Jamey Johnson’s Gritty Sound Sells out Rollie’s

Outlaw Country isn’t dead.

Last updated on July 27th, 2018 at 07:47 pm

The weather was fantastic. Clear skies, 80ish, just a little breeze. Outdoor concert perfect conditions at Rollie’s in Sauk Rapids. Jamey Johnson was scheduled to take the stage at 9pm, facing the setting sun during golden hour.

Nearly 2000 people packed the parking lot for the sold-out show. Bikers, cowboys and girls, a few hipsters all here to soak in the outlaw country sound. Replica cars from “Smokey and the Bandit” on display just outside the gate. Bandit’s Firebird, Buford T Justice’s police chaser, and of course Snowman’s Big Rig. Dozens of motorcycles.

I arrived in time to hear the end of Chris Hennessee’s set. Hennessee has been a member of Johnson’s band for several years and has released a few solo albums along the way. His newest release is called Ramble, including a tune called “Gospel Songs” where he laments “We could use a few more gospel songs/ a lot more right and a lot less wrong.” I couldn’t agree more. Kelsey Waldon opened the show, Johnson later praised her performance.

Johnson took the stage at 9pm sharp, setting the tone for the evening with the gritty “High Cost of Living,” about powerful take on substance abuse, self-destruction, and recovery. The two hour set mixed up his classic songs with covers of Georgia Satellites, Eric Clapton, John Prine, and, of course, Jerry Reid’s theme to Smokey and the Bandit. Johnson doesn’t move around much and the lights are simple, making the songs the forefront with a huge band that included two saxophones, a trumpet, steel guitar, keyboards, and even his young daughter on backup vocals.

The crowd was responsive and joined in several beer-in-the-air singalongs to “High Cost of Living” and “In Color,” a song about his nostalgic conversation with his grandfather while looking at old photographs. Johnson closed the show with a medley of gospel style church hymns including “I saw the Light” and “I’ll Fly Away.”

Johnson returns to Minnesota on October 5, opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd at the X.

Written by Anna Paulson


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