Open main menu

The Guitar Song is the fourth studio album from American country artist Jamey Johnson. It was released in the United States on September 14, 2010 through Mercury Nashville.

The Guitar Song
Studio album by
ReleasedSeptember 14, 2010 (2010-09-14)
RecordedNashville, Tennessee
Los Angeles, California,
Key West, Florida
LabelMercury Nashville
ProducerArlis Albritton
Wayd Battle
Jim "Moose" Brown
T.W. Cargile
Kevin "Swine" Grant
Jamey Johnson
"Cowboy" Eddie Long
Dave McAfee
Jamey Johnson chronology
That Lonesome Song
The Guitar Song
Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran
Singles from The Guitar Song
  1. "My Way to You"
    Released: July 13, 2009
  2. "Playing the Part"
    Released: August 23, 2010
  3. "Heartache"
    Released: January 31, 2011


The Guitar Song is the follow-up to Johnson's critically acclaimed 2008 album That Lonesome Song. In an exclusive interview with Billboard Magazine, Johnson talked about the new release, saying "it's been really fun for me. The past several times we've been in the studio is stays fresh, it stays new and we're always looking for innovative ways to bring our songs to the people."[1]

Spin Magazine named The Guitar Song in its "25 Fall Albums That Matter Most" special, saying "Johnson likes country from the old school (or at least the mythologized "old school"), when outlaw songs met with moody ballads and swirled into something like rootsy American bedrock." [2]


The album is divided into two parts; a 12-track CD; titled "Black Album" and a 13-track CD titled "White Album". Johnson explained his reasoning behind the double disc album, saying "The original idea was always to do a double album," says Johnson. "It is an album that is a tale. The first part is a very dark and sordid story. Then everything after that is progressively more positive, reassuring and redemptive."[3]

In a "Q&A" with Billboard Magazine, Johnson talked about the recording for the album, which took place shortly after the release of That Lonesome Song, "about a month-and-a-half after we did That Lonesome Song, we were back in Nashville and made another record, and then a few months later we recorded another session. Every time we recorded 10 or 12 songs. My thinking was to go completely outside the box and not just release one album, but put out five or six a year, just let 'em go. When I got busy and didn't have enough time to focus on those things any more, they just started piling up. Ol' TW and I would be sitting in the mixing room listening to these songs and trying to make our way through 'em. There were songs that seemed to work together really well, and songs that didn't seem to fit this particular album at all. But somewhere in between working on a mix one night, we just kind of sat back and dreamt up this idea about having an album that takes you on an emotional journey."[4] He also talked about the creative freedom he had in the studio saying "That creative freedom is not something that was granted to me, it's something that has always been mine. I'm the one that chooses whether or not I give that up. Nobody comes and demands that I give it up. You can demand all you want to, you'll be met with the same result everybody else has been met with so far."[4]

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Johnson reflected on the recording of the album, saying "When we sat down to look at this album, it just kind of all came flooding in at once. But as we spent more time looking at it as a whole, we got to thinking. I could see that all these songs that we had could be placed around in the yin/yang scheme the Chinese use in their annual calendar, in terms of the time of year it was when I wrote the song, or the kind of message that the song delivers, and we developed our own little test from that as to where to put them."[5]

Critical receptionEdit

Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic     [6]
Associated Press(favorable)[7]
The Boston Globe(favorable)[8]
Entertainment Weekly(B+)[9]
Los Angeles Times    [10]
Rolling Stone     [11]
Roughstock     [12]
Spin          [13]
The Village Voice(favorable)[14]
The 9513     [15]

Upon its release, The Guitar Song was met with overwhelming praise by music critics.[16] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the album received an average score of 91, based on 9 reviews, which indicates "universal acclaim".[16]

