purpose of that show at the Ryman? It was part of the tribute to Hank Cochran – to celebrate the songs. It wasn't a "normal" Jamey Johnson concert, I wouldn't have expected him to perform anything other than what was on that album! I'm sorry they were disappointed, I've heard from others that were there last night it was a very memorable evening.


  • I work at a small northwest radio station – one that still plays dusty ol’ country records – and with all the publicity Johnson’s new album has received I’ve been very interested in listening to it. I also don’t really have a dog in the “how great or not is Jamey Johnson” fight. I’ve found that I’m so far away from the Nashville and Texas epicenters I usually am clueless when it comes to the politics of the scene. I’m also a big Hank Cochran fan – who isn’t who loves classic country?

    Well, I put the album on last night and have to say that I largely agree with the Triggerman’s assessment. There’s nothing wrong with the album. It’s produced well, the musicians are superb, the guests are a who’s who, and Johnson’s voice sounds exceptional. Finally, you can’t knock the songs. Every single one is a country masterpiece. It’s just flat to my ears. For me it’s not about the tempo, I love sad weepers, I love the Nashville Sound lounge of Ray Price’s Night LIfe and Bobby Bare’s release from a few years ago “Are You Sincere” is a great effort capturing that sweet old sound. This album for me though just didn’t capture the magic. It didn’t take any risks or revitalize the old songs.

    I don’t have a problem with Johnson recording a tribute or covers record. Fankly, just about every country singer gets around to doing it at some point. Perhaps my expectations were too high going in, because it is a pleasant album and I don’t doubt Johnson’s sincerity for the project. I imagine they sound really good live, but I just wish the album had been (that-oh-so-subjective) “better”.


  • I think this is an average album, but I also think that Jamey Johnson is an exceptional writer, singer, and performer (most nights). His entire career is a tribute to all of those who we look up to as country music heroes. He’s not going to “save” country music, and though his fans (and I’m certainly one) may try to shove down everyone’s throats that he will, he himself would never claim to be trying to do so. In this world, when a man can be one of the best without ever having to ask anyone to notice or care that he’s one of the best, it’s exceptional. He doesn’t promote himself, he doesn’t need the approval of people that don’t understand his music, and he’ll always play by his own rules. It’s not worth speculating his next move, but whatever it is I’m probably going to support it and if it’s original, it’s probably going to be pretty darn good. I’m fine with cruising through this highly respectable tribute and into whatever he’s got brewing next.


  • Hiya, Triggerman. Longtime lurker, first time commenter.

    I’m giving this album a spin as I type. I picked it up this afternoon — it’s going to be a Christmas gift for my mother, but I was curious about it too.

    For comparison’s sake, I listened to Laura Cantrell’s 2011 Kitty Wells tribute, ‘Kitty Wells Dresses: Songs of the Queen of Country Music’, again first…

    Laura has said that she always responded to the feeling in Kitty’s singing — a mix of emotion and restraint — and that she’s bothered by how today’s casual country fans don’t know more of Wells’ work outside of “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” She seems to have a real emotional connection to the material here (9 covers, including “…Honky Tonk Angels,” plus one original ode to Wells written by Cantrell and her pal Amy Allison) — both as a fan of this music, and as a skilled interpreter of song — and I really enjoy that.

    With Jamey’s album, technically well-done though it may be, I’m not getting that same passionate feeling. I suppose if adherence to traditional country sounds were all that mattered, it would be near-perfect. But it all feels a bit too reverent, too dutiful to whatever the original arrangements may have been; and it left me a bit cold, despite the chummy vibe brought by many of Johnson’s guests.


  • In my opinion, it seems like Jamey has gone downhill since he found commercial success. The “lonesome” album, I forget the name, was a great record filled with heart-felt emotion. With lyrics that portray everyday struggles and feelings of a man during hard times in life. Since he has achieved commercial success, the feel of his music has changed. I for one would love to see my fellow alabamian bounce back and prove he still has the “lonesome” in him. But I’m afraid that was probably the most artistic & sincere you will ever have seen him.

    As for the tribute album, there’s no way he could recreate what hank did, better than the original. Maybe it will turn some young’uns onto country classics that mostly purists only appreciate. But it in no way shows Jamey’s true artistic ability.


  • Short from me! I love the way your reviews go and this one in particular. If Jamey reads it I hope it’ll make him happy to see someone appreciate him for what he is because that’s exactly what I think you are saying here.

    Good ‘un buddy!


