Album Review

Jamey Johnson, 'The Guitar Song'

September 13, 2010

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Jamey Johnson’s last release, “That Lonesome Song,’’ came out of nowhere in 2008 and was arguably the best country record of its decade. So what has Johnson done for an encore? Somehow, managed to convince a mainstream country music label to release a 25-song double album. And not only a double album, but a concept album of sorts. “The Guitar Song’’ comes grouped in two parts, a “Black Album’’ and a “White Album,’’ structured, according to Johnson, as a progressive movement from a dark and sordid beginning to a reassuring and redemptive end. That structure isn’t always discernable in listening. What is immediately evident, though, is that this is a phenomenal collection of country music. It’s shot through with Waylon-esque big beat, Hank Jr. swagger, countrified Southern rock, and hardcore honky tonk, and constructed with songs from the country canon (a marvelous acoustic version of Mel Tillis’s “Mental Revenge,’’ a jazzy, rolling take on Kristofferson’s “For the Good Times,’’) and jaw-dropping originals that rage (“Poor Man Blues’’), moan (“That’s How I Don’t Love You’’), articulate (“That’s Why I Write Songs’’), personify (“The Guitar Song’’), and testify (“I Remember You’’). All of which raises another question: What can Jamey Johnson do to top this? (Out tomorrow) STUART MUNRO

ESSENTIAL The Black Album (disc 1), followed by the White Album (disc 2)