Music Reviews

Johnny Paycheck

The Soul and the Edge: The Best of Johnny Paycheck

Sony Legacy

You’ve heard, I’m sure, the quip that goes “What do you get when you play a country record backwards? You get your wife back, your house back, your truck back…” Not particularly funny, but if you ever want to know exactly whose records inspired the saying, spin this disc. Johnny Paycheck has lived a life that looks more like a heavy metalers than a country artist, from his struggles with drugs and alcohol, battles with the IRS (prompting the great “Me and the IRS,” included here), a shooting, relationship woes, and now, emphysema, which is keeping him close to home and out of the studio. While it would be a tragic loss if he were to record no more, the work he has done in his many years will be testament enough to his vast talent.

Originally a guitarist and backup singer for George Jones, Paycheck’s string of classic songs include “I’m the Only Hell (My Mama Ever Raised),” “She’s All I Got,” and his signature middle-class anthem, “Take This Job and Shove It,” which inspired a really dreadful movie a few years back. But chart-topping or not, the songs he has chosen over the years are generally from the point of view of the downtrodden, the lonely, and the lost. When Paycheck sings, there seems to be no filter between his heart and his mouth. He says what he means, and it ranges from the bizarrely violent with “Colorado Cool-Aid” about a man losing an ear while drinking Coors – to the feisty, such as the “The Outlaw’s Prayer” that finds Johnny wondering if the glitzy church has a place for a raggedy man like him.

This compilation only scratches the surface of this great country singer, and included is a duet with George Jones on “You Better Move On,” the Arthur Alexander song The Rolling Stones covered in their early days, a few live cuts including “The Cocaine Train,” and is generally a good overview of an artist who defines all that is great about America’s musical poetry, country music.

Legacy Recordings: http://www.legacyrecordings.com


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