  • Trig has beef with Jamey because he achieved mainstream success singing traditional country music. How many other country music singers would have the balls to release a tribute to one of their friends, with the success Jamey has had from his previous albums? Great singing, great arrangement, althought a little over produced I will agree. Trig you are still yet to review That Lonesome Song and I don’t understand that either. Jamey is the torchbearer for traditional country music, quit with the hating.


  • How could he! Jamey broke a rule clearly in the album making rulebook and released a tribute album during his “normal album cycle”!! And if that wasn’t bad enough… he “charmed” all of us kool-aid drinking country music listeners “into thinking it’s superb”!!! And then… those “critics”, those fine music loving Professional Critics, that most of us don’t give two-Frijoles-up-a-rat’s-behind about, have “ballyhooed” him!!!! OH THE HUMANITY!!!!! Thank GOD we have The Triggerman to snap us out of this Tropical Punch trance we are in and make us realize that we should not like this album…NO,NO people, we should criticize Jamey for being “sold to us so hard” by those that we respect so much within the music industry. Thank You Triggerman! What we do with out you?


    • All I’m saying is that I don’t understand how you can look at a man who hasn’t released an original song in over two years and call him the greatest songwriter of our generation, or the torchbearer of traditional country. Jamey Johnson can do whatever the hell he wants, and I will be the first to pick a fight with anyone who tells him otherwise. The biggest rule Jamey broke was putting out an album of music that just doesn’t engage the ear, in my opinion. If this album was badass, covers, tribute, or no, the point would be moot, and the critics would be right.


      • Triggerman please forgive me, I am a smart-arse by nature and couldn’t help myself…well I could have but chose not to. Anyway, let me first say I truly do respect yours and everyone else’s opinion. I enjoy coming to your site and I read just about everything you post and most of the comments that follow. I look forward to seeing what other people are saying about music not because I am CONCERNED about what they say, I read it because they are discussing music and that INTREST me. With that said, I get the album does not live up to YOUR expectations and I believe if it doesn’t you should say so (and you do). It’s not your criticism of the music I don’t understand, it’s the motive I don’t get. Why criticize something harder because others praise him? Why does it matter what others say? When I buy an album I do so because I am hoping I will enjoy it and when I listen to it I base my opinion of the work on what I think, not because of what Triggerman or some “Music City” promo-man says (not drawing a comparison, just swiping a broad brush). But, when you write as if I am not smart enough to rationalize my own “perspective” about the music, then it goes from interesting discussion to diminishing my opinion as an interested reader. Maybe I misread the direction of your criticism and took the tone of your article too personal? I’m not so butt-hurt that I will promise “never to come back to this sight”. I will be back and I honestly think this is one of the best, if not the best, music related sites around. I will try to add to the discussion in the future and suppress the smart-arse comments. Keep up the good fight!!!


        • “Why criticize something harder because others praise him?”

          I honestly don’t feel like I did, but since you are not the only one to point that out, I must have not clarified that properly enough in my review. I was criticizing the critics so to speak, autonomously of the opinions on the music of this album. Or at least, that was my aim. I do feel that regardless of what others are saying about him, I would still find his music boring. I want to like Jamey, trust me. It not good for business around here to be critical of someone so many traditional country fans enjoy. But at the same time, I cannot lie to my readers because that would be even worse for business. I do think Jamey Johnson is a good guy, and I’m glad so many folks enjoy his music. I wish I was one of them.


  • Trig, I’ll admit first off that I didn’t read any of the responses to this article before I submitted this one, so there’s a good chance my concerns have been expressed and answered. I’d heard Jamey Johnson’s “In Color” while I was stationed overseas in Germany and bought “That Lonesome Song” while I was in the sates on leave. I immediately fell in love wish Jamey Johnson’s sound which, when I returned to the states, led me to buy “The Dollar”, catch him at the Rhyman (by chance, fortunately for me) and buy his double album, too.

    I am most surprised at your question about Jamey Johnson’s songs, as to whether they’re singles that can compete with Taylor Swift. Who the hell can compete with Taylor Swift these days on radio, and honestly, why would they want to? Jamey Johnson’s songs will “make the kiddos put their hands over their mouths in the universal sign of sleepy time”? Name one of Hank Cochran’s songs that wouldn’t have. As a matter of fact name one of Hank Cochran’s, Tammy Wynette’s, George Jones, Patsy Cline’s, and holy hell can you imagine one of my favorite’s, Don William’s songs on the radio today? Roger Miller? OId school country is, by definition, *boring* by today’s standards! I thank God, *thank* *God*, that Jamey Johnson wouldn’t consider pandering to Colt Ford’s or Brantley Gilbert’s fans and disrespect Hank Cochran’s songs by tailoring them to fit what they consider “country music”.

