Jamey Johnson, 'That Lonesome Song' (Mercury)

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That Lonesome Song
Critical Mass
Label: Mercury

by Chuck Eddy

Opening with clanking prison doors, then taking off with "High Cost of Living," a nearly six-minute, drugs-nullifying-life drone that's as close as 2008 will get to its own "Heroin," this honky-tonkin' ex-Marine's first album since Sony booted him turns a cracked mirror on Nashville triumphalism. A depressive cuckold's lament updates Glen Campbell's "Where's the Playground Susie," and a funereal cowboy dirge gets country's most gothic studio effects ever. By the end, when Johnson stakes a place vocally, geographically, and alphabetically "somewhere between [Waylon] Jennings and [George] Jones," you're relieved he still has his wits about him.

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