Mike Sudhalter | October 25, 2007
One of the best albums you may never hear this year is by Jamey Johnson.
Johnson, an Alabama native, has quietly made his way on to the country music scene, unknown to your average country fan. He had a single in the top 40 from his debut album, the song was called "The Dollar.", the title track from the album.
The rest of the album, which was solid, flopped commercially, but it wasn't all bad news for Johnson. He established himself as a formidable songwriter, co-writing "Honky-Tonk Badadonkadonk" for Trace Adkins and "Give It Away" for George Strait, both No. 1 hits.
I watched Johnson perform with Rhett Akins in March 2006, and they did a great show. I was waiting to hear more music from him, and then earlier this fall, I heard he released a digital-only album, "That Lonesome Song."
From listening to the song clips on itunes, I thought it was too melancholy at first. But then, I listened to it again and realized it might be one of the best neo-traditional albums I've heard in a long time. Johnson has a rich baritone and comes through with a voice that makes you think he's lived every word he's ever sang.
"High Cost Of Living" tells about the price a man pays for trading in the quiet family life for a walk on the wild side. I'd have to say "In Color", a song about family memories, expressed through pictures, is the best track. Old relatives tell youngsters, "you should have seen it (the picture) in color."
Speaking of successful songwriters, I recently bought an album by Skip Ewing. The guy's got a great voice, and it's a shame he never made it as an artist. On the album cover of "Homegrown Love" (1993), Ewing looks eerily similar to a young Adam Sandler.