Boy, we sure had high expectations that Cody Johnson would bring his brand of starched Wranglers and country printed shirts to mainstream radio when he linked his record label CoJo with Warner Music Nashville. Unfortunately, that never really happened. But it's probably all for the better. In fact, Cody likely dodged a bullet. Chasing the radio play and seeing its sales, streams and gate numbers can do little good if Cody Johnson doesn't need Music Row's help. He has grassroots fans who support him.
The only trend that Cody Johnson is currently following is releasing a double album. The 18 songs called Human make it more of a long LP than a real gatefold, and pulling out a few cover songs and working with a variety of contributing songwriters and co-writers ensured you weren't just getting the good songs on an album have stretched across two albums, even if only half of that album may appeal to you – which half, depending on where you end up on the country spectrum. In the meantime, these CoJo fans will find exactly what they want to cover at the grassroots level.
Cody Johnson has always been unfairly brushed aside as "too mainstream" by the snobbish Americana crowd and independent country hipsters, while the mainstream set sees the cowboy hat and hears the stretched and feathered East Texas and is sent to pack too. But they both overlook Cody Johnson's efforts to mix meaningful moments with country rock mega songs that make his live shows special and his devout fans ready to run through walls for him.
Cody Johnson is what mainstream country music should be in 2021: Country, but widely engaging and pragmatic without being afraid of getting a little thought and feel as well. Perhaps more than any other Cody Johnson record, Human: The Double Album feels organic. Compared to his first album after working with a major label, you can tell that Cody only records what he wants. Sure, he's not a John Moreland or Hayes Carll. But he also doesn't try to smooth the edges or fit into a shape to appeal to an industry or listeners who are unlikely to find favor with his more traditional country style either.
Recording the subtlest kiss-off song in country history in Willie Nelson's "Sad Songs and Waltzes" with Willie Nelson himself is not what you do when you want to make friends and influence the folks on the country music bypass . The cleverly composed Harlan Howard conversation with the moon called "I Don't Know a Thing About Love", popularized by Conway Twitty, is not dusted off either. They also don't emphasize the steel guitar and handle an extra notch like Cody Johnson does on this album.
Cody Johnson finds the sweet spot between contagious appeal, country authenticity and critical acclaim. Where most artists tumble to one side or the other of the country music's cultural divide, Cody works the rich soil in between. Songs like “Honky Tonk Hardwood Floors” and “Let's Build a Fire” have all the energy and attitude of that mainstream radio no label.
You'd never accuse Cody Johnson of being a boyfriend country star like Dan + Shay, but songs like Known For Loving You, Made A Home and Stronger are popular-style male performers who are about strong women sing, only with a lot more country accompaniment.
Then you get into songs like “Human”, “Driveway”, “Treasure”, “I Always Wanted To” and maybe the best of the set, “'Til You Can' t,” where Cody Johnson takes the audience Openly Challenging Go a little deeper than the surface and feel something these songs on the radio rarely deliver. It's songs like this why you can't compare Cody to Morgan Wallen or Luke Bryan.
Cody Johnson knows his fans and knows his place. He is a contemporary traditionalist who sings simple poetry to appealing music for fans who don't necessarily want to unravel the mysteries of life or grapple with existential issues. They just want to hear good music that will remind them of the gifts of life and teach them simple lessons and rural wisdom. Oh, and they actually want it to sound country. And that's why Cody Johnson is her type.
1 1/2 pistols high (7.5 / 10)
– – – – – – – – – – –
Man: Buy the double album