Jamey Johnson – “My Way To You”

Jim Malec | July 17th, 2009

post_jamey-johnsonAfter an outstanding, independently-recorded effort that ushered him in as country music’s Outlaw Savior (garnering an unprecedented level of critical acclaim from essentially every corner of the music universe), Jamey Johnson returns with “My Way To You,” the first single from his upcoming fourth album.

He does not disappoint. The song opens to the sound of an eerie steel guitar, joined in short order by a plucked acoustic as the steel swells, so full of emotion it must spill over into the foreground. Then Johnson’s voice enters, a hushed and contemplative baritone perfectly underlined by a sparse and haunting piano.

By the time this powerful track reaches its climax, Johnson (having started the song with little more than a whisper) is soaring, his emotional connection to these words unmistakable and his outpouring of passion irresistible.

But dark desires, “high” times and living “fast as hell” are nothing new to seasoned country music listeners. In fact, there’s nothing at all new about the images in this song, nor is there anything particularly unique about its story, a tale of redemption realized. To be sure, all of these images and themes are especially expected coming from the mouth of a singer known for having suffered so seriously from personal misdirection.

So why then is “My Way To You” still so damn compelling? And how can something so otherwise rudimentary be so refreshing?

It’s because there’s nothing rehearsed about any of this. There is no pretense. These words do not come from the hands of someone who harbored hopes of writing a song that would serve as a touchstone for troubled souls—no, this comes from a troubled soul, from perhaps one of the only singers in the world today who, when he speaks this message—his message—absolutely deserves our attention and reverence.

He has it.

It’s because in the hands of almost any other singer, a lyrical statement as simple as “I was trying to find my way to you” would ring hollow and trite, the musings, perhaps, of a lovestruck boy in the midst of what he envisions as his great romance. But this is not about the scars suffered from past broken hearts or about deeds done in desperation when luck runs out.

This is epic. This is a song about a man who was the lowest a man could be and still, somehow, by some grace, has found his way into the arms of an angel.

Or into the arms of angels. Johnson sings this with such commitment and such conviction that it’s fair to wonder just who this “you” is. When he sings about never really being lost, about looking for the right signs, how could we not think maybe he’s singing about something heavenly?

“You” is never defined. But this is such a spiritual performance that if it is directed at a lover, what a big, powerful and forgiving love hers must be.

There are a lot of people—critics, artists and fans alike—who will try to tell you that country music has many faces and wears many hats. But don’t let anyone fool you; true though that sentiment may be, this is real country music–real, and bathed in all the honestly and emotional rawness it can muster. This is where God meets the Devil. This is denial, repentance and forgiveness. This is a love so strong that it can conquer anything. This is salvation.

It’s because Jamey Johnson elevates everything about this to a level that is all his own. Good? Bad? Strong? Weak? Those terms don’t even make sense here, not in the context of something that he breathes every bit of himself into, not in the context of something so simple his truths sting and bite as if they were our own.

Jamey Johnson is the future of country music. And for a guy known for his darkness, he is a brilliant star in an otherwise dreary night sky.

Thumbs Up

Listen: Jamey Johnson – “My Way To You”

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  1. [...] The 9513 says it does not disapoint ;  Twang Nation agrees that he brings the goods [...]
  2. [...] By the time this powerful track reaches its climax, Johnson (having started the song with little more than a whisper) is soaring, his emotional connection to these words unmistakable and his outpouring of passion irresistible. more visit : http://www.the9513.com [...]
  3. [...] (Thumbs Down) Gary Allan – “Today” (Thumbs Up) Jamey Johnson – “My Way To You” (Thumbs Up) Joey + Rory – “To Say Goodbye” (Thumbs Down) John Rich – [...]
  1. Jessica
    July 17, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    I got to hear him play it live in Covington a couple of weeks ago. Holy cow…I knew instantly that he needed to get that song out. I’m so glad to hear that it is coming out & the new album is on its way. :)

  2. Kelly
    July 17, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    Awesome. Bring it on.

  3. Jeff Dykhuis
    July 17, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    High Praise, guess we will have to wait until Monday to hear this great song but like you say He’s on an elevated level, i agree.

