Cody Johnson has been releasing acoustic covers from the studio recently, and in February he released a performance of Gary Stewart’s 1975 hit “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinkin’ Double).” The result? Just more proof of Cody Johnson’s insane musical talent.
The mournful country song lends itself to Cody Johnson’s melancholy voice; he has a knack for singing sad songs, and I think it’s all in the voice. The steel guitar helps as well, as I tend to associate steel guitar with devastatingly sad country songs. But, most of the soft, sad edges of “She’s Actin’ Single” come from how Cody Johnson controls his voice.
He reins it in here, but lets it loose at certain times. Keeps it simple, but when the moment calls for it, he can belt. There’s a pleasant roundness to his voice that I enjoy, a nasally twang that he embraces in the chorus of “She’s Actin’ Single.”
The song itself is an unfortunate story about a man mourning his unfaithful partner. “My heart is breaking / like tiny bubbles” is a great juxtaposition of a sad, lonely man at the bar watching the tiny bubbles burst in his beer. Maybe the bartender strikes up a conversation, asks him what’s wrong, and this song is his broken-hearted response. “She’s Actin’ Single” is a reminder, below its surface, to hold onto things and people who matter, but be mindful of red flags. Sometimes, someone you love is just not a good person.
How Cody Johnson’s ‘She’s Actin’ Single’ Compares to the Original
Gary Stewart’s original version upped the tempo, while Cody Johnson slowed his cover down just enough to be noticeable. It’s a nice contrast and is one of the things that makes this cover wholly Johnson’s own.
Stewart’s voice is distinct, like Johnson’s, but in a much different way. While Cody Johnson has a roundness in his voice, Gary Stewart’s voice is sharp edges, higher register, and very classic country. It’s always fun when a cover differs to much form the original because the artist puts their own spin on it; Cody Johnson has created something here that honors the original while still being wholly his own.
That’s why I think covers are exceptionally fun; it gives an artist the chance to show off their skills in ways that they might not if they wrote the song themselves. When they write and perform their own stuff, they’re going to play to their strengths. But, a cover is a challenge; it’s something new, usually slightly out of an artist’s comfort zone. Or, it’s a favorite song, and that artist wants to do it justice.
We’ve seen Cody Johnson do it with The Chicks’ “Travelin’ Soldier,” and Parker McCollum recently did George Strait’s “Carrying Your Love With Me.” Some fans may believe a cover is a cop-out, but I tend to believe it’s a tribute, and a chance to explore new melodies, rhythms, tones, and lyrics.