ACountry salutes Jamey Johnson as his Grammy nominated 25-song double album, The Guitar Song, has been certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
“My dream already came true,” Johnson says. “This is all I wanted was just to get to ride around and sing country music. It’s cool when things like that happen along the way. Because those are the things I never thought I could achieve. Whether or not it’s gold or platinum or hell, diamond for that matter, it wouldn’t surprise me anymore. I’ll just keep doing what I do. I wake up every day and go play some more country music and have another drink.”
The project received Grammy nominations for Country Album of the Year and Best Male Country Vocal Performance for the song “Macon.” He received a third Grammy nomination in Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for “Bad Angels” with Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert.
“As an album, The Guitar Song is the collection of this journey,” Johnson says. “It’s one that goes all the way around. It starts off in a deep, dismal, dark place and ends up in a far better place. That’s what has happened to me over the past several years. Something that started in a dark corner has ended up getting to be all over the country. I’ve seen some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life the past several years and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”
December has been a month of tremendous honors for Johnson. In addition to his Grammy nominations, his album has been prominently featured on numerous 2010 best-of lists and he was invited to pay musical tribute to one of his idols, Merle Haggard, at the Kennedy Center Honors in Washington, D.C.
The Guitar Song was ranked No. 5 on Rolling Stone’s Best Albums of 2010 and “Macon” was ranked No. 23 on Rolling Stone’s Best Singles of 2010.
“What does Jamey Johnson keep under all of that hair? Songs,” says Rolling Stone. “Nashville’s gruffest and grittiest star turns out to be its most reliable traditionalist, a Music Row pro who can write a song for every emotional season. Johnson pulled out a whole slew of them – 25, clocking in north of 105 minutes – four his double-disc fourth album: acoustic confessions and rugged boogie blues, big weepers and grim reapers, cover tunes and novelty ditties, not to mention “California Riots” and “Playing the Part,” a pair of fiercely funny, unrepentantly redneck swipes at the frou-frou blue states.”
SPIN also named The Guitar Song as No. 5 on its list of The 40 Best Albums of 2010. “Johnson’s double-album opus isn’t one of the past decade’s best country records because he’s a boundary-pushing subversive,” SPIN says. “It’s because his haunting baritone artfully inhabits every cranny of Nashville’s sylvan McMansion of the Mind.”
GQ features Johnson as the “Dark Horse of the Year,” calling him a “Nashville Badass.” GQ says, “Everything about rising Nashville star Jamey Johnson signifies Mythic Outlaw Guy: the backwoods birthplace (Enterprise, Alabama), the military service (Marine Corps Reserve), the laconic Jack Daniel’s-for-brunch baritone and, most strikingly, the shoulder-length mane and trucker-Zeus beard. On The Guitar Song, easily the year’s best country album, Johnson backs up his image with two CDs of bar-band honky-tonk in the hard-boiled tradition of Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings, but with a Great Recession update.”
Johnson joined Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Kid Rock, Vince Gill, Sheryl Crow, Brad Paisley and Miranda Lambert in a musical tribute to Merle Haggard during the Kennedy Center Honors on Dec. 5 in Washington D.C., and also attended receptions at the White House and the State Department. The show will air on CBS on Dec. 28 at 9 p.m. eastern/8 p.m. central.
“I came to Washington D.C. and fell in love with my country all over again. This is cool. Just look at all the amazing people in here,” says Johnson, who met President Clinton, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross, Forest Whitaker, Gayle King and Angela Lansbury.
He and Kennedy Center honoree Oprah Winfrey, a former Nashvillian, discussed Music City. Winfrey told him, “I used to walk over the Jefferson Street bridge every day. I love Nashville!” Johnson asked if Winfrey’s father, Vernon, still lives in Nashville. Winfrey quickly replied, “Yes, and he owns a barber shop,” while pausing to look over Johnson before adding, “and you know you can still get an eight-dollar haircut there too!” They both laughed and Johnson said, ‘Yeah, and I think I need one.”
When Johnson was introduced to Kennedy Center honoree Paul McCartney, the former Beatle said, ‘Hey, dude,” so Johnson started singing, “Hey dude,” to the tune of “Hey Jude.” McCartney joined in and the two had a good laugh.
In early 2011, Johnson will join Kid Rock on his national “Born Free” tour, which begins in front of a crowd of 60,000 on Jan. 15 at Detroit’s Ford Field.
While Johnson remains appreciative of his honors and accolades, they remain secondary to the fact that he’s able to live his dream of writing and performing country music.
“The underlying current is that when I sit down to play music, I play music from my heart,” says Johnson. “As long as I can keep a grasp on that in some way through my career, hopefully I’ll be all right.”