  4. Dan Milliken
    July 17, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Malec, you old tease.

  5. Pierce
    July 17, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    103.3 WKDF in Nashville is promising to play it sometime before 6 PM CST. I’m glued to the radio for the next hour, that’s for sure.

  6. Drew
    July 17, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    haha, you really amped up the praise on this one. Can’t wait to hear if it’s worth such admiration.

  7. Mike Parker
    July 17, 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Wow… in the age of instant gratification, this feeling of anticipation is a rare thing. Thanks Jim!

  8. Chris N.
    July 17, 2009 at 5:04 pm

    I’ve heard it, suckers! Ha!

  9. COREY
    July 17, 2009 at 5:32 pm

    Can’t wait to hear it. His last album was terrific.

  10. Chris D.
    July 17, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    I never fell in love with his last album, but it was still a great album, just not quite for me. This song sounds like something I’ll really like though, definitely excited!

  11. Rick
    July 17, 2009 at 5:51 pm

    I’ve got to take exception to Jim’s closing statements “Jamey Johnson is the future of country music. And for a guy known for his darkness, he is a brilliant star in an otherwise dreary night sky.”

    Jamey embodies many of the attributes which made country music great in past decades but most Top 40 country radio listeners don’t know this, don’t recognize this, or plain just don’t care. Jamey is not inventing anything new here, he’s just tapped into the past and distilled out its most compelling elements. Jamey is a genuine roots/outlaw country revivalist and is trying to spread that old time religion among a new generation that have never experienced a “Sunday Come To Jesus Meeting” conversion to those styles of real country music. It is especially appealing to those of us who have.

    The dreary night sky of AirHead Country radio will likely not see the light either. The overt sentimentality of “In Color” really connected with the female listener majority, but “The High Cost Of Living” didn’t even hit the Top 30 to my recollection (which admittedly is faulty). The failure of “Living” to break the Top 20 will cause many stations to pass on this single, and that’s why the night sky airwaves will remain dreary, but I sincerely hope I’m wrong about this!

    Jamey’s longings for the peace and quiet of heaven are well documented in his early song “Beulah Land”, so the interpretation this song might be directed heavenward is not a stretch by any means…

  12. Jim Malec
    July 17, 2009 at 6:00 pm

    Rick, I think you’ll find this quite a bit more progressive, musically, than Jamey’s last disc.

  13. Dan Milliken
    July 17, 2009 at 6:17 pm

    Just heard it, and it’s not what I would call traditional country by any stretch, at least not with that arrangement. I did like it, though, and I agree with Jim that it works mostly because Jamey sounds so deeply invested in it. The song itself seemed nice on first listen, but not unlike any polished piece you might hear at the Bluebird.

  14. Rick
    July 17, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    Jim, that makes me even more interested in hearing this song! Speaking of when the rest of us can get to hear it (from CMT.com News):

    “Jamey Johnson will release a new album this fall, and its first single, “My Way to You,” has been released to country radio. Co-written by Johnson and Charlie Midnight, the song will be available as a free download on Johnson’s Web site on Aug. 3 and available for sale digitally on Aug. 11. No title or specific release date has been announced for the album.”

    Must mark August 3 on my calendar, or better yet The 9513 can post a reminder in their country news summary that day for us folks with compromised memories! (lol)

  15. Razor X
    July 17, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Damn! I want to hear it NOW, not Monday!!

  16. Baron Lane
    July 17, 2009 at 8:53 pm

    agreed. I could do with less chaotic rock guitar there at the end, but Johnson is here to remind Nashville that the best stuff is doing to come from Left Field.

  17. Vicki
    July 17, 2009 at 9:33 pm

    Yeah..this is a tease. Darn it!

