Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran — which featured inspired duets with the likes of Merle Haggard, Alison Krauss, Elvis Costello and Willie Nelson in honor of the singular songwriter — followed in 2012. Yet, besides a few stray tracks (including a collaboration with singer/songwriter Bill Anderson on his 2018 album Anderson) and an EP of Christmas songs, it’s been almost complete radio silence ever since.
Johnson addressed the lack of new material while speaking to kentuckycountrymusic.com in 2017, saying he’s been working on a proper follow-up to The Guitar Song but that an accident impacted its progress.
“I’m in no hurry and no rush to get it done,” Johnson said. “I’m making progress on the creative parts of my brain. It’s been about seven years ago I got a concussion. I slipped on some ice coming out of the studio one night and I hit my head pretty hard.
“What I found out from a neuroscientist out in Scottsdale, Arizona recently is that ever since then, my brain has been locked in a hyper-vigilant state (in) which it focuses on survival. Anything that isn’t directly relevant to survival, it just doesn’t focus on it all anymore.”
But the situation hasn’t impeded his need to play his songs for appreciative audiences.
“The only way I’ll be able to completely write out of sheer inspiration, I’d have to come off the road for a period of time for a good while,” he said. “I’m not ready to do that yet. The truth is, I really love it. I love traveling. I love playing all of these shows for all of these folks. I love that they love it and I could do that for a long time. I don’t see me ever quitting it.”
So it sounds like it might be a good while before we actually get an album of new material from Johnson. On the plus side, we’ll continue to hear from him in a live setting, which seems like a different kind of survival tactic from one of the best Country artists of the 21st century.
Jamey Johnson plays Saturday, Feb. 1 at Hollywood Casino Lawrenceburg. Tickets/more info: hollywoodindiana.com.