    I pre-ordered Jamey Johnson’s Hank Cochran tribute. I haven’t listened to it yet. There is no doubt in my mind, that it will be the same, slow, soft, drawled out country music that has led me to consider Jamey Johnson to be one of the few that does whatever the fuck he wants, regardless of what might or might not sell. I will never stop visiting Saving Country Music, like some folks promise to do, because I believe in, and fight for, all of our rights to express our own opinion. However, I think your review of this album is very uncharacteristic. I feel like there’s a chance that these issues have been expressed and addressed in the responses that I couldn’t take the time to read because I really wanted to get this off my chest. I don’t agree with this one, Trig, I feel it is very uncharacteristic, and I hope to catch a few points in the responses I plan on reading that prove me wrong. Take it easy.


    • First off Pat, thanks for reading.

      To clarify the statement about competing with Taylor Swift on the radio, this was NOT a criticism of Jamey Johnson, this was a criticism of the folks who proselytize about how he is classic country’s great gateway drug, or a Truth5 said above, “The torchbearer for traditional country.” I think Marty Stuart and many others would have something to say about that.

      And I don;t have a problem with the songs being slow as much as I have a problem with them lacking passion. You go back and listen to a lot of classic country, it’s not one slow song after another.

      If you like this album, that’s all that matter. This is just my opinion, and you shouldn’t let that get in the way of music you think is good.


  • Based on the samples, I really like this album. I do not hear any overproduction; it actually seems somewhat underproduced (in a good way). Most of the songs have a soothing, classic country musical feel (chiefly with the combination of piano, steel guitar, and a gentle two-step beat) that makes one feel dreamy. I especially loved “Make the World Go Away”, and I also liked “A Way to Survive”, “You Wouldn’t Know Love”, “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Me” (was this sung by Willie Nelson?), and “Living for a Song”.


  • “I’ve found his (Jamey Johnson’s) music to be fundamentally lacking energy, enthusiasm, or the ability to engage the ear in virtually any manner. And unfortunately, Living for a Song falls into that same category.”
    “Jamey Johnson is like the country music sedative. His super power is the ability to make any country music song boring.”
    “He’s (Jamey Johnson is) the exact reason fans of Brantley Gilbert and Colt Ford say country needs to evolve. And in this instance, they are right.”

    Reading those comments you wrote one can’t be at least suspicious of your bias towards JJ. I certainly understand different preferences and perspectives but those comments feel a bit out of place being about someone who is trying to carry country’s tradition forward. Especially coming from someone that claims is “Saving Country Music”. I don’t remember having read on you site harsher words about an artist, except when you were making fun of the scum of the scum of fake country. So it’s clear to me where you’re placing Johnson, or to be fair with you, his music.

    And about this specific album, your critic points were: 1- He’s a song writer so how dare him release this as a main project and not as a side one. 2- Jamey Johnson has no business covering other artists since he can never top them. 3- The album won’t re-engage traditional country fans. 4- The songs (Hank Cochran’s) will put ‘kiddos’ to sleep. 5- The songs are so country they are actually cliches. 6- It’s about as lifeless as traditional country gets 7- Too many contributors

    Again, taste is taste and that’s the beauty of art. And I won’t comment on all of your negative points. But to this humble reader, it sure does sound way too harsh of a review for an album that drips with honesty and is aiming on showcasing one of the greatest country song writers to ever grab a pen. That’s why some people are calling you on your bias but I certainly understand that’s how you truly feel. I can hardly think of a better match than JJ to sing and present Cochran’s songs to new fans.

    Is the album perfect? No, it’s not. As you mentioned, there’s too many ‘voices’ on the same songs. But in my opinion it’s among the most worthwhile albums to come out this year and a great listen to Johnson’s, Cochran’s and traditional country fans in general.


