This mix was inspired by the comments on my Top 5 Train Songs post both here and on my Facebook wall. I had to do a little curating but I tried not to do much. Some songs I couldn’t find a decent version of and some I had to pick which artist I was going to use. I didn’t duplicate artists or songs and we still ended up at 25 tracks! I really hope you enjoy this as much as I enjoyed the work involved in putting it together.
Jamey Johnson was born in some small town in Alabama that you’ve only heard of if you lived in or broke down there. He was born in 1975 and, by all accounts, he lived a musical life pretty similar to the rest of us who grew up in that time frame. Matter of fact, from what I’ve read about the dude, he’s pretty much lived a similar life to all the rest of us Southern mid-30-somethings.
That said, Jamey ain’t like the rest of us at all. See, Jamey committed a horrific crime. No, he didn’t rape a woman, kill someone or beat a kid. You can go to jail and pay your debt to society for crime like that, but you see Jamey wrote “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”, and that is a seemingly unforgivable crime in the world of country music proper. Now, while I don’t typically get into my feelings on these types of things….I am now. Is “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” a bad song? Of course it is. Was “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” a ridiculous hit? Hell, it still is to this day, and that’s the reason the anti-Nashville community hates Jamey Johnson by default. Not ‘cause he wrote a shitty song (see 95% of David Allen Coe’s song folder), but because he wrote a crossover hit. While I can understand a strict militarism of my music (I grew up in the industrial music scene), but at 37 years of age I’ve started to bore of it. I no longer hate a certain brand of music, I only hate “bad” music, and the simple fact is that Jamey Johnson’s latest album, The Guitar Song, isn’t bad music. Had he used a stronger editing hand and cut it down to 1 cd instead of 2, it’d be fucking great music. So don’t get caught up in the anti-Nashville chatter and write this fella off. Fact is, the dude has put out a good double cd, that when I pared down to a single cd I am willing to label as Essential Listening.
I know this post is gonna draw ire from the anti-pop country community, but fortunately for me it’ll take ‘em a while to see this, since they’re currently trying to figure out if one of their own got called out in a Taylor Swift song. To them I offer a challenge; forget “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” and really listen to the album. Narrow it down to a single album’s worth of songs. Now, drop your guard and tell me if you like it. It’s okay if you don’t, but I think we’ll agree this album ain’t a warrior in the fight against country music proper, and something else tells me that, unlike Shooter Jennings, Jamey is sincere.
Wade Bowen is one of my favorite Texas/Red Dirt boys and he has finally dropped a Live at Billy Bob’s Texas album on us as a CD/DVD combo. If you know anything about the scene you know that everyone has to do one of these at some point and that they are always good. You can look through the careers of Jason Boland, Cross Canadian Ragweed, and just about any other Texas artist and you’ll find one of these discs in their releases. It’s not limited to Texas boys either with the likes of David Allen Coe, Merle Haggard and other legends having a Live at Billy Bobs Texas release to their name. Wade joins the club with the one and it’s everything one would expect from both him and Billy Bob’s without a disappointing moment on either disc.
This album and the atmosphere it conveys is the reason I got into the Texas/Red Dirt Scene. Originally a member of West 84 which, in 1991, re-aligned with Wade as the front man and started releasing albums as Wade Bowen & West 84 and eventually as just Wade Bowen he has over a decade playing music and recording albums and still leaves it all on stage. This is something you can really feel on this album. It isn’t like being there but it’s as close as you can get with your headphones on. There just isn’t a bad track on this one and the quality of the live performance puts it close to the top of the stack as far as live albums so far this year. If you have never heard Wade Bowen before this album is as good as any to start with but I’d wager if you started with you wouldn’t be stopping with it. It’s rare for me to think a live album is Essential Listening but just about any Live At Billy Bob’s Texas is good enough to make the list and this one is no exception.