CMT.COM - concert review
Jamey Johnson Brings Jennings Back to Life
Posted: January 26th, 2009
By: Alison Bonaguro
I never thought a country singer could do this: get about 1,000 people to sing all the words to an old Waylon Jennings song.
But it happened on Friday night (Jan. 23) at a Jamey Johnson concert in Chicago. I knew that with his recent Grammy nominations, and his “In Color” coming on the radio about every 10 minutes, that country fans dug him. And I was pretty sure they’d sing along to his debut single. But unless Johnson hired these folks to do background vocals for him, he must be doing something right.
I am not exaggerating when I say that every person in the place sang along with every song Johnson did. (OK, maybe his gigantic bodyguard didn’t. But he had a job to do.) Even on the Jennings’ songs, like “The Door Is Always Open” and “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way,” the crowd yelled out the lyrics with the enthusiasm you might reserve for the day Jennings himself came back to life. And maybe that’s what this was all about. Maybe people see Johnson as a vessel for bringing back that outlaw kind of music.
He certainly had the traditional sound for it. The steel guitar played a big part in his nearly two-hour show. And if most mainstream country lyrics are full of pop-leaning hooks about good times and falling in love, Johnson’s are at the opposite end of that spectrum. The live versions of “High Cost of Living,” “Mowing Down the Roses” and “That Lonesome Song” did the best job of showing off Johnson’s attitude, one that reveals itself with the stories in his songs.
His between-song banter was full of thick Alabama twang and a lot of swearing. Like when he was introducing a new song, “Nothing Is Better Than You,” he said “Here’s how this is gonna work. We’re gonna play you a new song, and if you hate it, don’t say a f**king word.”
Like it or not, that is the kind of guy Jamey Johnson is. And the kind of guy I think Waylon Jennings was.