  • “Triggerman”
    You know what they say about opinions..I guess like alot of things in TX, yours is just a little bit bigger. Been visiting your site for about a year or so ( the name drew me in) and I have to say for someone who proports to be “saving country music” you’re doin a pretty piss poor job. Now I’ll admit I’m a fan of Jamey’s so this article seemed as good as any of your articles to chime in on. Regading this record specifically, is it his best? No ( Not that I’d expect a tribute record to be) But I’d have to say the fact that he’s able to get a record like this made in Nashville today is pretty impressive in and of itself. The balls to do it,the “equity” he’s earned in the industry to get a shitty label like the one he’s on to fund it, that gets my respect regardless of if it constitutes “real country” in your rather narrow viewpoint of what that is. That’s my biggest problem with your shitty website and halfhearted attempts. I know it’s easy to trot out the trilogy of “real country music” Hank, Johnny, and Waylon like so many of the shitty “new outlaws” you take issue with , but what about the hundreds of others that never warrant a mention? If your mission statement is to “save country music” why am I reading about the shitty new Mumford and Sons record instead of ,I don’t know the new Delmore Brothers box set Bear family just put out? Why am I reading about Jason fucking Aldeans affair instead of reading about the latest Dust To Digital reissue, or the new Old Hat Records release, or anything about Thompkins Square Records? What I am reading about Nashville..the series instead of The Carter Family and Fidlin’ John Carson, ? Country music covers a wide swath of generes, string band, bluegrass,gospel/sacred harp, blues, western swing,”hard country” etc..none of which get more then a passing mention ( if that) on a site claiming to be saving the culture? My suggestion? Quit whining about Jamey Johnson, quit fawning over Hank III ( who I like and equally respect), and learn some fucking history before you try to save it


    • If you’ve been visiting this site for about a year, then you would know that I haven’t “fawned” over Hank3 in probably a year-and-a-half. Not that I have anything against him, but since he released his 4 albums in August of 2011, there just hasn’t been very much news from him. Oh, and Hank3’s last album? Yeah, I gave it a worse review than this one. I’ve written a total of 3 articles about him this entire year. 3. Out of 300. That is 1 out of 100 are about Hank3 for you counting at home, and one of those was just as much about Marty Stuart and the other was about how he raised $18,000 for an animal shelter.

      “regardless of if it constitutes “real country” in your rather narrow viewpoint of what that is.”

      Where did I say this album wasn’t real country? I definitely think it’s real country, and even went out of my way to make a big point about it.

      As far as all the names you say I need to mention to actually save country music, why did you not mention the names I have? What’s to say I’m not working on an article about The Delmore Brothers right now, and your ill informed comment is getting in my way of finishing it? By the end of this year I will have written 100 reviews, and I could write 100 more, actually 200 more, and there would still be people bitching about what I did NOT write about. That is the nature of this beast. Every single day I have to make the extremely hard decision of what I am going to spend my time writing about, and the first measure a topic must live up to is if I am passionate about it or not. I make mistakes every single day, and nobody is more aware of that than me, and there is no bigger critic of me or of this site than myself. I’ve haven’t patted myself in the back in five years, I’ve only kicked myself in the ass for what I couldn’t accomplish and how much I missed.


  • Trig, on this one, you’re wrong.


  • It sounds like you have more a problem with the media pushing this album than you do with this album??? Not much of a review on the album.

    “I’ve always had great respect for Jamey Johnson the man”
    Ummm, lets see some of your past blogs and replies on Johnson and lets read that respect????

    If you did 5min. of google search on Johnson, you would know why he hasn’t put out any original music in a while. Producing, touring, collaborating. Not hard to research that before ripping him.

    Trigger, when Johnson does something not like any other “mainstream artist”, why do you rip for it? I guess you’re right, he should have followed the formula of standard album cycle and hit us with some radio friendly stuff right? Then you really lay into him.
    But all you have to rip is “he isn’t energetic enough”? I think you have been asked before, please don’t write anything about Jamey Johnson. You are way out of your league with this guy.


  • Ba-donk-a-donk. Nuff said.


    • How is it that people continue to hang Johnson with Bondonkadonk? It really shows your credability.

      Do you ever wonder if he was just the same old Bondonkadonk douche bag (which isn’t a bad song until Adkins clubbed it up) why so many legends and top-notch artists would work with him. I mean these are bigtime heavy weights from a couple genres. Not to mention some of the others he has co-written with and produced and tours with.

      I think like Trigger, you may be a bit out of your league with Johnson when you think you know him or try to rip him. When all you have is bondonkadonk, or his “energy level”, or even I think Trigger ripped him for his looks in the past, that shows you’re reaching.


      • Am I out of my league, or are you uninformed? For the record I have gone out of my way to not only NOT criticize Jamey Johnson for writing “Honky Tonk Badonka Donk”, but for criticizing others for doing so.

