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Johnson live: Just sit back and enjoy the music

October 18, 2012
By MIKE HUGHES - The Ticket , Times Leader

CHESTER Attending a Jamey Johnson show is a unique experience for any fan of country music, or good music in general.

Make no mistake, the Alabama native makes great music. A lot of it.

But for non-fans or even fans unfamiliar with Johnson's live performances, his shows have the potential to leave you a little wanting.

I had the opportunity to catch Johnson live last Saturday at The Harv at Mountaineer Casino Racetrack and Resort.

It's the third time I've seen him live including two performances at Jamboree in the Hills.

Johnson and his band played without an opening act and reeled off song after song for a good 90 minutes.

With a growing discography, Johnson selected songs from four of his five studio albums, including "Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran" which actually hit stores Tuesday.

Johnson's songs hit home for the country music fan clamoring for a more traditional sound.

But the songs on his albums that are genuinely toe-tapping, upbeat numbers are few and far between.

You have to keep that in mind when walking into the concert arena. This isn't a pseudo country rock concert.

Johnson is going to play what he's going to play, as Jamboree fans can attest, and that's all there is to it.

That's also pretty much all he's going to do play.

After the sounds of Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams Jr. and Willie Nelson piped through the PA system prior to the show's beginning, Johnson took the stage with a seven-piece band and kicked the night off with "High Cost of Living."

After a few quality solos stretched out the length of one of his third-highest chart topper, Johnson continued right into "Place Out in the Ocean."

There was no verbal introduction to the song. There was no, "Hi, I'm Jamey Johnson, how you all doing tonight." Johnson simply doesn't address the crowd ever.

He doesn't even introduce the members of his talented band.

He takes the stage, sings his songs and walks off. He lets his music speak for itself.

Sure, some may question that approach, but judging by the number of fans and their enthusiasm for the music, it works for them.

So did the first cut off "Living for a Song" that Johnson broke out Saturday, "Make the World Go Away." It's one of Cochran's best songs and an Eddy Arnold classic. Johnson nailed every note.

He followed that up with his highest-charting song "Lonesome Song" then broke out a pair of Willie Nelson-penned songs, "Night Life" and "Write Your Own Songs."

Next was the title track from his double-sided "Guitar Song" release.

Johnson then broke into "Can't Cash My Checks," the intro of which was met with an eruption from the crowd.

He then covered a Johnny Paycheck classic "11 Months, 29 Days," before returning to "Ray Ray's Juke Joint" off "The Dollar."

Johnson and his band rolled through a few more songs before calling it a night and hitting the road for another show down the line.

If you're a fan of great country music actual country music then you can't beat a Johnson show. There were plenty of moments of improvisation including a pair of great pedal steel solos.

If you need to be entertained, need audience participation, then it might now have been the show for you.

But as a fan of Johnson's work, I was all in. And when he returns to the area, sign me up.

Hughes may be reached at



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