When it comes to country music, you either get it or you don’t. And I’m not talking about the country music you hear on the radio, although the appeal can be the same. I’m talking about sitting down and hearing an Alan Jackson song and instantly connecting with what it’s trying to convey. You get it. You understand where Jackson is coming from. When you hear a country artist, you can hear whether they get it or not too. When I listen to Addison Johnson sing, I can tell he gets it from the first listen. He clearly understands how traditional country music works and what makes it great. Hailing from Greensboro, North Carolina, Johnson prides himself on his craft and spends much of his time writing as much music as he can. He cites icons like George Jones and Lefty Frizzell as his inspiration. It clearly shows on his first full-length album I’m Just A Song.
The album begins with “Can’t Go to Heaven,” the lead single of the album. I reviewed it last year when he first came upon Country Perspective’s radar. From my original review: It’s a rollicking, honkytonk tune about a guy raising hell and living life dangerously by partying and drinking all the time. Of course living this life has consequences for the man. The preacher man tells him that he can’t go to heaven raising this much hell and later on in the song his woman, who was ready to settle down and have a family, dumps him and puts the house up for sale. The instrumentation is mostly steel guitar, which is just great to my ears. It really gels well with the theme of the song and is very much in the vein of the Bakersfield/traditional sound.
Johnson shows off his bluegrass side on “High on the Mountain.” The song is about a woman who has left her man for New Orleans because she’s tired of living in the backwoods with a mountain man. So the man now being heartbroken, he fires up his still and makes some moonshine to drown away his sorrow. The only instrumentation you’ll hear on this song is fiddles and a banjo. Everything about this song is 100% pure country. The album’s title track is a self-reflection song for Johnson, as he sings about being a songwriter and a heartbreak tune he’s writing. You figure out by the end of the song it’s about what happened in his own life and how his life is just a song, covered in whiskey and tears just like the paper he’s writing the song on. This is a really well written song and arguably the best one of the album. “I’m Just A Song” gets better each time you hear it.
He shows off his great songwriting again on “Already Been Through.” It’s a “coming to Jesus” song, as Johnson realizes he’s been spending too much time with the devil and not enough in a church pew. As he sings, he’s already seen plenty of hell and now wants to know what heaven is like. Think Love & Theft’s “Whiskey on My Breath” with fiddle and steel guitar. “Warning Label” is about a rambling man who knows he’s born to break women’s hearts and never settle down. He says he should have a warning label tattooed on him to let woman know he’s bad for them. While at first I thought maybe the warning label theme is a little hokey, but after a few more listens Johnson sings with enough conviction to avoid coming off as cheesy. The song has a very classic feel about it, which is a great thing. The very next song “Cowboy Blood” follows along the same lines as “Warning Label.” Johnsons sings about being born with cowboy blood driving him to do the things he does, such as singing and wanting to travel on the road all the time. It can also cause him to feel pain and at times alone in the world. But at the end of the day he’s glad to have it. These types of songs are a little contrived, but nonetheless can still be enjoyable
I’m Just A Song ends with “My Last Song,” where Johnson wonders what he will sing as his last ever song. It’s really about though a reflection on his life and the choices he has made and will make throughout it. This is really evident at the end where he wonders if when he’s laid down to rest if people will remember him for the memories or for living too fast. The song tackles life so poignantly. It’s not so much dark, but rather looks at life in a simplistic, mature manner that can resonate deeply with anyone who listens. This is a fantastic country song that is definitely a highlight of the album.
Addison Johnson really hits it out of the park with I’m Just A Song. This album is full of traditional country goodness that will leave you wondering how the hell is this guy is not getting more attention. The talent is pretty clear and shows that the sky is the limit for Johnson’s future. His songwriting shows great maturity and a reverence towards the roots of country music and should only get better with time. My only real complaint with this entire album is the length. Being only seven songs long left me wanting to hear even more, which I guess can be a good thing. But I hope on the next one we get to hear even more because the world needs to hear more music from Addison Johnson. If you love traditional country music, you need to hear I’m Just A Song.