Imagine ALL the best ‘90s honky tonk country music, mixed with honest emotion, pouring out of one of the best albums of 2022? East Texan Cody “CoJo” Johnson and his band, the Rockin’ CJB delivers a stellar live experience with the album, aptly named, Cody Johnson and the Rockin’ CJB, released with Warner Music Nashville.
From the moment the CoJo nation are asked on the album’s intro if they’re ready for real country music, their roar and the band’s response, the energy on this live album is hypnotic.
Don’t worry if you haven’t yet been to a live show, or really listened to Johnson’s music outside of the US – you may have heard the 2022 double CMA Award-winning ‘‘Til You Can’t’ (Single and Video) on the radio or on your streaming device or seen his performance on the CMA Award show – this album is the next best thing.
Literally every intro and song is packed with the kind of energy that makes you talk about a gig all night long, making this a must-own album for the traditional country music fan. Think Garth Brooks and Brooks and Dunn and Alan Jackson partying with Luke Combs and Chris Janson.
Okay, from an album with twenty-one enviable live performances (not including the intros) there are some stand out tracks. ‘Diamond in My Pocket’ is one beauty of a love song that Johnson just can’t wait to sing, if his raw shouts and extended vocals are anything to go by. Probably the first time I’ve clapped along to a live album as if I was actually in the audience. And then it’s followed by the stunning ‘God Bless The Boy (Cori’s Song)’ a patriarchal warning message of love and respect to his daughter’s future spouse: ‘She won’t let me help her tie her shoes/“naw Daddy I can do it myself”/when she don’t get her way she’ll cross her arms and hold her breath…goes from tiny tornado to sleeping on my chest/God bless the boy that melts the way I do/when she smiles at him the first time he’ll be done’. I’m done. Get me to a CoJo gig.
‘Human’, from his 2021 double album, charts his course from his rodeo days and late night shows, mixed with awareness of mistakes, helps us to understand where Johnson’s coming from. There’s a delicious kick-drum and steel guitar echo of a sentiment alongside these three and a half minutes of truth.
Johnson isn’t just dive bar (and stadium) swagger, there’s a depth to his songs and a real connection with his fans; the CoJo Nation has been strong for the last fifteen years, and when you hear this album you’ll be craving a live show in the UK.
Johnson’s inclusion of his fans’ (CoJo Nation) voices singing along to many of the tracks (especially ‘Wild as You’ and ‘Ride with Me’, and a five minute solo from the Rockin’ CJB (Jody Bartula: Fiddle and Guitar, Jake Mears: Lead Guitar, Joey Pruski: Bass Guitar, MIles Stone: Drums and Percussion and Harrison Yount: Steel Guitar) demonstrate the authenticity of this talented entertainer and former bull rider from Texas.
When I’m researching a new-to-me country artist, like Cody Johnson is, I turn to social media – specifically, where can I hear some live performances? Johnson’s YouTube channel – with almost half a million subscribers – tells me half of the story; here’s an industry-recognised country entertainer, hitting stages with the likes of Reba, Zac Brown Band and Luke Combs and putting his heart and soul onto the floorboards every night, for every person in the crowd. The other half of the story? A live album that makes me need to go see a live show in person.
Cody Johnson and the Rockin’ CJB Live is the yardstick for all future live albums across every genre.
US and Antipodean residents can see Cody Johnson on tour in 2023, but we’re looking forward to the UK reaction when he lands on our stages, hears the audience singing along to every word.
Now, it’s time to stop reading my review and head to your nearest store to buy the album, for yourself and every country music fan you know.
Tracklist: 1. CoJo Nation 2. Honky Tonk Hardwood Floors 3. With You I Am 4. Wild as You 5. Ride With Me 6. Dance Her Home 7. Intro 8. Diamond in My Pocket 9. God Bless the Boy 10. Half a Song 11. Stronger 12. Me and My Kind 13. Longer Than She Did 14. I Don’t Know a Thing About Love 15. Nothin’ on You 16. Son of a Ramblin Man 17. Lets Build a Fire 18. Intro 19. Human 20. Til You Can’t 21. Intro 22. Long Haired Country Boy 23. The Rockin CJB Solos 24. Intro 25. On My Way to You 26. Intro 27. Dear Rodeo Record Label: Warner Nashville Release Date: 2nd December Buy ‘The Rockin CJB Live’ now