Country music traditionalist Jamey Johnson has become more and more famous in recent years for filling the majority of his concerts with classic country songs written by others, using his catalog of originals. To some, this approach to his concerts feels odd, as Jamey Johnson started his country music career specifically as an original songwriter, including winning two CMA Song of the Year trophies for his contributions in the late eighties and the release of three critically acclaimed original records. including a double record during the era.
Jamey Johnson has cited numerous reasons for not releasing new original music in 11 years, including an argument with his publisher, a possible concussion and brain injury, and recently he just said does not see the point When the songs he's got just aren't up to the cold Jamey Johnson has continued to co-write occasionally and has song credits on recent albums from George Strait, The Steel Woods, and others, and has also appeared on new recordings such as Blackberry Smoke's latest song "Lonesome for a Livin '".
But some fans are honestly a little frustrated that Jamey Johnson is apparently perfectly fine singing old classic country songs in concert instead of releasing and performing new, original material.
Well, recently, as part of the current Outlaws & Armadillos exhibition, the Country Music Hall of Fame released a video by Jamey Johnson in which Jamey Johnson explains his philosophy behind this approach to live music. And not only does he make a compelling case for playing so many classic country songs, he also gives a very specific insight into why he does it and how he sees himself on the country continuum.
“Townes Van Zandt is no longer there to sing his songs, so someone has to sing them,” Jamey Johnson begins. “Vern Gosdin, he's not here today. Merle is neither Haggard nor George Jones. And without people like me out there covering these songs, they just stop. If no one was singing Johnny Cash, an entire generation would grow up without Johnny Cash. And if you ask me, it won't be a good world. That is why it is important for young artists today to learn these songs. It is important that you pass them on, that you show your respect, but also pass on the service of these important singers. They had a lot to say about what matters. It's not just love songs and beer songs and party songs. They are also songs of life. "
Jamey Johnson goes on to talk about how sometimes when people are younger the lyrics of classic country songs don't resonate in them as they do as they get older, and puts the younger Jamey Johnson in that group. “There is more truth, more wisdom and more meaning in these texts than you can possibly realize at your age,” he says of younger listeners.
Generally speaking, Johnson is probably right. However, it should also be pointed out that in the ranks of classic country fans you can always find surprisingly many younger people who identify with the lyrics and the wisdom of older country songs and at the same time find the country music of today's generation (at at least in the mainstream) to be the stuff they don't understand and feel strange to them.
Jamey Johnson then goes on to say:
“I have a keen interest in passing on this legacy – Billy Joe Shaver, Waylon, Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter. I only see myself as a torch that is passed on from one generation to the next. And if I can be used like that, maybe it's a good cause. There will be some youngins who grew up without hearing it live and never met one of these people, I may be the only one who can ever tell them about it. That's how I see my role in all of this. "
Some Jamey Johnson fans will continue to hope and wish that at some point he will record and release more new, original songs. But presented that way, not only does it make sense why Jamey Johnson decided to become a living jukebox of classic country songs, but it also makes it hard to criticize. As an interface between the generations, Jamey Johnson has found meaning and purpose as a live country musician.
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Here @jamey_johnson offers a perspective on why it is important to carry on the music and traditions of the creative beacons of the outlaw country – including @OfficialWaylon, @WillieNelson and @Jessi_Colter.
More in ‘Outlaws & Armadillos’: https://t.co/79rWK2md2w pic.twitter.com/EcQYaxtzXv
– Country Music HOF (@countrymusichof) August 2, 2021