  18. Drew
    July 18, 2009 at 12:42 am

    Great stuff, and I agree, it does have a more “progressive” feel to it. Much more accessible than some of his other work, yet still staying traditional in sound. And some awesome steel… but it does get a little overbearing with the electric pounding at you from 2:30 out.

  19. Jon
    July 18, 2009 at 7:28 am

    If, as Jim suggests, the “sentiment” that country music is diverse is true, then no one artist can be the future of country music.

    Reading this review in tandem with the review of “Unlikely Angel” is an instructive exercise, insofar as many of the traits which Jim says doom the Jones single – the subject of which is fairly close to this one’s – are acknowledged to be found here, too. But the thrust of this review seems to be that the weaknesses of a song can be transcended not so much by a great performance as by a knowledge of the performer’s personality and personal history – a notion which regularly (and, in my opinion, rightly) gets refuted around here when it comes to other records.

    I like this record considerably better than “Unlikely Angel,” but it sure isn’t because Johnson’s a “troubled soul.” And I think that if Johnson hadn’t already been anointed here as a (if not the) savior of country music (in large part on the strength of that “troubled soul”, Jim probably would have been a little more circumspect with his rhetorical flourishes.

  20. Jim Malec
    July 18, 2009 at 8:08 am

    …Jim probably would have been a little more circumspect with his rhetorical flourishes.

    Jon is everywhere–even in my head! Hallowed be his name.

  21. Jim Malec
    July 18, 2009 at 8:17 am

    If you actually pay attention to what I wrote (rather than just looking for things to pick it), I think it’s pretty obvious that my “future of” comment refers an earlier passage:

    “…this is real country music–real, and bathed in all the honestly and emotional rawness it can muster. This is where God meets the Devil. This is denial, repentance and forgiveness. This is a love so strong that it can conquer anything. This is salvation.”

    I would specifically point to in all the honestly and emotional rawness it can muster.

  22. Leeann Ward
    July 18, 2009 at 8:30 am

    That’s one thing I wish Johnson would dial back: the kind of heavy, kind of cheesy electric guitar stuff. It tainted “In Color” for me.

  23. JD
    July 18, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Kinda pointless to review this when none of the rest of us can even hear it to form any kind of an opinion, one way or another.

    Just another case of blueballs…..

  24. Jon
    July 18, 2009 at 10:52 am

    Sorry, JD – I could swear that someone posted last night that it was available for streaming at roughstock.com – and it was, though it doesn’t appear to be this morning. Snooze, lose…

    Jim:”If you actually pay attention to what I wrote (rather than just looking for things to pick it), I think it’s pretty obvious that my “future of” comment refers an earlier passage…”

    Why would that be obvious? If you actually paid attention to what you wrote, it’s pretty obvious that you said “Jamey Johnson is the future of country music.” Jamey Johnson is the name of one artist, not a synonym for “all the honesty and emotional rawness it [whatever the precise antecedent to that is] can muster,” nor a couple of sentences’ worth of overwrought rhetoric about what “My Way To You” is or is about.

    “”I would specifically point to in all the honestly and emotional rawness it can muster.”

    See above. And remember, this is Jamey “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” Johnson we’re talking about – and I offer that not as a criticism of the songwriter, but as a reminder that he is more than “all the honesty and emotional rawness” he can muster – a more that he (properly) insists we acknowledge.

  25. Jim Malec
    July 18, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Why do I get involved in these discussions…

  26. Lazeras
    July 18, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Kind of have to agree with Jon…seems like if the writers here have a liking for a particular artist, then they can do no wrong, and if they dislike an artist for any reason then that artist will never get an unbiased review that is positive. As for myself, I like some of jamey’s music but some of his songs and performances are as boring and tepid and repititious of rehashed sentiments and phrases as any artist out there, traditional or pop, and those that say otherwise are as I said, those same people that like him and would approve of him if he sang “like a virgin” with madonna.