Thom Jurek with AllMusic called the album "the country album of 2010", saying that "The Guitar Song is uncompromising [...] it makes plain the music contemporary country is trying to erase, while being a thoroughly accessible modern offering."[6] Ann Powers with The Los Angeles Times referred to the album as being "exquisite", calling it "an ambitious work that goes down easy. Johnson may masquerade as a throwback but what he really aims for is timelessness, and he usually hits his mark."[10] Will Hermes with Rolling Stone gave it a near-perfect rating, saying "Johnson's 2008 breakthrough, That Lonesome Song, established him as an heir to "outlaws" like Waylon Jennings and Merle Haggard. The Guitar Song aims even higher, with 25 tracks that take the pulse of a country hitting the skids and a country singer hitting the big time."[11] Dan MacIntosh with Roughstock gave it a perfect rating, commenting "At two full CDs long, The Guitar Song is not a full plate of music; it's an overflowing one. The good news is it's mainly comprised of killer, not filler."[12] Mikael Wood with Spin Magazine gave it nine out of ten stars, saying "The Guitar Song is structured as an uplifting journey from rot to redemption, Johnson still moves through these 25 tunes with an audible snarl.[13]

Stuart Munro with The Boston Globe called the release "a phenomenal collection of country music", and asked "What can Jamey Johnson do to top this?"[8] Chris Neal with The 9513 also gave the album a perfect rating, saying "The album’s sheer size is daunting—25 songs spread across an hour and 45 minutes of music—but there are no weak spots, not one track that cries out to be jettisoned."[15] Chuck Eddy with The Village Voice commented saying "The Guitar Song's [...] got a few clunkers and slow spots, and, especially given the depressive tempos Johnson's so fond of, it's inadvisable to ingest in one sitting. But surprisingly—even without a single track half as monumental or emotionally inescapable as Lonesome's "High Cost of Living,"—Guitar is packed at least as solid as his last set, and it's less conventional to boot."[14]


The album appeared on many music critics' and publications' end-of-year albums lists.[17] PopMatters placed it at number one on their "PopMatters Picks: The Best Country Music of 2010" list, with writer Dave Heaton calling it "an ambitious double LP of dour, old-school country music; it’s an epic of personal struggle in a climate of societal turmoil".[18] Rolling Stone magazine placed it at number five calling it an "acoustic confessions and rugged boogie blues, big weepers and grim reapers, cover tunes and novelty ditties".[19] Spin placed it at number five on their "The 40 Best Albums of 2010" list, saying "Johnson's double-album opus isn't one of the past decade's best country records because he's a boundary-pushing subversive. It's because his haunting baritone artfully inhabits every cranny of Nashville's sylvan McMansion of the Mind".[20] Allison Stewart with The Washington Post placed it at number four on her "top 10 albums of 2010" calling it "Two discs of solid, stolid country the way Haggard did it".[21]

Sarah Rodman with The Boston Globe placed it at number one on her "top 10 CDs of 2010" list saying "Here is that rare gem: a double album where every cut is vital, from the blackly morose ballads to the firewater-breathing honky-tonk blasts. A towering achievement from a country singer-songwriter whose talent for penning vivid narratives and choosing the right ones to cover appears to be growing exponentially".[22] Chris Richards with The Washington Post placed it at number two on his "top 10 albums of 2010" saying "He sings in the baritone of God and carries a guitar covered in Sharpie squiggles — autographs from the likes of Haggard, Nelson and other country music royalty. Now Johnson’s sweeping double album raises the question: How long before he has to sign it himself"?[23]

Commercial performanceEdit

The album debuted at number four on the U.S. Billboard 200 and number one on the U.S. Billboard Top Country Albums, selling 63,000 copies its first week of release.[24] As of the chart dated February 19, 2011, the album has sold 263,013 copies in the US.[25]

