Cody Johnson | Leather Review
Leather: Cody Johnson’s Heartfelt Country Tales
by Bea Willis
As the autumn leaves began their graceful descent, marking the arrival of November, Cody Johnson released his latest auditory project, Leather. Released under Warner Music Nashville on November 3, 2023, this album unfolds across 12 tracks, each a unique vignette, painting a broad yet intricate landscape of themes ranging from religious reflection to family, fan appreciation, and those heart-stirring Texan pride anthems.
While it may not echo a central theme in the traditional sense, Leather is a mosaic of profoundly truthful individual pieces rather than a collective statement. This approach imparts the feel of a curated playlist of classic Cody Johnson songs rather than a cohesive LP. Following his Gold-certified album Human and a year decorated with a Song of the Year Grammy win, a CMT Music Award, and a nomination for Male Vocalist of the Year at the 2023 CMA Awards, Leather shows Johnson’s consistency and evolving artistry.
Johnson’s voice, always commanding, finds its equilibrium in this mix, balancing power and vulnerability with finesse. His collaboration with Brooks and Dunn in “Long Live Country Music” resonates with sharp harmonies, a nod to their mutual influence. Yet, his duet with Jelly Roll on “Whiskey Bent” unfolds as an intriguing, albeit unexpected, alliance in Johnson’s repertoire.
Notably, Johnson’s growing inclination towards leaning into songwriters on this album mirrors the paths of iconic figures like George Strait and Tim McGraw, showcasing his knack for selecting resonant songs. “Work Boots,” penned by Canaan Smith, Brett Beavers, and Jason Afable, exemplifies this with its clever, lighthearted lyrics and Johnson’s engaging delivery, embodying the album’s thematic essence of ‘fun.’
“Double Down,” with its moody slide guitar and Johnson’s effortlessly smooth vocals, stands out as a testament to pure, unadulterated country music. In contrast, “The Painter,” a heartfelt ode to his wife, strips back production to spotlight Johnson’s emotive vocal delivery amidst poignant lyrics.
The album’s diversity shines in tracks like “Long Live the Honkytonk,” where Johnson and Ronnie Dunn’s vocals effortlessly meld, celebrating the quintessentials of country life. Meanwhile, “Whiskey Bent” offers a twist on redemption themes, showcasing Johnson’s versatility.
Leather, in its entirety, represents the reliable craftsmanship of Johnson. Each track, meticulously chosen and executed, ensures there’s no semblance of filler. This consistency cements Johnson as a pillar in the modern country music scene. While the album may not break new ground, it reinforces Johnson’s steadfast dedication to quality and authenticity, traits that resonate deeply in the soul of country music.
In Leather, we find an album that, like its namesake, is both rugged and refined, a collection of songs that, while diverse, are bound together by the unmistakable essence of Cody Johnson. It’s an album that doesn’t just play; it speaks, inviting us to listen, reflect, and feel. As I sat, letting each track wash over me, I couldn’t help but be transported to those intimate coffee shop performances of my early days, where every song told a story, and every note was a heartbeat. This is the power of Leather, an album that reminds us that music is not just heard, but experienced.
Release Date: November 3, 2023
Label: Warner Music Nashville
About the author
With an unwavering passion for music that began at the tender age of five, I embarked on a journey of self-expression through the piano, later expanding my repertoire to the guitar and the art of singing. As a seasoned performer in cozy coffee shops and harmonious choir ensembles, I've immersed myself in the diverse tapestry of musical genres, seeking to uncover the intricate qualities that strike a chord within our souls.
Beyond my personal experiences, my journalistic pursuits have led me to explore the stories and inspirations behind the melodies we hold dear. As a music journalist, I aim to delve into the heart of each composition, shedding light on the creative minds that have shaped the soundscape of our lives.
In my downtime, you can find me serenading my loyal canine companion with heartfelt tunes on the guitar or indulging in retail therapy to enhance my ever-growing wardrobe. Songwriting holds a special place in my heart, and I yearn for the day when I can share my creative talents with the world. Until then, my passion for uncovering the emotional power within music continues to drive my insightful reviews and analyses, as I journey through the rich landscape of melodies that move us.