While its place as a driving force in the popular music strata shows no sign of weaning, the last few months have found mainstream country music in a particularly odd place.
Late last year, it’s reigning queen, Taylor Swift, went whole-hog pop with her latest release, “Red,” which triumphed on both the country album and all encompassing Billboard 200 album charts and was one of the best selling releases of the past year. The other pop-culture country shift came not from the studio or the stage, but the small screen in the form of “Nashville,” the fictional behind-the-scenes soap-drama bolstered by music penned and overseen by the very un-Music City likes of acclaimed producer T-Bone Burnett.
The success of Jamey Johnson’s “Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran,” can be seen as further evidence of popular country’s veering out of the Music City norm.
To his credit, Johnson has never played by the rules long deemed law in the mainstream country strata and touched upon slightly on the hit ABC drama. A songmith who has long played by his own rules both musically and on the business side, Johnson’s original efforts, 2008’s “That Lonesome Song” and 2010’s “The Guitar Song,” find him aligned, both musically and spiritually, with the renegade likes of Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.
The end results of this have proven fruitful and an anomaly in today’s country world; “Lonesome” and “Guitar” have charted well both on both the country and all-genre album charts, and non-Nashville likes from Neil Young to Kid Rock have given Johnson their seals of approval.
Released in October, “Living” finds Johnson paying musical tribute to legendary tunesmith Cochran, who penned hits for everyone from Patsy Cline to Burl Ives to Ronnie Milsap. On “Living,” Johnson is joined by the likes of Nelson, Haggard, Elvis Costello, Emmylou Harris and Allison Krauss, a testament to not only Cochran’s songwriting, but to the fan base the still ascending Johnson is cultivating.
Jamey Johnson, 8:30 p.m. Feb. 8, Joe’s, 940 W. Weed St., Chicago. $35 (21 and older, sold out). FYI: (312) 337-3486, JOESBAR.COM
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For more information, contact the venues or ticket sales agencies listed below. Unless otherwise indicated, all shows are all-ages.
Leonard Cohen, March 13, Chicago Theatre (THECHICAGOTHEATRE.COM)
Animal Collective, March 16, Riviera Theatre (JAMUSA.COM)
Minus the Bear, March 3, Metro (18 and older, METROCHICAGO.COM)
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, May 17, Vic Theatre (18 and older, JAMUSA.COM)
Widespread Panic, April 12-13, UIC Pavilion (UICPAVILION.COM)
Bad Religion, Against Me!, April 5, Congress Theater (CONGRESSCHICAGO.COM)
Tossers, March 16, Metro (18 and older, METROCHICAGO.COM)
Soul Asylum, Feb. 22, Double Door (21 and older, DOUBLEDOOR.COM)
Cold War Kids, April 6, Metro (18 and older, METROCHICAGO.COM)
Tech N9ne, April 23, House of Blues (HOB.COM)
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