With a distinct, identifiable vocal snarl and the ability to write songs without constantly using half a dozen Music Row collaborators, Alabama native Jamey Johnson forcefully asserts his neotraditional bent on ˝The Dollar,˝ a beautifully crafted high-impact cautionary about the modern conundrum of work versus family.
His skill at delivering with utter clarity and lack of artifice enhances every performance, as he reinvents the timeless lost-love-and-redemption ballad with ˝Flying Silver Eagle˝ and on ˝My Saving Grace˝ thoughtfully counsels perseverance despite an alcoholic father.
The generic ˝redneck˝ ditties currently in vogue get their moments with ˝Rebelicious˝ and ˝Redneck Side of Me.˝
They pale, however, alongside Johnson’s admirable storytelling on ˝She’s All Lady,˝ his witty Honkytonkers Anonymous vibe on ˝Keepin’ Up with the Jonesin’˝ (with a superfluous cameo by George Jones) and the moving ˝Back to Caroline.˝
The final surprise: a powerful gospel closer, ˝Lead Me Home.˝
Debuts suffer if an artist lacks confidence or faces mediocre production and material.
Those aren’t issues for Johnson, who delivers refreshingly straight and honest.