        Written over 2 years ago:


        “Listen, I know he wrote the song “Honky Tonk Badonka Donk.” We all had a fun time roasting him for it, and I was shouting him down as much as anybody. But that is in the past. 5 years in the past, and it is not relevant to his current music. It was a gimmick song that he wrote as a joke. It doesn’t make it right, but I can’t listen to his new album and say I hate all the songs and justify it by saying, “He wrote Bandonka Donk.” If I don’t like Jamey Johnson or his music, it is going to be because of what he is doing right here, right now. That way I know my arguments will have solid foundation, and not be a flimsy case based solely on an old grudge or personal taste.”

        Look man, is it so out of the realm of possibility that we can respectfully disagree? You will find nowhere where I am discounting people, or calling them “out of their league” for not liking Jamey Johnson. These are my opinions, and as I have said in responses to numerous comments, neither you or anyone else should let my opinions sway you from good music.

        Was I “out of my league” when writing reviews for Don Williams, Marty Stuart, and Alan Jackson? I respect that you like Jamey Johnson’s music Karl, and I don’t want to hinder that whatsoever. But if you or anyone else expects me to sit here and lie about my opinions to my readers, then with all due respect, you are “out of your league” in understating what Saving Country Music is all about.


        • My reply was to Tim Alex, not to you. Tim was the one ripping Johnson for bodonkadonk.

          But since you want to chime in. I never had a problem with your opinions, I simply have a problem when you make allegations or raise questions that can be answered by spending 5min. through google search or on his website to find out what he has been up to when you wonder where has original stuff been for two years.
          Also, how about backing off Johnson for all the praise critics give him. You portray it as if Johnson is self proclaiming himself the best songwriter of our generation. Just like in early blogs about Johnson you said he was trying to be some new age “outlaw”. In both cases, it has never been Johnson making any claims. Just bloggers, journalists and music critics.

          If the dudes music doesn’t do it for you. Fine, that is your opinion. But you never can seem to leave it at that with guys like Shooter or Johnson. You just needle it a bit more.

          How can you say it was boring? “The Eagle” is a rock solid duet with Strait. Some serious honky tonk sound. You can nearly hear Waylon’s ghost chime in.

          “I Don’t Do Windows” is done very well.

          “Living for a Song” has great vioces and clearly the tribute song of the album.

          I guess you should blame Wille and Merle as much as Johnson on this one, but Johnson is the easy target, right?


        • Well, you mentioned my name to, so I felt the need to clarify.

          I can say it’s boring because that is my opinion.

          And I understand that Jamey has been busy for the last two years, but songwriters write songs, it’s in their blood. They’re doing it all the times. The “great” ones like Townes, Guy Clark, and others that Johnson has been compared to wrote constantly. And I’m not saying Jamey isn’t writing, I just want to see the results. And also, as I have said in numerous comments, I did my best to make sure to delineate my criticism for critics over-inflating Jamey’s contributions, and the music itself.

          Honestly, I don’t blame Jamey or Merle or Willie first for how this album turned out, I blame the producer Buddy Cannon. He made the same fundamental mistake he made on this album as he did with Willie’s Heroes (which in the end I thought was much better, and gave a positive review). There’s just too much going on, and you see others complaining about this in comments. Lets the songs and the collaborations breathe. They tried to cram too much talent onto this album, and it takes away from Jamey’s heartfelt vision, and the songs themselves, in my opinion.


  • Please dont waste your money on this album. I did so you dont have to. I cant believe that with all the money and time these peoiple have, they come up with this. Its boring as hell! No energy, little passon, and a waste of money twice. Mine and theirs. Man i sound mean. :)


  • I think we are starting to see the difference in real traditional country fans, and those that are metal-country. (sorry, no meth in Cochran or Johnson’s music)

    Trigger, did you actually listen to the album? And if so, do you think Hank Cochran is boring? Had you heard anything by Cochran before this, maybe “Fall to Pieces”


    • Naw man, I just put on and Assjack record and banged my head.

      \m/ !!! METAL !!! \m/


  • Honky Tonk Badonkadonk was a gimmick song, just as Jambalaya was…

    I love tribute records, but in my opinion Living For A Song isn’t a better record than the tribute-albums to Johnny Paycheck, The Louvin’ Brothers, Barbra Mandrell and Webb Pierce to name a few. And Kris Kristofferson can’t sing anymore. And there’s too much Willie Nelson on this record. Love him, but are there any albums today on which he does not participate?


