NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Hank Cochran was one of country musics greatest songwriters. He was also an opportunist, something Jamey Johnson discovered when he met him at a mutual friends office several years ago.
Hank was there, and as I was shaking his hand, Hank pulled out a CD of songs that had my name written on it, Johnson said of the late music legend. So I didnt know I was going to meet Hank, but he sure enough knew he was going to meet me that day. He was a-planning on it, and right off the bat he was pitching me songs, and every time I saw him he was asking me to cut this one or cut that one.
Johnson pays tribute to Cochran with the release this week of Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran, a deep look at the songwriters career. Johnson teams up with stars like Willie Nelson, George Strait and Alison Krauss on what is mostly a duets album comprised of Cochran classics such as Make the World Go Away and I Fall to Pieces.
Co-produced by Cochrans friends Buddy Cannon and Dale Dodson, the 16-track album also includes one Johnson solo song, Would These Arms Be in Your Way.
He was pretty adamant about wanting me to cut that song, Johnson said. I hope we did it justice. I regret that Hank never got to hear it.
The album cements the friendship of Johnson and Cochran in Nashville lore and represents another creative left turn for the fiercely independent 37-year-old Alabama singer-songwriter. Johnson sang at Cochrans bedside the night he died of pancreatic cancer in 2010 at age 74.
He carried that tribute a step further by making a rare modern example of a country performer saluting a songwriters body of work. Once a fairly regular staple in Nashville – one of his favorites is Waylon Jennings tribute to Harlan Howard, Waylon sings Ol Harlan – theyve pretty much disappeared.
Johnson could think of no better reason to bring them back.
Theres not a writer I think any more deserving than Hank Cochran to have an album done in the way that we did this one, Johnson said. And the icing on the cake was the artists that stepped up and not only agreed to do it, but we were getting death threats from artists if we didnt put them on this album, you know? There would be hell to pay and we wasnt gonna have that.