Always being open to something new, and trusting another fan of Bowen, I went and downloaded all three albums. I listened to the albums in reverse chronological order, starting with the new album "Cowboy Like Me," first.
My initial thoughts after listening to the album were a bit of worry. First off, the music itself was very good. It was authentic country. There was no fancy BS of mixing genres. I genuinely enjoyed the sound. And I genuinely enjoyed Johnson's voice as well.
But then there were the lyrics. I wouldn't say the lyrics were awful or even necessarily bad, but based on the recommendation I'd been given, I felt a bit disappointed. There was a fair share of tailgate lyrics and trucks, and some of the other very cliches we've all come to hate hearing about. I don't know if I'd go so far as to say the songs were completely cliche driven, but I recognized a lot of the patterns.
Then the album had its truly bright spots as well: songs like "Me and My Kind" and "Holes" felt fresh and original. And on just as bright a note, even when the lyrics on the album did feel a bit cliche, they didn't feel disrespectful. They weren't objectifying of women; women were treated respectfully. For example, songs like "Dance Her Home" and "Give a Cowboy a Kiss" were particularly notable in this regard.
In some places on the albums, I was reminded a bit of Chris Ledoux. I believe Johnson as a cowboy. I believe him as having worked hard and drinking at the end of a long week.
Then after listening to his first two albums, "Six Strings One Dream" and "A Different Day," I was a bit more disappointed. These first two albums were fantastic. There were a lot less cliched lyrics, the music felt a whole lot more genuine. I didn't find myself counting "tailgates" and "trucks." There was much more to the music. Which looking at "Cowboy Like Me" made that third album feel a bit underwhelming. Johnson seemed capable of so much more than what the finished product ended up being, at least lyrically.
Again, with "Cowboy Like Me," musically, the album was great, it was just hurt by weak lyrics in more than a few places.
I would definitely recommend giving Johnson a chance if you've never listened to him. If you listen to his first two albums first, you'll need to prepare yourself to feel a bit underwhelmed with this album. But if you listen to this album first, I think you'll find yourself pleasantly surprised by the first two.
I'd give the first two albums 4 stars out of 5, each. This album, I'm giving 3.5.