I first heard the song, Between Jennings and Jones, from this album on Outlaw Country, but it got lost in my mental shuffle. Last week, I saw That Lonesome Song on a best of 2008 list and decided to check it out. After a two days of constant play, I can say with conviction that this is the best country album of 2008.
Johnson is originally from Montgomery, Alabama. Since moving to Nashville in 2000, he has become a successful songwriter. He co-wrote Give It Away which was a number one hit for George Strait in 2006. He also co-wrote several songs for Trace Adkins, including two that made the charts in 2007.
The album shows off his strong songwriting ability. These songs are dark, but they are good. Original songs like High Cost of Living, Mary Go Round, That Lonesome Song and In Color tell stories about real people, which is a contrast to what passes for songwriting in Nashville today. These songs are heartfelt and express emotions that are missing from most of Nashville's current product. Taylor Swift and Rascal Flatts listen hard. This is real country.
Johnson obviously has great respect for Waylon Jennings. Both of his Waylon covers, especially a superb version of Dreaming My Dreams, which comes from the Jennings' album of the same name, are on the mark. In fact, he sounds a lot like Waylon on these two and that's a good thing. Mary Go Round has a nice Merle Haggard feel to it. Women reminds me of a song by country swing master, Dale Watson.
I don't know anything about the band on the album, but they sound great. There is a lot of steel guitar on the record. All of the backing fits behind these great songs.
If you like country music, you have to own this album. Available on iTunes and from Amazon.