Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
The beginning of Jamey Johnson's second CD has little to do with today's typical country fare. The sound of footsteps are heard with someone telling him, "Mr. Johnson...you're free to do whateve r you want to do. Just stay out of trouble." He's leaving jail, but maybe the jail was the handcuffs he may have felt in life, including musically, because his semi-hit, "The Dollar," did not prepare listeners for this.
The Alabama native gets mighty personal on this solid country disc with tales of drugs, divorce and drifting. It ain't pretty, but it sure is brutally honest . As Johnson sings on the lead off song "High Cost of Living," "the high cost of living ain't nothing like the cost of living high" and "my wife was my best friend, but I traded that for cocaine and a whore." Taylor Swift this isn't.
Johnson's vocals - a lively baritone with a drawl - help make the lyrics even more compelling. There is no doubt that Johnson has lived at least some (let's hope not all) of these lyrics in a way that only a writer could own. And while most songs are bolder sounding, he tones it way down with Allen Reynolds' "Dreaming My Dreams," first recorded by his apparent musical hero Waylon Jennings, which is very spare and mournful sounding before getting humorous (or is it actually sad) with "Women" about how he can never get one to stay. The closing honky tonk song, "Somewhere Between Jennings and Jones," is autobiographical and once again tells Johnson's story. There's a lot here on this most welcome effort, which fortunately breaks today's mould.