After half a dozen self released albums since 2006, and building his career in his native Texas, 31 year old Cody Johnson makes his major label debut with this Warner Brothers record. It is an excellent album, showcasing a fine voice, great songs and perhaps offering mainstream country a way forward by mixing traditional country with some contemporary vibes. Cody’s long term producer Trent Willmon helms the project.
The lead single, ‘On My Way To You’ is a warm romantic ballad reflecting on, and not regretting, all the mistakes of the past. It is a very nice song, written by Brett James and Tony Lane, and is sung beautifully.
The title track, written by Leslie Satcher and David Lee, is a slow meditation on life and how to live, with some lovely fiddle.
‘Fenceposts’ is a lovely song about a young man inviting his sweetheart to settle down and make a life with him on their own farm. In ‘Understand Why’, written by Neil Medley and Randy Montana, a jaded Johnson seeks solitude after romantic failure.
A gorgeous low-key cover of Roger Miller’s ‘Husbands And Wives’ (familiar to younger fans from the Brooks & Dunn version) was recorded live. Radney Foster’s ‘Noise’ is a bit busy for my taste, but an enthusiastic take on Charlie Daniels’ ‘Long Haired Country Boy’ is great, with Johnson coming across like a young Travis Tritt. The sultry ‘Nothin’ On You’ (written by producer Willmon with Barrett Baber) channels Gary Allan. The energetic ‘Honky Tonk Mood’ is written by Chris Stapleton and Al Anderson, and is also very good.
‘Monday Morning Merle’, written by Lance Miller, Bart Butler and Brad and Brett Warren. It is a sad song about a man hiding a broken heart during his working week with the help of music:.
Wednesday spins the Beatles
Thursday is the Eagles
“Take It Easy” ’til that Friday rocks his world
After Saturday ol’ Jackson Browne
Is Sunday morning coming down
Then he’s right back to missing that girl
Turns up ‘Misery and Gin’
Here we are again
Monday morning Merle
Monday morning Merle
Lets that ol’ broken heart get back to work
He hides all the holes and the hurt
Under the dirt on his shirt
And the only way that he can get
Through the days and the regret
Is a song full of truth
With some words he never said
With those whiskey remedies
And those old school melodies you can’t forget
Brice Long, Carlton Anderson and Wynn Varble wrote ‘Where Cowboys Are King’, a fond tribute to Texas. ‘Y’all People’, about good-hearted country people, is dedicated to Cody’s fans, and could play well on country radio.
‘Doubt Me Now’, written by Casey Beathard and Mitch Oglesby, is a country rock defiance of those who have doubted the protagonist’s chances:
People like you got nothin’ better to do
Than throw rocks at things that shine
Well, you oughta be chasin’ your own dreams
‘Stead of shootin’ holes in mine
It annoyingly finishes with an electronic fadeout, but is a pretty good song until that point.
Johnson wrote two songs himself. ‘Dear Rodeo’ is a thoughtful retrospective on his first-love former career as a rodeo rider:
I’d be lyin’ if I tried to tell you I don’t think about you
After all the miles and the wild nights that we’ve been through
The Lord knows we had a few
I’d like to say that I took the reins and rode away
No regrets, no left-unsaids, just turned the page
Oh, but you know better, babe
Between them almost-had-’ems and the broken bones
The dream of a buckle I’ll never put on
Whoa how I hate it
But somehow the highs outweigh the lows
And I’d do it all again
We both know
I’d still have to let you go
So dear rodeo
I tried like hell to tell myself it was all your fault
I held on tight with all my might
I just couldn’t hang on
And that’s hard to hang your hat on…
I’d like to think you miss me too
But I know you don’t
Oh, but that don’t change the past
And that don’t change the truth
I’m still in love with you
This is a definite highlight.
The album closes with Johnson’s other writing credit, ‘His Name Is Jesus’, a simple statement of faith.
This is a strong entry onto the mainstream scene, which I hope does well. Do check it out.