Like earlier country outlaws, Jamey Johnson forges his own paths while never forgetting his forebears. One is singer-composer Hank Cochran, who died in 2010. A giant among Nashville writers, Cochran wrote many tunes over nearly half a century, some now country standards. Having worked with a prerocking Eddie Cochran (no relation) in the early ’50s, he settled in Nashville in 1960. Among his earliest friends: singer-songwriter Willie Nelson, just in from Texas.
On 15 of the 16 tracks here, Johnson’s joined by others, many of them Cochran’s friends and peers. The band, largely bare bones, keeps voice and lyrics dominant. Brent Mason handles most lead guitar, with Steve Gibson on three tracks and Tommy White doing most pedal steel work.
Many arrangements here echo the originals. Johnson and Alison Krauss follow the hit Ray Price and Eddy Arnold renditions of “Make The World Go Away.” The bluesier treatment of Patsy Cline’s “I Fall To Pieces” featuring Merle Haggard offers a totally different feel. Ray Price revisits “You Wouldn’t Know Love” with full string arrangement.
Emmylou Harris guests on “Don’t Touch Me,” a ’60s hit for Cochran’s thenwife Jeannie Seely. Cochran fan Elvis Costello is the guest on “She’ll Be Back.”
Johnson pairs with George Strait to revive the 1991 Waylon Jennings hit “The Eagle,” backed by ex-Jennings steel guitarist Robby Turner. Bobby Bare revisits “I’d Fight The World,” a hit for both Jim Reeves and Cochran himself. Other guests include Kris Kristofferson, Asleep at the Wheel, Vince Gill, Leon Russell, and Lee Ann Womack. The title song, a life summary, features Cochran’s voice with additions from, Kristofferson,
Haggard and Nelson (playing Trigger). Hank Cochran’s songs long ago proved timeless. Livin’ For A Song serves as a powerful reminder.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Jan. ’13 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.