Track listingEdit

CD 1 "Black Album"
1."Lonely At the Top"Don Cook, Chick Rains, Keith Whitley3:13
2."Cover Your Eyes"Bobby Bare, Wayd Battle, Jamey Johnson3:44
3."Poor Man Blues"Johnson3:31
4."Set 'Em Up Joe"Buddy Cannon, Hank Cochran, Dean Dillon, Vern Gosdin2:47
5."Playing the Part"Johnson, Shane Minor4:29
6."Baby Don't Cry"Johnson, George Teren3:27
7."Heaven Bound"Johnson2:39
8."Can't Cash My Checks"Jason Cope, Johnson, Shannon Lawson, James Otto7:17
9."That's How I Don't Love You"Johnson, Dean Miller3:55
10."Heartache"Johnson, Rivers Rutherford5:20
11."Mental Revenge"Mel Tillis4:21
12."Even the Skies Are Blue"Johnson, Rutherford3:55
CD 2 "White Album"
13."By the Seat of Your Pants"Battle, Carson Chamberlain, Teddy Gentry6:28
14."California Riots"Johnson, Lee Thomas Miller6:21
15."Dog In the Yard"Buddy Cannon, Johnson3:25
16."The Guitar Song"Bill Anderson, Johnson, Vicky McGehee3:24
17."That's Why I Write Songs"Chris DuBois, Ashley Gorley, Johnson4:05
18."Macon"Kacey Coppola, Johnson4:18
19."Thankful For the Rain"Johnson, McGehee, David Lee Murphy2:59
20."Good Morning Sunrise"Arlis Albritton3:56
21."Front Porch Swing Afternoon"Cannon, Johnson, Larry Shell4:39
22."I Remember You"Johnson, Minor4:50
23."Good Times Ain't What They Used To Be"Dallas Davidson, Johnson, Jim McCormick3:04
24."For the Good Times"Kris Kristofferson4:01
25."My Way to You"Johnson, Charlie Midnight5:18


  • Dave Cobb – producer
  • Arlis Albritton – producer
  • Ross Alexander – associate engineer
  • Beau Boggs – assistant engineer
  • T.W. Cargile – engineer, mixing, overdub engineer
  • Melinda J.P. Harlan – photography
  • Rick Humes – associate engineer
  • J.L. Jamison – associate engineer
  • Zach Kasik – assistant engineer
  • The Kent Hardly Playboys – producer
  • Randy LeRoy – mastering
  • James Minchin III – photography
  • Karen Naff – art direction, design
  • Mark Rains – engineer
  • Bob Scott – associate engineer
  • Phillip Stein – production assistant
  • Eric Torres – engineer
  • Brian Wright – a&r
  • Brian Allen – bass guitar
  • Bill Anderson – duet vocals on "The Guitar Song"
  • Wayd Battle – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, background vocals
  • Jim "Moose" Brown – acoustic guitar, piano, synthesizer, Hammond organ, wurlitzer, soloist
  • Melonie Cannon – background vocals
  • Dave Cobb – electric guitar
  • Jason "Rowdy" Cope – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, soloist
  • Kacey Coppola – background vocals
  • Kate Coppola – background vocals
  • Mark Crum – bass guitar
  • Eric Darkenpercussion
  • Keith Gattis – electric guitar
  • Kevin "Swine" Grantt – bass guitar, tic tac bass, upright bass
  • Randy Houser – background vocals
  • Jamey Johnson – acoustic guitar, electric guitar, lead vocals, background vocals
  • Mike Kennedy – drums
  • "Cowboy" Eddie Long – dobro, steel guitar
  • Fred Mandel – piano
  • Dave McAfee – drums
  • Mac McAnally – acoustic guitar
  • Chris Powell – drums
  • Rivers Rutherford – acoustic guitar
  • John Scott – synthesizer
  • Michael Spriggs – acoustic guitar
  • John Henry Trinko – piano
  • Curtis Wright – background vocals

