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Jamey Johnson’s Guitar at No. 1

Jamey Johnson photo courtesy of UMG Nashville.

Jamey Johnson picked up the first No. 1 album of his career this week as The Guitar Song debuted at the top slot on the Billboard Country Albums chart.

In fact, it finished at No. 4 on the all-genre Billboard 200, too — particularly satisfying because it’s a project that was extremely risky. In an era when album sales are sliding, Jamey crammed 25 songs into two CDs. Since it addresses themes of darkness and redemption, he released it as a black album and a white one.

While his record company is ecstatic about the first-week sales, Jamey plays down the accomplishment.

“My dream already came true,” he says. “All I ever wanted was just to get to ride around and sing country music.”

The fact he can do it at all is what’s particularly gratifying for Jamey. Nashville is full of people with the same dream, and it makes for a lot of competition. Many of the artists who share that dream and get a recording contract all do things the same way — they record with a tight-knit group of studio musicians, then use a different set of players when they go on the road.

Jamey’s approach is different. He pretty much uses the same group to make his albums that he uses on tour. They cut the songs live in the studio instead of doing lots of overdubs, and he gives them producer credit, too, referring to them as the Kent Hardly Playboys.

“I found some good writers and some good players,” he told Billboard. “The guys I make music with are some of the finest musicians that I’ve ever met — some of the worst people, but some of the finest musicians. [Nashville is] definitely a town that is loaded with talent. You can go door-knocking around here and put together a better band than what’s out there touring and making six figures a year, seven figures, some of those guys. I was particularly humbled one time to find out the guy that was delivering pizzas was also singing demos and making more than I was.”

Of course, the pizza guy isn’t at No. 1 this week. Jamey’s not alone in his debut. Three other albums landed in country’s Top 10 as they charted for the first time. James Otto’s Shake What God Gave Ya! debuted at No. 10, Joey + Rory’s Album Number Two popped onto the list at No. 9 and Now That’s What I Call Country 3 came in at No. 3. That compilation features 16 tracks in all, by Lady Antebellum, George Strait, Jason Aldean, Gary Allan and Easton Corbin, among others.

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