  27. countryfannetwork
    July 18, 2009 at 1:55 pm

    I stated back when his first album came out that Jamey Johnson is the new “Outlaw” of country music, taking over for the likes of Merl Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings etc.. Jamey Johnson future is like a rocket that is now using its after burners and is taking off to great heights and will only stop when he decides to stop singing which he is not going to do anytime in the near of distant future.
    Jamey has the voice that forever tells a story no matter if its a slow Ballard or a fast pace road house style of song. He will continue to gain followers at a tremendous pace and will soon be on the top of the charts to stay.

  28. Leeann Ward
    July 18, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    JD,
    It’s like album reviews. Many of them are done before the album is released (if we’re lucky) and nobody complains about that. Instead, we appreciate the heads up.

  29. Leeann Ward
    July 18, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    It is still on Rough Stock.
    http://www.roughstock.com/audio/jamey-johnson-my-way-to-you

    I actually like the song quite a bit, but I can’t shake that eighties guitar thing that he uses for the build up. For me, I don’t like it when artists do it and I don’t like it in his music either. Equal opportunity dislike.

  30. idlewildsouth
    July 18, 2009 at 8:55 pm

    Just listened to it. I love it. I must agree with Jim here, I’m not sure who “you” is, but smart money aint on a woman.

  31. Jim C
    July 18, 2009 at 10:47 pm

    So this is what Blaze Foley would have sounded like if he had lived?
    I dunno sounded like a Montgomery Gentry track. make of that what you will…

    Jim M sez:
    Why do I get involved in these discussions…

    I warned ya!

  32. Jon
    July 18, 2009 at 11:03 pm

    “I dunno sounded like a Montgomery Gentry track.”

    And there you have it.

  33. Lazeras
    July 19, 2009 at 12:53 am

    No matter how much reviewers think they can be or are unbiased, when it comes to preconcieved ideas of what their favorite genre is or preestablished likes and dislikes, they will always find ways to whitewash the faults of their favorites and create and exaggerate the faults of those they disapprove of. So Jamey to those that love him and see him as the “saviour” of country music will always be that, no matter the quality of his individual songwriting and performance. The fact is, he is human and will make mistakes as well as create some great music, and those that put him on a pedestal as the epitome of what country music is put themselves in the position of having to justify his faults and polish his successes as being even brighter than they actually are. Its easy to heap higher praise on those you approve, even when they don’t deserve it, and much easier to throw crap on those whom you already dislike.

  34. Josh
    July 19, 2009 at 1:59 am

    Thought it was a great tune and definitely a keeper. However, I’m not sure about the 80′s solo climax part since it kind of distracted and rudely interrupted the acoustic accompaniment which is so well done. But hey, I loved the 80s back in the day.

  35. Mike Wimmer
    July 19, 2009 at 9:05 am

    I have listened to this song about 6 times thus far and still really like it. Honestly, the best thing about the song is that even though Johnson sings about finding his way to the love of a woman or a higher power, you can tell in his performance that he still isnt sure he can put his past behind him.

  36. PaulaW
    July 19, 2009 at 9:19 am

    I like the song much more than I expected to (Jim and I dont agree on too much these days). I still do not care for Jamey Johnson’s voice. I would like to hear this song recorded by another artist. Maybe Trace Adkins. (NOT Montgomery Gentry!)

  37. JD
    July 19, 2009 at 11:06 am

    Thanks for the link, Leeann.

    I just don’t get the hype with this guy. He sounds like he’s in a coma. As said earlier, Montgomery Gentry.

  38. Paul W Dennis
    July 19, 2009 at 11:53 am

    It’s a good song, he’s a good artist but I am not wild about the production on any of his songs, thus far

  39. Leeann Ward
    July 19, 2009 at 2:54 pm

    Yeah, that’s pretty much how I feel about him at this point, Paul. I like his songs and even his voice, but the productions get to me after awhile.

