My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Single Review: Jamey Johnson – ‘Playing The Part’

Jamey Johnson’s new single ‘Playing The Part’ (co-written with Shane Minor) should whet fans’ appetites for his new album, due next month. This mid-tempo track sounds like a more natural progression from That Lonesome Song than the other two tracks which have so far surfaced (‘Macon’ and ‘My Way To You’).

In some ways it sounds like a more commercial companion piece to the brilliant ‘High Cost Of Living’, although it isn’t in quite the same class as that dark-tinged masterpiece. The disillusioned protagonist is based in Hollywood rather than Nashville this time, but once again a dream has soured on him, leaving him to reflect wistfully on

A time
When the only LA I knew was Lower Alabama
Back when me and Hannah
Was wishing on a southern star

Clearly, whatever has gone wrong is at least partly his own fault, as he wonders with more self-blame than self-pity,

Promises break like an egg on the hot asphalt
What the hell was I thinking
Drinkin’ like I’d never get caught

The story is not fully fleshed out, and we are left wondering about the details – did Hannah leave him when he drank too much? What exactly was his Hollywood dream – actor, writer, director? But I think we get the gist of the story, enough to explain the emotion resulting from the situation. We gather that he achieved his goals, but found that the prize was not worth the price he had to pay, as he concludes in the second verse.

These high dollar women and the fame and the fortune
Ain’t worth the ticket I bought

It is a really effective snapshot of a man who has lost his way in life, no longer sure why he came in the first place, and pretending to be someone he’s not,

Acting like I’m playing the part

The emotions of this man are regret and an inward sense of failure, even though others may ring true. Jamey’s rough voice has an intrinsic believability factor which makes the character he is playing here as convincing as on the personally inspired songs on That Lonesome Song.

The song proper is over after two and a half minutes, with a long instrumental break seguing into some odd (but not unpleasant sound effects, including a child’s music box; no doubt this will be stripped off the radio edit. I’m not sure what the point is of these, but perhaps it will make sense on the context of the full album.

It is a very good song, which avoids the problems the superior ‘High Cost Of Living’ had making its way on radio playlists (i.e. no radio-scaring references to prostitutes or drugs other than legal medication for depression). It may still be too downbeat for contemporary radio tastes, and with too little to appeal to juvenile listeners who have yet to experience this kind of disappointment and cannot relate to it, so it may not be a big commercial hit. But personally, I definitely like it the best of the songs we’ve heard from the new album.

Grade: A-

Listen here.

4 responses to “Single Review: Jamey Johnson – ‘Playing The Part’

  1. Ben Foster August 13, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Now this I like! A really interesting story for a country song to tell. For some reason, it sounds like something I’d be more likely to expect from a female artist, but it’s interesting to hear it coming from a man.

  2. norma sumrall August 20, 2010 at 9:23 am

    cant wait for this cd I am so tired of these pretend country singers have his other cds and love them. Wish i could get it before the l4th of Sept. He is the first singer I have heard with three great cds in a row sisnce the old country singers. Also dont feel cheated by getting a whole cd of good music. Usually you get about 50/5o and it makes me furious. An old country fan. Thanks Jamey

  3. Country Chart Guy September 6, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    Finally a classic Jamey Johnson song. After Jamey’s first CD came out, I was hooked on his music. I’m glad he is releasing something that reminds me of the classic Jamey that I enjoyed so much!

  4. Pingback: Playing The Part - Jamey Johnson - Guitar Song, New Album, Listen, Download

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