Music Review: Jamey Johnson's ambitious double album
In this CD cover image released by Mercury Nashville, the latest by Jamey Johnson, "The Guitar Song" is shown. (AP Photo/Mercury Nashville)

Jamey Johnson's two-CD album, "The Guitar Song," opens with a country-music star telling a stranger in a bar how lonely and pressured life has gotten since hitting the top. The stranger promptly sets him straight. "It may be lonely at the top," the guy retorts, "but it's a (expletive) at the bottom."

Co-written by the late Keith Whitley, "Lonely at the Top" sets the tone for Johnson's first release since hitting the big-time himself with his 2008 album, "That Lonesome Song." For one, the song spikes a pedal-steel driven country shuffle with blasts of Southern-rock guitar. It's a pattern Johnson continues through the album, balancing traditional country with contemporary splashes that often stretch into lengthy instrumental jams.

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Moreover, the lyrics repeatedly draw on class tensions between poor and rich. Johnson clearly sides with the have-nots, inducing defiance in character-driven story lines that avoid the rural-pride cliches so popular in country songs these days.

Michael McCall, For The Associated Press

'The Guitar Song'

Jamey Johnson

(Mercury Nashville)

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