If the country charts were a battle royal with the only weapons being raw honesty and authenticity, Jamey Johnson would have Kenny Chesney and Brad Paisley pretty anxious. The former marine isn't joking when he claims a home "between Jennings and Jones," though he spends more time on Waylon's side of the street. Like Eric Church (with less beer and more solemnity), Johnson is skilled at blending outlaw swagger and Nashville tropes, as epitomized by his Charlie Daniels-biting ode to a tattooed, Jack-drinking, mini-skirted hottie, "Rebelicious." He was dropped after his 2006 debut, The Dollar, failed to chart a hit, but George Strait and Trace Adkins soon took his songs to number one. Struggling through a divorce, Johnson starkly reflects on the wreckage on 2008's That Lonesome Song, an emotionally harrowing release that left prior pop pretensions in the dust. The dark, sprawling double album The Guitar Song is even better, cutting a wide swath between Southern/country rock and honky-tonk balladry.
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