No current performer has straddled the music Row and Americana divide as deftly as Jamey Johnson.
His throwback sound, Alabama growl and biker looks appeals to those (like myself) that pine for the days of Waylon and Willie and the boys while his ear for a melody was able to grab the attention of the mainstream country radio and fans with his top 10 hit “In Color.”
Johnson is an unapologetic neo-traditional disciple of country music’s greats. He’s opened for Willie and done George Jones songs in the presence of the man himself. His next effort is to a man that influnced those giants.
On October 16th Johnson will be joined by Willie and many others on his new album, Buddy Cannon-produced Livin’ For a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran. (vinyl beginning Sept. 25.)
Cochran, who died at age 74 in 2010, is considered one of the greatest songwriters in the history of country music. He helped evolve the perfect country template established by Hank Williams a generation earlier.
“If I had to dream up somebody like Hank to influence songwriters, I couldn’t have done a better job,” Johnson says. “That’s what he was– not just for me, but for Willie and for a lot of people–just a helpful friend. If he knew you needed help with something, he could help you. He was there. And that’s what I want to be for the people in my life, same as Hank. He influenced me, not only as an artist and songwriter, but also as a person.”
Cochran’s songs transcended the country genre to become American standards (a practice closely studied by Willie) his catalog includes “I Fall to Pieces,” “She’s Got You,” “Make the World Go Away,” “The Chair,’ “Set ‘Em Up Joe” which Johnson covered on 1010’s The Guitar Song. His songs have been recorded by artists including Eddy Arnold, Patsy Cline, George Jones, George Strait, Elvis Presley, Elvis Costello, Ray Price, Ronnie Milsap, Jim Reeves and many others.
Recording a collection of Hank Cochran tunes in a pop-country saturated industry takes guts, and truly reflects the original Outlaw spirit the hat acts on the radio brag having. When it came time to take the next step in his recording career, he listened to his heart and decided to embark on a labor of love. In a daring career move that is consistent with Johnson’s penchant for bucking conventional industry wisdom to create a unique path, he decided to devote his time and creative efforts to honoring his late friend and celebrate traditional country music.
Besides having a professional affinity to Cochran he also has a personal one. “Shortly after he first met Jamey, Hank was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer,” says his widow, Suzi Cochran. “So for the two years he lived after that, Jamey would get off the road and pull his bus right up to the hospital, run up and see Hank and raise Hank’s spirits. The last time Jamey saw Hank was the night before Hank died.” Johnson joined Buddy Cannon and Billy Ray Cyrus at Cochran’s bedside as they handed the guitar back and forth while singing Cochran’s songs. Cochran died about six hours later.
“Hank adored Jamey,” Suzi Cochran says. “Hank loved Jamey. Jamey was a constant in the last chapter of Hank’s life.
“This is incredible,” she says of the tribute album. “I wish Hank had been here to see it. He wouldn’t believe it. He would have cried. He’d be happy. It’s exactly like Hank would have done it.”
I am really looking forward to hearing this release and look forward to hearing classic from it live when Johnson joins Willie Nelson and The Band of Horses on the Railroad Revival Tour 2012.
1. “Make the World Go Away” – Jamey Johnson and Alison Krauss
2. “I Fall to Pieces” – Jamey Johnson and Merle Haggard
3. “A Way to Survive” – Jamey Johnson, Vince Gill and Leon Russell
4. “Don’t Touch Me” – Jamey Johnson and Emmylou Harris
5. “You Wouldn’t Know Love” – Jamey Johnson and Ray Price
6. “I Don’t Do Windows” – Jamey Johnson and Asleep at the Wheel
7. “She’ll Be Back” – Jamey Johnson and Elvis Costello
8. “Would These Arms Be in Your Way” – Jamey Johnson
9. “The Eagle” – Jamey Johnson and George Strait
10. “A-11” – Jamey Johnson and Ronnie Dunn
11. “I’d Fight the World” – Jamey Johnson and Bobby Bare
12. “Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me” – Jamey Johnson and Willie Nelson
13. “This Ain’t My First Rodeo” – Jamey Johnson and Lee Ann Womack
14. “Love Makes a Fool of Us All” – Jamey Johnson and Kris Kristofferson
15. “Everything But You” – Jamey Johnson, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson and Leon Russell
16. “Livin’ for a Song” – Jamey Johnson, Hank Cochran, Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson