Packing 25 songs many of them even longer than the artist's out-of-control hermit-of-the-woods hair onto two discs (the "black" one theoretically more despondent, the "white" one theoretically more redemptive), Jamey Johnson's country-chart-topping The Guitar Song presented itself as a major work right out of the gate. From Rolling Stone (a rarely precedented 4 1/2 stars out of 5) to Billboard (speculation about this being "the most important country album in a decade") on down, few in the media argued. Which makes sense, because it's an excellent record. You could maybe trim a handful of cuts, but the cuts you'd exclude might not be the same ones I would. Johnson was no doubt advised to start clearing mantel space for a pile of Grammys right away, and come 2020, the album will probably show up on a few best-of-the-'10s lists. Which is one reason to clear up a couple of fairly predictable misconceptions about it right off the bat: First, that Johnson and The Guitar Song represent some kind of extreme left turn back to "traditional" country and have nothing to do with the rest of what's gone down in the rest of Nashville in recent years; second, that the country he draws on is mostly of the "outlaw" variety. Not that he lacks old-school or outlaw leanings; they're in there, sure. But so is other stuff, some of it not even country at all. Here's a rundown of the sorts of music Johnson seems to draw on.
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