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Cody Johnson

Gotta Be Me – 2016 (CoJo)

Reviewed by Robert Wooldridge

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CDs by Cody Johnson

The sixth independent release from Southeast Texas singer/songwriter Cody Johnson is hit and miss. There are some good tunes that recall the '90s era work of George Strait, but there are some weak songs and most tracks are saddled with over-production from Trent Willmon.

The opening title track is one of the stronger tunes, reminiscent not only of Strait, but a touch of Hank Williams as well, with Johnson proclaiming an affinity for past country legends ("I cut my teeth on/Those old outlaw songs/My daddy used to listen to/Guess it's in my genes/I gotta be me"). The ballads "Half a Chance" and "Walk Away" also sound like they might have been hits for Strait in '90s. Another highlight is the acoustic gospel of "I Can't Even Walk (Without You Holding My Hand)."

Unfortunately many tunes such as "I Ain't Going Nowhere Baby" and "With You I Am" begin promisingly enough before progressing into annoying processed vocals and muddled production. Others such as the amusing "Chain Drinkin'" and the somber "Every Scar Has a Story" are otherwise lyrically appealing, but like the cliche riddled "Billy's Brother" and "Grass Stains" suffer greatly from the mainstream Nashville production techniques.

Though Johnson has a pleasant enough voice and the musicianship is solid throughout, "Gotta Be Me" ultimately disappoints because of the regrettable production choices and inconsistent material.