In Which I Ask the Least Popular Question in Nashville

But isn’t Jamey Johnson over-rated?  Don’t get me wrong, he’s talented.  And he’s hot as sin.  And I’m trying to listen carefully and understand what folks are hearing but I just can’t get past the sense that I’m listening to an artist playing a country singer.

What am I missing?


24 thoughts on “In Which I Ask the Least Popular Question in Nashville

  1. He’s not just playing a country singer, he’s playing an outlaw country singer. And I can only assume that the there’s been a dearth of real rebellion in mainstream country music for a while now and people are simply clinging to what appears to be the realness of it. How real it is is definitely in question.

  2. You know he’s the guy who wrote Honky Tonk Badonkadonk, right? That pretty much makes him a doofus in my book.

  3. At least that song has a sense of humor about itself! I swear, I was all “I don’t understand Jamey Johnson” and folks were all “Oh, go to his myspace page. Listen to the songs.” and each one seems more insufferably humorless than the last.

    Which brings me to the thought that crackerjackheart made me think–if there was any perceptible wink, if you had any sense that Johnson was just funnin’ you with all that, I think I’d love him a little bit.

    But this sense that he agrees that he’s just as big a shit as everyone thinks he is? Kind of ooks me out.

  4. Well … I think he is what he’s playing. And I think the songs on his album are mostly better than “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” And I like his voice well enough. But I find something that doesn’t gel for me. And I find the heavy-handed selling of his outlawness off-putting as well. But I blame his label for that, not him, and it wouldn’t make me dislike him as an artist if I liked him better as an artist. But … I dunno … I love Waylon Jennings; I love Steve Earle. Jamey Johnson, to my ears, doesn’t have the voice and style of the one or the sheer songwriting chops of the other.

    But you ought to ask those 9513 boys to come over here and speak up for him; they’re all over that record.

  5. I’m afraid to even let the 9513 boys know of my doubt. I’m afraid they’ll break a beer bottle and cut me!

    I think my problem is that I experience his songs as almost great, like he’s walking me right to the door of greatness and then running away. Like at the last minute, he chickens out and throws in a “whore” or something to fool me into believing he’s edgy. Well, edginess is not just about cussing–or I’d be queen of it–it’s about going where folks don’t want to but cannot help but follow you.

    To me, that’s the thing about Jennings and Earle–they take you someplace you don’t want to go and you end up being glad you went there.

    And Johnson comes close enough–

    That southern Baptist parking lot
    Is where I’d go to smoke my pot
    Sit there in my pickup truck and pray
    Staring at that giant cross
    Just reminded me that I was lost
    And it just never seemed to point the way

    As soon as Jesus turned his back
    I find my way across the track

    I mean, when was the last time you’ve heard a country song about Jesus letting a dude down? Now we’re about to go someplace interesting. Seemingly.

    But no. He goes to prison. And for what? Doing drugs?

    Oh, see, see. This gets to the crux of my problem. You don’t go to prison for doing drugs. You go to jail, sure, but prison? No. You go to prison because you did something terrible on drugs.

    But not in Johnson’s song. Somehow in Johnson’s song, just being an out of control partier who loses his wife is enough to get you sent to prison.

    No it’s not.

    Now, granted, Merle doesn’t tell you exactly what he did to land him in prison in “Mama Tried” but it was something bad, because it got him life without parole, and his refusal to talk about it tells you that it was terrible.

    Johnson’s refusal to talk about it leaves me suspicious that it never occurred to him as a song-writer that there needed to be something other than hard partying that landed the speaker’s sorry ass in jail.

    Also, who are these pot smokers ambitious enough to go to a church whenever they want to smoke up? And then who are depressed by the end of it? Has Johnson never smoked pot?

  6. Maybe the narrator beat up his wife while high? Admittedly, the drug would have had to be something other than pot to make that seem likely. I think we’re getting some telescoping (of drugs and years) here. That doesn’t bother me too much. As Mr. Earle has said, the truth doesn’t always rhyme.

    No, what bothers me is that you’re afraid of the 9513 boys. Why are you afraid of them and not all my friends who I told you about who love Jamey Johnson?

  7. I thought the least popular question in Nashville was whether Miranda Lambert is overrated? I’m so out of the loop.

    Listen, if we were to sit down and dissect Waylon’s discography, I think we’d find “High Cost Of Living” would fall in at least the mid-tier. We get sentimental about our heroes, but Jennings, Haggard, these guys released some really bad songs. And to that extent I think it’s unfair to expect Johnson (or anyone else) to constantly live up to this standard of perfection that everyone seems to be holding him to.

