WATCH: Jamey Johnson Covers Merle Haggard’s ‘Mama Tried’

by Clayton Edwards
(Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images)

Jamey Johnson isn’t just one of the coolest guys in country music. He’s also a history teacher of sorts. Now, you won’t find him teaching a class on the genre’s history at a college anytime soon. However, if you attend one of his concerts, you’ll likely get a lesson in traditional country music. Johnson doesn’t just impart those lessons with his own songs, even if tracks like “In Color” and “High Cost of Living” should be on any country syllabus. Instead, the bearded singer digs into the past to pull out classic covers for a new generation.

Recently, Jamey Johnson taught a lesson on country music history during a concert in Webster, Massachusetts. In a fan-captured video, Johnson plays the title track from his 2010 album The Guitar Song. Then, he and his band slip seamlessly into a full-on jam session complete with a steel guitar solo from “Cowboy” Eddie Long before they launch headfirst into “Mama Tried.” Watch Johnson and his band crush the Merle Haggard classic below.

Why Jamey Johnson Plays So Many Covers

Jamey Johnson hasn’t released any new original music in years. However, you will find him on the recent John Anderson tribute album as well as Julie Roberts’ latest single “Music City Is Killing Me.” However, Johnson seems to be able to work countless classic country covers into his concerts.

He doesn’t add the covers to his sets because he needs to fill time. Instead, he’s doing it to keep traditional country music alive. Last year, Jamey Johnson talked about why he plays so many covers in a video for the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Outlaws & Armadillos exhibit celebrating Outlaw Country.

Townes Van Zandt’s not around anymore to sing his songs. So, somebody’s got to sing ‘em,” Johnson states at the beginning of the video. “Vern Gosdin, he’s not here today, neither is Merle Haggard, neither is George Jones. And, without people like me out there covering those songs, they just stop. If nobody was singing Johnny Cash, there’s a whole generation that would grow up without Johnny Cash. If you ask me, that’s not going to be a good world.”

That, Jamey Johnson said, is why it is important for him and other current artists to sing those old songs. He said keeping those songs alive is important but, that’s just part of it. “It’s important to pass along the ministry of those important singers. They had a lot to say that matters. It’s not all love songs and beer songs and party songs. It’s also life songs.”

“I just view myself as a torch, passing down from one generation to the next. If I can be used in that way, maybe that’s a good purpose.”