Chart positionsEdit



  1. ^ Graff, Gary (June 9, 2010). "Jamey Johnson Reveals 'Guitar Song' Details". Billboard. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
  2. ^ "25 Fall Albums That Matter Most". Spin. August 23, 2010. Retrieved September 9, 2010.
  3. ^ "Award-Winning Singer/Songwriter Jamey Johnson Releases Lead Single "Playing The Part"". Universal Music. August 16, 2010. Retrieved September 11, 2010.
  4. ^ a b Waddell, Ray (September 15, 2010). "Q&A: Jamey Johnson Gets Serious on 'Guitar Song'". Billboard. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
  5. ^ Mazor, Barry (September 9, 2010). "A New Country Masterpiece – Jamey Johnson's The Guitar Song". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 11, 2010.
  6. ^ a b Jurek, Thom. "The Guitar Song - Jamey Johnson | Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
  7. ^ McCall, Michael (September 13, 2010). "Review: Johnson's ambitious double album a winner – Yahoo! News". Yahoo!. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
  8. ^ a b Munro, Stuart (September 13, 2010). "Jamey Johnson, 'The Guitar Song' – The Boston Globe". The Boston Globe. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
  9. ^ Pastorek, Whitney (September 14, 2010). "The Guitar Song". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
  10. ^ a b Powers, Ann (September 14, 2010). "Album review: Jamey Johnson's 'The Guitar Song'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
  11. ^ a b Hermes, Will (September 14, 2010). "The Guitar Song by Jamey Johnson". Rolling Stone. Wenner Media. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
  12. ^ a b MacIntosh, Dan (September 15, 2010). "Jamey Johnson – The Guitar Song – Country Music Reviews, Taylor Swift to Lady Antebellum". Roughstock. Archived from the original on September 12, 2010. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
  13. ^ a b Wood, Mikael (September 1, 2010). "Jamey Johnson, 'The Guitar Song' (Mercury Nashville)". Spin. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
  14. ^ a b Eddy, Chuck (September 15, 2010). "Jamey Johnson Sprawls Out – Page 1 – Music – New York – Village Voice". The Village Voice. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
  15. ^ a b Neal, Chris (September 15, 2010). "Album Review: Jamey Johnson – The Guitar Song". The 9513. Archived from the original on September 11, 2011. Retrieved September 15, 2010.
  16. ^ a b "The Guitar Song reviews at". Metacritic. Retrieved 2010-09-16.
  17. ^ "2010 Music Critic Top Ten Lists – Metacritic". Metacritic. Retrieved 2011-01-04.
  18. ^ Heaton, Dave (October 15, 2010). "The Best Country Music of 2010 < PopMatters". PopMatters. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
  19. ^ "30 Best Albums of 2010: Jamey Johnson, 'The Guitar Song'". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
  20. ^ Aaron, Charles. "The 40 Best Albums of 2010". Spin. Retrieved 2011-01-04.
  21. ^ Stewart, Allison (October 20, 2010). "Click Track – Lists: Allison Stewart picks her top ten albums of 2010". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
  22. ^ Rodman, Sarah (December 19, 2010). "Sarah Rodman's top 10 CDs of 2010 – The Boston Globe". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
  23. ^ Richards, Chris (October 17, 2010). "Click Track – Lists: Chris Richards picks his top 10 albums of 2010". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 4, 2011.
  24. ^ a b c Caulfield, Keith (September 22, 2010). "Linkin Park and Trey Songz Debut At Nos. 1 & 2 on Billboard 200". Billboard. Retrieved September 22, 2010.
  25. ^ "Jason Aldean Tops Country Album Sales Chart". Roughstock. February 9, 2011. Archived from the original on February 13, 2011. Retrieved February 9, 2011.
  26. ^ "Best of 2010 – Billboard Top 200". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved December 31, 2010.
  27. ^ "Best of 2010 – Top Country Albums". Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. Retrieved December 31, 2010.
  28. ^ "RIAA – Gold & Platinum", RIAA, retrieved November 22, 2010