Johnny Paycheck

Take This Job and Shove It

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Johnny Paycheck was steadily moving his way up the country charts until 1978, when "Take This Job and Shove It" catapulted him to the top. It was a combination of the right song given to the right singer at the right time, but much of that combination was down to producer Billy Sherrill, who had steadily been smoothing out the rough edges in Paycheck's sound while exaggerating his outlaw stance for almost comical effect. No other song quite captured this blend like "Take This Job and Shove It," which took a David Allan Coe original and twisted it into a cartoon that was appealing because of its exaggeration, not in spite of it. The song became an anthem, propelling the album to number two on the country charts, taking Bobby Braddock's drinking song "Georgia in a Jug" to number 20 along the way. "Georgia in a Jug" is one of four explicit drinking songs here -- of course the title track has a drinking undercurrent, it just doesn't make it explicit -- the best of which is the bizarre, funny "Colorado Kool-Aid," a tongue-in-cheek talking blues about Coors, Mexicans, and lopped-off ears, but the punny "The Spirits of St. Louis" is plenty funny in its own right. When Johnny's not drinking here, he's singing tales of heartbreak or barroom blues shuffles, both given the signature Sherrill treatment. Sherrill doesn't pump Paycheck up into some cinematic scope, the way he did with George Jones, but he does give the underpinning melancholy of "From Cotton to Satin (From Birmingham to Manhattan)" and "The Fool Strikes Again" a comforting lushness while turning a boogie like "The 4-F Blues" into something so slick that it obscures the nastiness of those four Fs. Compared to the two albums that preceded it, Take This Job & Shove It is just a bit too slick and silly, even glib, in its songs and presentation, but there's a certain joy in its overblown outlaw stance, as Paycheck and Sherrill aren't only in on the joke, they play it straight as if there wasn't a joke in the first place.

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