GRAND RAPIDS PRESS - live review
Staying up late with Jamey Johnson
Posted by Linda Odette
January 25, 2009
By 7 p.m. Saturday, a couch and a blanket were looking better than a bar and a beer to my husband and I, but we had tickets to see country singer Jamey Johnson at the Intersection.
He's a scraggly looking guy who probably isn't cheerful in the morning until he's had his first smoke, but he writes great lyrics, has a charming way with the f-bomb and reminds me of the gritty, hard-drinking characters that made me like country music.
Starting with "High Cost of Living," ("The high cost of living, ain't worth the cost of living high"), he sang nearly every song on his latest album ("That Lonesome Song" which is nominated for a Grammy for country album of the year). That's about all I ask for at a concert.
He could have left then, and, quite frankly, I expected him to. It still would have been just about the perfect country-western show. Prison, drinking, momma and trains all had been covered; a fight had erupted in the middle of the smoky honky tonk (causing Johnson to stop in the middle of "Tulsa Time" and swear at the idiots fighting); he drank all night from a plastic red cup, giving advice such as "I've always said you should never sip whiskey through a straw, but it ain't that bad"; and for his biggest hit, "In Color," he stood back from the mic and let the crowd sing most of it for him.
Yup, pure good times were coming from a Charles Manson lookalike.
At one point, Johnson asked for a Jack Daniels from the stage. "I was kinda tired ... but I might do this another damn hour," he told the crowd. "We got no damn where to be and all damn day to get there."
Have you ever heard more endearing words? I just wanted to hug him.
He played another hour like he said he would, giving the crowd "Angel Flying too Close to the Ground" by WIllie Nelson; "Who's Going to Wear Their Shoes?" by George Jones; "Do You Believe me Now" by Vern Gosdin; and Merle Haggard's "Are the Good Times Really Over for Good?"
Haggard's words couldn't be more appropriate for me, or for the times:
"Are we rolling down hill like a snowball headed for hell?
With no chance for the flag or the Liberty Bell,
Wish a Ford and a Chevy
Could still last ten years like they should
Is the best of the free life behind us now?
Are the good times really over for good?"
I couldn't take much more. I was 48 years old and out past my bedtime and if I heard one more classic reminding me of those good times, the beer (or maybe the Maker's Mark) would probably make me tear up.
He did "Turn the Page" by Bob Seger. It wasn't a country classic. But I still got goosebumps.