If this Alabama native and country music newcomer sounds like a veteran on his instantly infectious debut, that's because he is one. While in the Marine Corps Reserve from 1994 to 2002, Jamey Johnson perfected his singing style in the honky tonks of his home state. Upon moving to Nashville he did everything from selling signs to working for an industrial pumping company to rebuilding places devastated by natural disasters. And what makes a great artist in this genre if not these types of real-life experiences? The deep-voiced Johnson, who is also a lyrically insightful songwriter, once sang a duet with Gretchen Wilson on a demo for a publishing company, and he has the potential to be the Redneck Woman's male equivalent -- or maybe the next Toby Keith -- and not simply because one of the best tracks is the power ballad "Redneck Side of Me." It's also due to his colorful mix of hardcore honky tonkers (the title track, "Ray Ray's Juke Joint") and gentle ballads ("My Saving Grace") that blend the influences of great inspirations George Jones and Garth Brooks. Naturally, Jones' glorious harmonies are featured on the crunchy power ballad "Keepin' Up with the Jonesin'," giving Johnson an instant legitimacy as a potential country great. Comparisons aside, this hard-workin' artist has got the goods on a debut that can only be described as countrified brilliance.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran
feat: George Jones