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Review: Johnson honors past and present on album

Tuesday - 10/16/2012, 3:56pm  ET

By MICHAEL MCCALL
For the Associated Press

(AP) - Jamey Johnson, "Living For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran" (Mercury)

Jamey Johnson set out to honor one of the most successful songwriters in country music history with "Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran." He does that _ and much more.

He also honors other heroes and favorite vocalists, by inviting them to participate. Pairing with such legendary figures as Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Ray Price and George Strait, Johnson shares beloved songs with many of the distinctive voices that shaped his ideas of what country music can achieve.

In a broader sense, he also honors the highest qualities of country music _ not just its great songs and its great voices, but also how sublime an old-school Nashville studio recording can sound when done with care by outstanding musicians.

Co-producing with Buddy Cannon and Dale Dodson, Johnson creates a traditional country masterpiece by taking classic songs, re-arranging them in fresh ways, then focusing on subtly bringing out the emotion in each song through both the vocal and instrumental interplay.

Each recording makes a case for why Johnson loves country music, and he lets everyone else involved in their project share in that love. Any listener who loves classic country music will enjoy hearing it as much as those involved enjoyed making it.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: Johnson's cover of "A Way To Survive," a 1966 hit for Ray Price, shows off how the singer finds a distinctive way of his own to emulate the laid-back, emotion-drenched drawl of many of the best country singers. With Leon Russell taking a verse, and Vince Gill joining on high harmony on the choruses, it's a vocal showcase set to western swing fiddles and a steel guitar.


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