The second single from Jamey Johnson’s That Lonesome Song is also the lead-off track for the acclaimed album, and it establishes both the theme and tone of the project. It speaks to Johnson’s confidence as a singer and a writer that he is willing to give voice to a character whose actions should deem him completely unlikable. Through the careful construction of a remorse-laden inner monologue, Johnson gives his character dignity.
I remember my mentor in college, the inimitable Dr.Virginia Osborn, saying this once: “We want sympathy for ourselves, and justice for everyone else. So we judge ourselves by our intentions and everyone else by their actions.” The man in this song has thrown away his entire life, choosing drugs and alcohol over his loving wife. Such men are the bottom-dwellers of our society, looked upon with scorn and disdain. We judge them by their actions. Johnson’s “High Cost of Living” challenges us to think about their intentions. Like so much of great art, it illuminates the humanity that hides in the shadows of shame and sorrowful regret.
Written by Jamey Johnson and James Slater
Listen: High Cost of Living