Cody Johnson, Leather Review
Cody Johnson’s Leather emerges as a solid project with its gritty threads of traditional country adorned with modern collaborative genius. Following the Gold-certified acclaim of Human and a year garnished with a Grammy win, a CMT Music Award, and a CMA nomination, Johnson’s latest project reveals an artist not just peaking, but pushing the summit higher.
The opening track, “Work Boots,” is a delightful dance between wit and melody that tips a hat to the levity of country life. The song’s lyrics are a clever play on words to tell an anthemic story of blue-collar romance, where Johnson’s boots become a metaphor for the toil and pursuit of love. The instrumentation here is not simply backing but a character, with acoustic instruments providing excellent fills that enkindle the nostalgia of the country’s golden age.
“Double Down” is an aural canvas where Johnson’s vocals paint with broad, unadulterated strokes. The absence of vocal modification is a refreshing nod to the rawness of country ethos. Johnson’s voice, accompanied by a mood-setting slide guitar, offers an organic connection to the listener, unfettered by the synthetic tendrils of auto-tune.
In “The Painter,” a love letter to his wife, Johnson trades the easel of the artist for the canvas of the heart. The acoustic guitar and tender string accompaniment act not as mere background but as delicate vessels for the poignant imagery Johnson conjures. It’s a track where production stands back, letting the lyrical landscape and vocal sincerity take center stage.
The “Long Live the Honkytonk” duet sees Johnson joining forces with Ronnie Dunn. Their harmonies, as natural as the timeless themes they sing of, celebrate the undying spirit of the honky-tonk. This track is a toast raised to the perpetual twilight of barrooms and steel guitars, a seamless blend of voices elevating the chorus of country’s soul.
“Whiskey Bent,” a collaboration with Jelly Roll, jukes expectations with a narrative on redemption. It’s a song that walks the tightrope of country’s frequent dalliance with alcohol, but instead of tumbling into the abyss, it finds a lifeline in sobriety. The collaboration has a lyrical surprise and shows Johnson’s ability to delve into the profound without losing the soulful grit of country.
Leather might not etch itself into the annals as Johnson’s magnum opus, but its production quality cannot be overstated. The album resonates with the authenticity of country’s roots, with each song standing as a sturdy pillar in Johnson’s growing hall of artistry.
In summation, Leather is an album that feels both comfortable in its skin and ambitious in reach. Cody Johnson remains a steadfast sentinel of country’s core, assuring that quality is not an act but a habit. While the album might not demand incessant replay for some, its integrity and polished production warrant a tip of the hat and a sincere recommendation for those with an ear for country’s evolving but ever-true sound. That’s the short of it!
Connect with Cody Johnson: Website |
November 3, 2023
Warner Music Nashville