    I do think Johnson is a bit overrated. I think anyone who is hailed as a savior to the extent that he is deserves to share in that criticism.

  8. Granted that not all Waylon’s cuts were gems, and that some of them were outright bombs. I just don’t understand why (besides reasons of hype) he’s brought into discussions of Jamey Johnson. I hear an influence on a couple of songs, in an I-can-sing-my-record-collection sort of way. But I give Johnson enough credit to think that he’s trying to do his own thing. To the extent that he’s not being derivative, he’s pretty decent. I like his album well enough if I don’t analyze it too much, and here and there there’s a line that makes me sit up and say yeah. But he’s on the top of everybody’s best-of list, and I just can’t figure out why. Reluctance to have a woman up there?

    As for Lambert, I think that question has to be in suspension until her next album comes out. No?

  9. Poor Miranda! I think she’s fine and I think she’s over-rated. To me, she’s kind of in the same category as Johnson, where it’s like folks are so hungry for something from country music (and I, myself, am not quite sure what it is) that they’re willing to take folks who aren’t quite there and try to twist them into being it.

    I think there’s a fear–maybe a true fear–that there’s no one lasting anymore in country music. Not that there aren’t people who’ve been around for ages, but who are the folks who are coming up now who are going to be around for ages?

    Where’s the up and coming George Straight who just churns out hit after hit after hit for decades? Who’s the new Vince Gill who not only is an excellent musician, but who cares about the health of the industry and its institutions?

    Let me ask it another way, if I turn on my radio, who do I hear who I think is going to end up in the Hall of Fame?

    I’m not sure there’s anybody. And I think the reason folks are rallying around Lambert and Johnson is because they’re the only plausible, no matter how far outside, candidates.

  10. Why should country be different than any other kind of music? No one has a lifelong career any more. It’s five years at the top and then off to the oldies’ station for everybody. And it’s worse for women than for men, since men can look like Jamie Johnson but the women have to look like models to get anywhere in the first place.

    Although, I have to ask: did Lambert ever get the push, the hype, the oh-she’s-come-to-save-us critical evaluation that Johnson is getting? If I don’t think she’s over-rated it isn’t because I think she does no wrong, but only because I don’t think she’s rated all that ridiculously highly to begin with.

  11. To all the longevity questions, my money is on Brad Paisley. I don’t know him personally, but he’s a very talented musician and seems to be a decent human being.

    As far as the women go, most are sadly promoted as entertainment format delivery systems. You may not like Alison Kraus (me neither, really) but if you’re looking for a woman of substance in country music that anyone outside of Nashville hears, she’s one of the few that come to mind.

  12. Now, see, Krauss comes out of bluegrass. There’s lots of scope for women and for long careers there, and they have a business model all their own that is almost completely independent of radio. I don’t like Krauss much as a singer, but I admire the way she has taken the model, twisted it juuuuuuust that much, and is running with it. If only Rhonda Vincent had thought of it first….

    I think you’re right about Paisley being a good bet for longevity, if he keeps mixing a few more serious songs in with the novelty ones.

  13. I’m still waiting for him or any currently big act to make a significant donation to the Hall’s Precious Jewels fund. That’s when I’ll believe he really cares. Garth Brooks, of course, could pay everything they need without even noticing. But I’m not holding my breath about it.

  14. Are you people kidding me with these ‘comments’ on Jamey Johnson? You all have nothing better to do than crack on him? Don’t listen to him then, and let those of us who think he’s the best new(somewhat new) artist go on and be happy with everything he does. Give me a break. Ya’ll sound ridiculous. He rocks! I saw him two weeks ago in concert and he played for over two hours,and he rocked my world.He actually stayed afterwards, and met everyone,signed everything, and took pictures with whoever wanted to wait in line.I met him and he was very gracious, not to mention the hottest looking guy to come along as talented as he is, and with a voice like his. I was shocked down to my toes to see how down-to-earth he really was. No one will ever change my mind about him because I saw FIRSTHAND how he interacted with every fan; from little kids,grandmas, young girls and cowboy guys. He had people laughing and talking like he knew them forever.He was just great. If you don;t know,-DON’T COMMENT.

  15. Honey, have you nothing better to do than troll the internet looking for things you disagree with? Don’t read them, then, and let those of us who enjoy talking out the reasons for our likes and dislikes go on and be happy with our discussion. Give me a break. You sound ridiculous.

  16. Oh,-go “honey” someone else “sweetie”. You guys sound ridiculous to me too,…so I wouldn’t be getting all high and mighty. I’m just saying, if you don’t know or don’t like him, DON’T LISTEN. If you don’t get it, then I guess I’m giving you more credit than you deserve.

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