  • I love watching the comments section delineate when you write about Jamey! It adds above comedic relief to my day though reading 10 different comments from 10 different people, all of which say the same exact thing, does get old! Anywho, relevant comment: I agree that most of Jamey’s work on this album feels very unattached. I’m sure that he enjoys playing these songs and was heartfelt in recording but somewhere in the madness that occurs during recording, the heartfelt good intentions got lost!! Maybe it was the guest singers, whom seem overwhelming when you think about just how many guests there actually are, or maybe it got lost in post-production who knows. Fact is: I don’t feel the music here!


  • The tracks are lacking emotion they are way to flat.


  • Wow, you couldn’t be more wrong. Quite frankly I’m glad he isn’t trying to supplant Taylor Swift on the radio. I’ve basically stopped listening to country radio because I can’t tell the difference between that and the pop station. If I ran a place called “savingcountrymusic” I’d can you. He’s about the only guy out of nashville, that is actually playing county music these days…


    • As I have clarified many times, I am not saying that Jamey Johnson is or should be trying to compete with Taylor Swift or get on country radio. That is an assertion made by certain fans, and I was simply asking the question if an album like this would be effective doing so.


      • i guess this is what gets me about your whole article. A well produced album featuring Hank Cochran’s work, sang by Jamey Johnson, duets with people like Alison Krauss, Emmylou Harris, Ray Price, George Strait, Willie Nelson, Merl, Kristoferson. In and of itself engaging to the ear. What more can you ask for? The production is masterful, the different artists bring a different wrinkle to each song (it is a tribute album after all), the Vocals are fantastic.
        Who knows maybe I just never hear good country music produced anymore, so when I actually hear country music I’m head over heels. But I don’t know what more you want, very very good songs, sang by the very BEST country artists, well produced. Just because it’s a mellow collection of songs doesn’t make it boring.

        I can’t believe you’d call That collection of artists boring.


        • I didn’t call that collection of artists boring. I love every one of them. But the music they came together to make under the misguided direction of Buddy Cannon is boring. Liking songs simply because of whos name is on them is like cheering for laundry in sports. The team, or the song, still have to perform.


  • As I look at Waylons Discovery he put out Waylon Sings Ol’ Harlan in 1967 which was his 5th album. Of course this was before his monster 1970’S kick ass dominance in country music.


    • Ooh! I just did a search on Grooveshark for that; and I see it has “Busted” and “Heartaches by the Number,” among others. I must check it out…

      I’d also like to add that Laura Cantrell’s ‘Kitty Wells Dresses’ was only her 4th studio album; but then, on her previous 3 albums she only wrote or cowrote 4 songs each. (The next album that she’s been working on promises to have more of her writing than usual.)


    • That is a good point Tony, not sure if you like this Cochran tribute project or if you liked the Harlan project but it is a similar path/idea Waylon exhibited.

      When you look at Waylon’s career, hear/read Hank Cochran songs/lyrics, mix in some Vern Gosdin influence, take growing up just miles from Hank Williams birth/resting place, tour with Willie, have serious respect for Merle and Kristofferson…. and mix that with someone in the belly of the beast of Nashville and one that has a very smart musical mind, you start to realize what Johnson is capable of. It isn’t something that is giong to happen in 1-2-3 albums. It is a long, growing, building career. The hope is he can keep away from some deamons, and continue the path.

      When it is said and done, I’m talking 20+ years from now, we are going to laugh at the critiques we all tried to give Johnson. He is another league, another planet of country music. There is a reason that artists of such high reverence collaborate with him. Willie will sing with anyone. That is Willie. But Ray Price coming out of the woods? Johnson isn’t some catch phrase act to cling to. He is everything from the past 60 years of country music in one man.


      • I love Johnson and Waylon. I have 23 of Waylons Albums hanging on my wall. I have most of his songs on my computer.

        I still yet to have see Johnson in concert.

        I listened to his “I Fall to Pieces” and I will admit it could of been a little faster. His voice didn’t match the music. Which is a shame cause I know he could of done it better.

        But I watched his performence with Alison Krauss on Letterman “Make the World Go Away” and it was spine tingaling.


        • I agree with your take on “I Fall To Pieces”. He can do slow songs, but for some reason that one didn’t match up well. On the other hand, I thought he killed “Would These Arms Be In Your Way”.

          I think he sounds tremendous with Strait. “The Eagle” is done very well. I may wager to say better than Waylon’s cut. They should cut more songs together.

          You can sure here Cochran’s influence on Jamey when you listen to “Living for a Song” cut and then Johnson’s original “That’s Why I Write Songs”. He even gives the nice tip to Hank at the end.