  40. Lanibug
    July 20, 2009 at 7:35 am

    I like it, cannot wait to hear it live – I am seeing him on August 2nd….so I am looking forward to hearing a bunch of new stuff…

  41. Vicki
    July 20, 2009 at 10:32 am

    I like it. Thanks Leeann!

    Off subject: But did anyone catch Allison Krauss and Union Station on GAC last night? I know it was from like 2003 but gosh, I miss them. I wish Allison would get back with them. Anyone know if that is happening or what she’s doing?

  42. Jon
    July 20, 2009 at 10:53 am

    AKUS is putting together material for another album and some touring in 2010.

  43. Vicki
    July 20, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Thanks for the Great news!

  44. KS
    July 30, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Jamey is REAL COUNTRY! It absolutely SUCKS that radio didn’t play High Cost of Living! It’s because they cater to soccer moms and kids. I say piss them off a little and play a little less Swift and a lot more Johnson!

  45. Alan
    August 1, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    I agree 100% with KS High Cost of Living is the best written song in the last 3 years and it speaks the TRUTH thats real country…he didn’t release any other songs off the album besides “In Color” and “High Cot of Living” I’d love to see him release “That Lonesome Song” and “Women” but I guess he’s TOO COUNTRY for country radio it’s sad but its the truth

  46. Alan
    August 1, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    and you can’t tell me for one second that Taylor Swift, Rascall Flatts, and Kellie Pickler are all more country than this guy

  47. Chris N.
    August 1, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    “High Cost of Living” would have been a hit if there weren’t already so many other songs about cocaine and whores on the radio.

  48. NASHVILLEREALITY CHECK
    August 26, 2009 at 7:33 pm

    Can this be anymore 1979 outlaw country?…only about 30 years too late for radio. The story is the standard “survived my personal demons bit” about a guy who realizes how lucky he is that his life did not go completely over the waterfall into the abyss and he finally “gets it” (I do like a positive message)BUT..it sounds like its on the wrong speed compared to most modern country stuff..like its in slow motion ..I agree the guy has passion(which I respect) but its such a non contemporary style (with the in your face old school steel guitar mixed WAAYYYY UP) that radio will continue to ignore it and play that the other cutesy (but not so Swift)stuff that targets the 12-23 year old females, what happened to the 30 something Soccer- Mom target demo? I wish it wasn’t this way and we could hear more variety on the Air but I’m a dreamer I guess. Just Saying.

  49. Stormy
    August 26, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    Don’t be ridiculous. Back in the 1970′s Outlaws were smoking pot. Jamey is doing coke. Totally modern.

  50. Justin
    September 13, 2009 at 3:13 am

    He’s the best think in country and it does not matter that his songs dont get played… hell half the songs you hear on there he wrote… Hes got two cma’s for best song, lonesome song went gold, and tons of fans that go to his shows every night and get blown away by a modern day outlaw… Screw the radio

  51. NASHVILLE REALITY CHECK
    September 23, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    “Don’t be ridiculous. Back in the 1970’s Outlaws were smoking pot. Jamey is doing coke. Totally modern”

    Great point Stormy! If you remember the 70′s you weren’t there anyway!((60′s too)

    “He’s the best think in country”
    Hey Justin… That may be his problem!

  52. Justin
    September 25, 2009 at 1:52 am

    hey check explain why thats a problem cause im not following

  53. Joe
    March 13, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    This song to me is similar to “Hurt” While you can ask the question, “what has a 30 year old guy lived?” versus say a Waylon or Johnny Cash which Jamey seems to emulate himself after.

    Bottom line, the guy’s got talent. Is he living it like a Keith Whitley, or is he just speaking to it?

  54. stormy
    March 14, 2010 at 12:08 am

    Trent Reznor would have been younger than 30 when he wrote Hurt. (He was born in 1965 and the song released* in 1994).

    *The song was never offically released, but it was played on radio by popular demand.

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