Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Jamey Johnson: Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran [Mercury, 2012]
Most likely the smattering of albums by the Nashville pro who came up with "I Fall to Pieces" and "Make the World Go Away" deserves one of those Rhino cherrypicks of yore. But there's a reason he had more success as a songwriter than a singer, and this collection of 15 duets and a solo showcase makes a nice alternative. Although it may omit other semi-classics as well-turned as ("If she's anything like her memory . . .") "She'll Be Back" and (jukebox not route number) "A-11," both new ones on me, I actively miss only "She's Got You" and "It Ain't Love, but It Ain't Bad." And vocally, duet partners from 41-year-old Alison Krauss to 86-year-old Ray Price outdo themselves keeping the young powerhouse in check--only on the ill-advised showcase does Johnson get to show off. In fact, when Merle Haggard steps to the mic it can be hard to tell them apart, which is a credit to both--one they owe to the guy whose motto was "I always try to make it short, make it sweet, and make it rhyme." A-