    • Waylon put out 3 albums in 1966, 3 albums in 1967, including the Harlan album, which was not a “tribute” per se (nor was “Honky Tonk Heroes” in 1973 that had all Billy Joe Shaver songs except 1), and he also put out 3 albums in 1968. That’s 9 albums. In the same time span, Jamey will put out one, and not one original song from someone touted as our generation’s greatest songwriter.

      Comparing Jamey to Waylon will only bring him additional criticism. Trust me.


      • Trig, Waylon did minimal song writing on all 6 of his albums between 66 and 67. Also, putting out 3 albums in a year just doesn’t happen these days.


        • Also Waylon contributed little songwriting to his 3 albums in 68. It proves absolutely nothing that Waylon put out a lot of materials during those years. It was probably too much at the time, and would definitely be too much material these days.


  • I listened to the album a lot this weekend. Then I went back and read the blog. Then listened, then the blog again.

    I can see where some people would find it boring. Those are the same people that music row listened to and pop-country was born out of.
    But the founder/owner/blogger of “SavingCountryMusic” finds it boring?

    This is an assembly of some of, no not some, an assembly of THE greatest living legends left. Along with the top tier artists like Allison and Strait. This is a tribute to a songwriter…and for most country fans, an obsecure one. This isn’t Willie, Waylon, Hank, etc… (How many SCM fans thought Willie wrote “I fall to pieces”?)

    And how do you review an album, tribute album, and question it by a rip on the creator for what has he done lately regarding original works? If you knew Johnson was busy with other projects, as you claim in later posts, why even bring up questioning where his original works are?

    I think this blog is a sad sad state of SCM. The idea of saving country music has gone by the way and you simply like to rip tabloid/pop country artists and tout obsecure/loosely held together bands?

    This project should be the light on the hill, and somehow you are bored by legends.

    * by the way, koodos to Johnson for including Ronnie Dunn. One of the best voices ever, and Dunn’s solo album was excellent, but very little mainstream support. Maybe SCM could check it out, review it for the sake of saving country music rather than for the sake of keeping up with the Swifts and Aldeans.

    Trigger, get back to the focus and task at hand. You’re lost.


    • “I can see where some people would find it boring. Those are the same people that music row listened to and pop-country was born out of.
      But the founder/owner/blogger of “SavingCountryMusic” finds it boring? “

      This is where you and other Jamey Johnson fans, whether you agree with it or not, need to wake up to the reality that he is a very polarizing figure in country music. You, or your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or in chat rooms may not a agree, but there is a strong, healthy contingent of people who see Jamey as even worse than I do, that think he’s a fake Outlaw and a tool of the industry guized as a traditional country artist, and they use songs like “Honky Tonk Badonka Donk” and collaborations with Colt Ford and Kid Rock as examples.

      I don’t go that far. I think that Jamey is a sincere guy, but that doesn’t mean I have to think his music is good. It is not just my opinion that he is boring. It may not be the majority thought, but it is not uncommon either, and can be found in numerous comments just in this article.

      I am not trying to dissuade you or anyone else from liking Jamey Johnson, I am just giving my honest opinions. But if you think that my opinions are way out there on a limb, then you are not being exposed to the full scope of opinions that surround Jamey Johnson.


      • “This is where you and other Jamey Johnson fans, whether you agree with it or not, need to wake up to the reality that he is a very polarizing figure in country music. You, or your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or in chat rooms may not a agree, but there is a strong, healthy contingent of people who see Jamey as even worse than I do, that think he’s a fake Outlaw and a tool of the industry guized as a traditional country artist, and they use songs like “Honky Tonk Badonka Donk” and collaborations with Colt Ford and Kid Rock as examples.”

        I realize he is a polarizing figure. However, most of the fans that critique him, are fans that have not seen anything like him before. They are to young to know who Wille and Waylon were before 1970 and think Willie, Waylon, DAC, Cash just rolled into town long hair, black suit, beard, etc… and everyone stepped aside. Not how it happened.
        They have seen a guy like Jamey from the beginning. Rolling into town with sound of his own, then being shelved, just like Jennings and Jones.
        All people like you saw of Willie, Waylon, Cash is the end result. You can’t compare the two. The early stages of a career vs. the end legacy isn’t apples to apples.

        You can’t even compare apples to apples due to different eras. No one in “todays” era is kicking out 3 albums a year, unless WalMart or Target are demanding them via some promotion.
        Maybe some artists would like to get more music out there, so they come up with creative ways to do it. I.E. Jamey and Hank3 putting out multiple albums as one release.

