Award-winning singer/songwriter Jamey Johnson is joined by some of the greatest names in country music on his new album, Living For a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran, out today. The album is already receiving rave review, and its first track, “Make the World Go Away,” a duet with Alison Krauss, is being given away on iTunes for free this week only as the Free Country Single of the Week. Last Friday, October 12, Johnson and Krauss performed the song on the Late Show with David Letterman.
Besides Krauss, Johnson is also joined on the album by Asleep at the Wheel, Bobby Bare, Hank Cochran, Elvis Costello, Ronnie Dunn, Vince Gill, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Leon Russell, George Strait and Lee Ann Womack.
Yesterday, Oct. 15, Johnson discussed the project with Eddie Stubbs on WSM-AM. Tonight, he will will celebrate the album’s release with a concert at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, where he will be joined by some of his duet partners. In addition, Johnson will reveal his fall tour next week.
Living For a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran is receiving tremendous reviews. Describing “Make the World Go Away,” Rolling Stone says, “… Johnson’s old-school romantic nihilism intertwines with Krauss’ hummingbird-precise voice. Framed by a circling steel guitar, the plea for love in dark days feels as timely as a Twitter feed.”
Noting that Johnson says, “Hank’s songs bring out the best in everybody,” the Philadelphia Inquirer says, “That’s certainly the case with the deep-voiced Johnson himself, who shows he’s as good with an elegant, world-weary ballad as he is with up-tempo honkytonk. It’s also true of the big-name guests who sing with him here.”
The Inquirer’s four-star reviewcontinues, “Cochran himself joins Nelson, Haggard and Kristofferson in a quietly poignant take on ‘Living for a Song,’ a number that beautifully lays out the life of those who write songs for a living-something Cochran did as well as anyone.”
Entertainment Weekly says, “Hank Cochran’s life was like a country song: He toiled away in orphanages and oil fields before making it as a singer-songwriter. And Nashville outlaw Johnson captures that hardscrabble romanticism on these Cochran covers, especially the slow-burning duets ”Don’t Touch Me” (with Emmylou Harris) and ‘Make the World Go Away’ (with Alison Krauss).”
Cochran, who died at age 74 in 2010, is considered one of the greatest songwriters in the history of country music. He helped create the template for writing the perfect country song and had an uncanny knack for capturing the gut-wrenching depths of heartache so powerfully, yet so simply.
“If I had to dream up somebody like Hank to influence songwriters, I couldn’t have done a better job,” Johnson says. “That’s what he was– not just for me, but for Willie and for a lot of people–just a helpful friend. If he knew you needed help with something, he could help you. He was there. And that’s what I want to be for the people in my life, same as Hank. He influenced me, not only as an artist and songwriter, but also as a person.”
Cochran was a songwriter’s songwriter and a singer’s singer. “Well, really, when you start talking about songwriters, you’ve got to say his name first,” says Nelson. “Then you start talking about everybody else. I think everybody would agree that Hank was the best writer up there.”
Haggard says, “It’s important historically for people to know who Hank Cochran was and what he did. He always wanted to be the Hemingway of country music and I think he did it.”
The Cochran tribute is Johnson’s follow-up to his critically acclaimed 25-song double album, The Guitar Song, which was among the most-lauded albums of 2010, receiving country album of the year nominations from the Grammys and the Academy of Country Music. It was certified gold and ranked No. 5 on both Rolling Stone’s and Spin’s albums of the year lists. He also released 2008’s That Lonesome Song, which was certified platinum and universally hailed by critics as a masterpiece.
He has emerged as one of the most important country artists of the last decade, both as a recording artist and songwriter. In 2007, he won Song of the Year from the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music for co-writing the George Strait hit “Give It Away.” He won Song of the Year from both organizations two years later for “In Color,” and also received five Grammy nominations during 2009-10.
Living For a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran track listing:
“Make the World Go Away” – Jamey Johnson and Alison Krauss
“I Fall to Pieces” – Jamey Johnson and Merle Haggard
“A Way to Survive” – Jamey Johnson, Vince Gill and Leon Russell
“Don’t Touch Me” – Jamey Johnson and Emmylou Harris
“You Wouldn’t Know Love” – Jamey Johnson and Ray Price
“I Don’t Do Windows” – Jamey Johnson and Asleep at the Wheel
“She’ll Be Back” – Jamey Johnson and Elvis Costello
“Would These Arms Be in Your Way” – Jamey Johnson
“The Eagle” – Jamey Johnson and George Strait
“A-11” – Jamey Johnson and Ronnie Dunn
“I’d Fight the World” – Jamey Johnson and Bobby Bare
“Don’t You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me” – Jamey Johnson and Willie Nelson
“This Ain’t My First Rodeo” – Jamey Johnson and Lee Ann Womack
“Love Makes a Fool of Us All” – Jamey Johnson and Kris Kristofferson
“Everything But You” – Jamey Johnson, Vince Gill, Willie Nelson and Leon Russell
“Living for a Song” – Jamey Johnson, Hank Cochran, Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson and Willie Nelson