It’s hard to argue that anyone is bigger in the Texas music scene than Cody Johnson right now. Since breaking on to the scene with their 2006 album “Black and White Label”, the band has been on a slingshot route to the top of the genre. For the last decade, these guys have etched out a place in the southern music scene with 5 captivating albums, an abundant collection of #1’s, and sold out shows at every major venue; leaving crowds with sore-feet, horse-throats, and maybe a hangover or two.
From the early days of smokey dive bars, to now headlining festivals with crowds of 50k+, they’ve built one of the most loyal fanbases the scene has ever known with their authenticity, superior musicianship, honest lyrics, and energetic live shows.
The Huntsville, Texas native has a sound that is undoubtedly bigger than the Texas/Red Dirt Scene, and certainly penetrated that perimeter with his previous album “Cowboy Like Me”. This time however, Johnson won’t be testing the waters of the national stage by sticking a foot in, he’ll be diving in head first and making a big splash! Making the jump to the national stage for an artist who has their foundation in the Texas scene can be tricky sometimes, but I think you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t think Johnson has cut his path in anything other than the right way; in fact I think you’ll only find admiration and respect from fans, fellow Texas musicians, and industry personnel —and that speaks VOLUMES in a scene that is often weary when their artists make it to the national scene!
As admirable as his hard work and dedication has been during his career’s climb, just as notable is the intact integrity and authenticity the rising star’s music still holds. If one were to go back and start Johnson’s collection in chronological order, you wouldn’t hear any major directional change or turning point in his music, but rather a steady evolution of progression and cultivation while keeping his foundational roots.
Johnson’s brand new album “Gotta Be Me” is certainly a testament to all the years the former rodeo cowboy has been honing his skills, and developing his music the right way. The 14 track collection is packed with exceptional songwriting, strong, twangy vocals, solid country instrumentation and top-notch production (Trent Willmon). This is unquestionably Johnson’s best work yet, and we have full confidence it’s going to launch him to his rightful place under the national spotlight!
The record starts off by introducing us to the country traditionalist’s resistance to being anything he’s not. Through the title track, he tells us “you can wine me up, and dine me, you can polish up, and shine me, but the real thing is gonna shine through”, setting the tone for the rest of the album saying “ here’s who I am, this is my life, and I just “Gotta Be Me’ “.
Throughout the album, Johnson takes us through love (Grass Stains, Half a Song, I Ain’t Going Nowhere Baby), heartbreak (Walk a Way, Kiss Goodbye, Every Scar Has a Story), good times (Chain Drinking), bar room rumbles (Billy’s Brother), and a gospel tribute to the accompaniment of the lord in everything he does (I Can’t Even Walk).
While the album is without a doubt a complete product from start to finish, there are a few tracks that really stand out to us.
The fiddle-laced, hard-hitting musical production of “Wild As You” (Michael Connors/ Jerry Spillman/ Trent Willmon) meets in perfect harmony of the liberating, care-free, untamed love Johnson’s chases after as the lyrics unfold. The song has vivid imagery, a catchy tempo, and we think will be great for radio!
“With You I Am” (David Lee/Cody Johnson/Trent Willmon) maybe the best love song Johnson has put out on a record to-date. The poignant lyrics and colorful metaphors paint an encapsulating picture of what it really means to find that special someone who makes you feel like you’re the luckiest person alive. We love the passionate vocals and superior songwriting of this one!
I Know My Way Back (Cody Johnson) maybe the catchiest and easy to embrace track on the record! The personal account of leaving the one you love at home while you’re out on the road, focuses on the coming home, rather than the leaving. Johnson lays out his eagerness to get home and see his wife with such passion and excitement you feel like you’re riding shotgun with him as his truck’s tires fling gravel down their driveway. You can see their embrace on the front-porch and feel their relief to be in each other’s arms again.
*PICK OF THE ALBUM*
Our pick of the album is the gripping account of living the rodeo life found in the “The Only One I Know” (Cowboy Life) (Shane Minor/Jeffery Steele). Many years ago, Johnson faced a fork in the road when he had to decide between pursuing his rodeo career or his music. The track seems to depict his reflection of what his life would be like if he had gone in the other direction. While he doesn’t directly draw the comparison between the two career paths, the song illustrates the similarities of life on the road and how grueling the day-to-day found in both lifestyles can be. We feel like this is Johnson’s best vocal performance on the record and one POWERFUL song!
The album literally just dropped (8/5/16) and there’s no question you should get your hands on it immediately and go catch an album release show!
Check out our *PICK* of the album “The Only One I Know” below!
San Antonio, TX
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Salt Lake City, UT
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Music addict, a sucker for heartbreak songs, and avid Houston sports fan! I’am also the Editor-in-Chief of Texas Music Pickers.