        I guess I shouldn’t have used the term “comparison” but more, following/influenced by the paths of people like Waylon, Gosdin, Hank Sr., Hank Cochran etc…

        Those that think Johnson is some fake/creation, they are giving to much credit to the industry. The industry couldn’t come up with someone like him. They have shown us their idea of “outlaws”.

        You sell us Leroy Virgil as the best songwriter, right? How many albums has he put out? How many original songs are being recorded of his? He isn’t in the Nashville machine, so why isn’t he kicking out albums on a monthly basis with all the songs he has piled up?
        Now I like Hellbound, but you always seem to hold a different standard. Perhaps if you hadn’t introduced your SCM fans to Johnson as “Country musics black friend” back a few years ago, you would have more credit when you now say you respect him.

        I get it, Johnson’s music isn’t your thing. Just say that and leave it at that. Or don’t write about him, period. But you can’t. You always take an extra shot.

        Why wouldn’t you write a critique how the mainstream media and radio are hurting a artists like Johnson….this blog isn’t even about the album. It is about the mainstream media and Buddy Cannon’s screwing with what Johnson is… a true/real traditional country musician. Buddy Cannon probably heard Jamey’s idea of this Cochran project and said “holy shit, you want to do what? And you can get who? Fuck, lets get them all.”


  • I’m not crazy about his music either. I like some of his music but find that his voice is not very emotive and so it keeps his music from being satisfying. That’s just me, though.


  • I have read through quite a few of these comments. Everyone is entitled to an opinion i reckon. As far as Jamey’s show…..the rule of thumb “Waylon, always leave them wanting more” (Buddy Holly). Good Job Jamey. As far as Jamey’s art. if you would like it your way….go to the waffle house. I hope that Jamey continues to put his product out his way. Authenticity is attractive. If someone takes my advice on their art then it ain’t art. I am sure lots of people had “tips” for Hank Williams. It was those same people that fired him from the Opry when he did not abide and fall in. the great thing about art is that if we see a different way of doing it then we are free to do it. I hope Jamey keeps building and creating with the tools in his shed.


  • What you said about JJ’s music is exactly how I’ve always felt…uninterested. “fundamentally lacking energy, enthusiasm, or the ability to engage the ear in virtually any manner.”

    A friend of mine had an incident at a show this week and now JJ is on the ‘shitbag’ list and I will share it. That incident tells me all I need to know about JJ as a person and how much JJ appreciates fans…..it was the 5th time this dude paid his hard earned $$ to see JJ. The video link is attached as proof…..

    ATTENTION Jamey Johnson fans & haters:
    JJ DONT WORK FOR YOUTUBE and he’ll let you know it!!!
    Here is proof of what a SUPER DOUCHE BAG Jamey Johnson and his crew are!!
    My friend spent $60 on a ticket to go see this fruit cake…..He was posting days before the show and was very excited to be going. I quietly shook my head and rolled my eyes, but I didn’t delete him for his indiscretion of having a lapse of good taste in music or his good sense. We all have those moments. So he goes to the show and here is what he wrote the next day. Note: Jamey Johnson is the “unnamed artist” and my friend was being very gracious in my opinion to call JJ an “artist” because he is not. He is a manufacture image to sell cds for his record label. JJ wouldn’t know “outlaw” if it cracked him upside his arrogan
    t head.

    “majorly disappointed in last tonight !
    may have been the best i ever seen unnamed artist play but the treatment i received ruined the evening .
    i will never pay to go see , buy a cd or support said artist again .
    since dollars are all some care about now i’ll choose who i support with my hard earned dollar !
    i was told in a very rude manner to stop filming and i did .
    folks where taking photos all
    over the place , i took a few photo’s and a guy named William who works for unnamed artist come charging at me .
    screaming turn the camera off now you got his attention !
    we don’t work for fucking youtube !!!
    after this William stood to the side of the stage all night glaring at me , never have i had my vibe ruined like this !
    i don’t need this aggravation in my life , all i wanted was a fun night instead i’m $60 poorer and pissed off .
    the atmosphere turned ugly after my indecent , people were made to set down and generally harassed for trying to have fun .
    a fight broke out 5 seats away from me .
    half the people walked out in the front section of seats .
    other things i could say but i let this night piss me off enough .
    only good thing i will say about tonight is Chris Powell is one hell of a drummer and all around good guy !
    Nov 16, 2012 12:50pm
    when i saw William come charging at me for taking 4 photos at the Jamey Johnson concert i hit record on my video camera in my pocket .



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