When Jamey Johnson released his 2008 album That Lonesome Song, he was uniformly hailed for the quality of the songs and the honesty of the performances. The album tipped its hat to traditional country and was recognized in The Nashville Scene’s annual Country Music Critics Poll as the best CD of that year.
Now Jamey’s new double-disc project The Guitar Song is earning similar feedback. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country Albums chart and it’s getting early recognition as an Album of the Year candidate on the 2011 awards circuit.
All of that’s well and good, though Jamey himself seems less interested than anybody in what kind of accolades it earns. The sales? The marketing? He’s more than happy to let the record label take care of those issues.
“I don’t think about that stuff when I’m making records,” he told USA Today. “I don’t think about that stuff when I’m not making records. I just don’t think about it.”
What he does think about is his musical heroes, and they’re invariably traditional country acts. He covered two Waylon Jennings titles on That Lonesome Song and he remakes tunes by Keith Whitley, Mel Tillis and Vern Gosdin on The Guitar Song.
Jamey likes to think of himself as a caretaker for the genre. He might be stepping up as a major traditional voice in contemporary country, but he won’t be the final authority on the subject.
“I’m not really in charge of anything right now,” he said. “I’m just looking after it ‘til I can leave it to somebody else.”
Jamey’s currently nominated for Musical Event of the Year in the Country Music Association Awards, set for Nov. 10. He’s in the running thanks to his work on “Bad Angel,” a collaboration with two other artists who have a distinct appreciation for traditional sounds: Dierks Bentley and Miranda Lambert.