By Bob Doerschuk

© 2010 CMA Close Up® News Service / Country Music Association®, Inc.

Raised in Liberal, Kan., Jerrod Niemann left for Levelland, Texas, after graduating from high school. At South Plains College he studied music for two years; later, in Fort Worth, he self-released an album, Long Hard Road, and learned to win over club crowds not known for being charitable to new artists.

Resettled to Nashville in 2000, Niemann made co-writer connections that led to his songs appearing on nearly 10 million albums sold by Garth Brooks, Jamey Johnson, Julie Roberts, Blake Shelton and other notables. However, a record label deal gone bad and a broken relationship sank Niemann into a depression, during which he lost his motivation as a songwriter.

Encouraged by his friend Johnson, Niemann emerged from nearly a year of inertia, regained his focus and came up with a blueprint unlike any recent Country album. Though packed with a pair of covers, nine co-writes and one solo-written song, Judge Jerrod & The Hung Jury presents each selection as an element in an ambitious 20-track package. A melodramatic “movie-voice” intro, a string of “deep thoughts” muttered through heavy reverb to simulate introspective profundity, a late-night telephone enticement to romantic adventure, an irresistible request for Robert Earl Keen’s “The Buckin’ Song” — these are just a few of the humorous segues that turn Niemann’s Sea Gayle/Arista Nashville release, produced by Niemann and Dave Brainard, into a reminder that albums remain a vital, creatively challenging format.

The real draw here, though, is Niemann. Whether kicking back in the tropics on “Down in Mexico,” which Niemann wrote with Richie Brown and J. R. McCoy, fading into a hazy lounge ambience on the Niemann, Johnson and Dallas Davidson ballad “They Should Have Named You Cocaine” or layering nine vocal parts onto the single, “Lover, Lover,” written by Dan Pritzker of Sonia Dada, Niemann proves he’s well past the hard times.

Jerrod Niemann Photo Provided by the Country Music Association


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