"This has been my dream since I picked up that first guitar when I was a kid. You know, Montgomery (Ala.) is only about 4 1/2 hours from Nashville by car, but by guitar, it's about five years." Newcomer Jamey Johnson should know what he's talking about, because that's how long it took him from the time he moved to Nashville until he had a single on the charts.
And what a single! If your local radio-station disc jockeys aren't playing "The Dollar" yet, tell them they're missing out on one of the best songs of ANY year. The song is about a little boy asking his mother where Daddy goes every day. The child's mother explains that Daddy has a job and they pay him for his time, and the child then empties his piggy bank and asks how much time $1 will buy him with Daddy. Yes, I know that sounds like it might be too syrupy, but Jamey has that honky-tonk edge to his voice that makes it both touching and genuine.
Now his debut album, "The Dollar," is out, and the rest of the album lives up to the promise of its title cut. A mixture of burn-the-house-down honky-tonk and softly reflective tunes, the album moves from "She's All Lady" to "Ray Ray's Juke Joint" and back again to "My Saving Grace."
In fact, Jamey's music reflects his life. Born and raised in Montgomery, Jamey grew up in a trailer at the end of a long dirt road. "I'll be honest with you," he says. "I was probably 13 years old before I realized people were born in other states than Alabama. We had a band named after ours. Who else can say that?"
His family was so deeply religious that Hank Williams Jr. and Waylon Jennings records weren't allowed. But as a teen, Jamey spent Saturday nights with some buddies, drinking beer and playing Hank Sr. songs at Hank's grave on the hill above Montgomery. Jamey is also a formally trained musician who already knew music theory as a junior-high student. He moved to Nashville to pursue his musical career, then didn't tell anyone for 10 months that he wrote songs or played music.
But "The Dollar" is proof that once he decided to go for a career in music, he went for it 110 percent. Jamey Johnson drove to Nashville on Jan. 1, 2000. Now, a bit more than five years by guitar later, he's finally made it.
QUIBBLES 'N BITS
Something More? Dept.: So, if you were part of one of the hottest new groups in country music, would you quit? That's what Sugarland's Kristen Hall just did. The group has a multiplatinum album, super hits like "Baby Girl" and "Something More," and just won the all-genre Best New Artist award at the American Music Awards, but Kristen says she wants "to stay home and write songs." The remaining members, Kristian Bush and Jennifer Nettles, will continue as Sugarland, but haven't decided whether they'll look for a new member or just have someone in their band sing Kristen's harmony parts. Good luck to all three, though.
Will the Circle Be Unbroken Dept: Carter Family member Janette Carter passed away Sunday, Jan. 22, at the age of 82 at Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn. She had been suffering from several chronic illnesses, as well as Parkinson's disease, at the time of her death. One of three children born to A.P. and Sara Carter, Janette Carter was the last surviving child of members of the original Carter Family and had continued to keep her family's music alive throughout her life. We won't see her like again.
Rough Cuts Quote of the Week: "Fortunately for the fans behind him, it was just John and not Big Kenny!" Nashville Predators executive Randy Campbell, about the bit of trouble John Rich caused at a recent NHL game. John, who is a huge hockey fan, had seats near center ice and spent most of his time on his feet cheering loudly for his favorite team, much to the dismay of all the fans behind him. First, the management offered John a suite, but he turned that down. Finally, one of Metro Nashville's finest had to come down and explain the arena policy to him (which is that fans should be seated while the puck is in play).
I'd love to hear from you, so please write me at P.O. Box 121438, Nashville, TN 37212.