Cody Johnson: ‘Leather’ – Album Review

Cody Johnson shares his new album, Leather, out now, November 3rd, on all streaming platforms. Listen to the new music below.

On Leather, out now, Cody Johnson had one goal: to put out an album better than the last one. “This round of songs, I have to say, is the best round of songs I have ever recorded and I feel like that’s the way it should be,” Johnson revealed of the album, which he created alongside longtime producer Trent Willmon. “Each album should outdo the last one.”

With the release of Leather, the follow up to 2021’s Human The Double Album, Johnson has solidified his position as one of country’s most consistent and reliable superstars. Throughout the LP, which he promises will also become a double album in 2024, the former bull rider runs the gamut of emotions. There’s state pride on “That’s Texas,” despair over watching an ex move on with “Watching My Old Flame,” and the stunning prayer that is “Make Me a Mop.”

Interestingly, for the first time in his career, Johnson chose not to co-pen any of the album’s 12 tracks, instead enlisting Nashville’s best songwriters to offer up their best work to allow his vocals to shine through. The result is an album that still manages to sound pure Cody Johnson.

Leather opens with “Work Boots,” a catchy and clever twang-filled ode to a cowboy’s favorite footwear and their role in catching a special lady. “We got a little work to do // It looks like she wants to dance // I wouldn’t wanna miss our chance,” He sings. “She might be the one to change our world // But we ain’t gonna get the girl // Sittin’ on a stool // We gotta make our move // So come on, work, boots.”

The Texas native celebrates his home state on “That’s Texas,” offering a moment of levity in the form of a two steppin’, 90’s inspired fiddle and steel jaunt. Likewise, “Double Down” may be the most stylistically unique track, the crooner delivering the verses slowly and deliberately before launching into a raucous twang-infused chorus about drinking to move on. In a similar vein is “Long Live Country Music,” which pairs Johnson with Brooks & Dunn for the trio we didn’t know the world needed. Here, Johnson trades verses with the legendary duo on a track that was inspired by an off-the-cuff comment made during an awards show, when Johnson proclaimed “Long live country music.” 

Another unexpected collaboration pairs Johnson with Jelly Roll, on “Whiskey Bent,” a stirring ode to facing one’s demons. Of the track, the singer revealed to Billboard that he initially hated it simply because of the cliche title and  Jelly was originally supposed to be on a different song (“Jesus Loves You”), but was stopped in his tracks by the lyrics to “Whiskey Bent.” “He just started crying and was like, ‘Bro, I ain’t never heard a song like that. If I’m gonna be on a song, can it be that one?’ Johnson shares. “I think we’ve both lived that song in our own ways. People look at me as this clean-cut, wholesome guy, but I’m no different than anybody else.”

Johnson continues to show his more vulnerable side on tracks like “Watching My Old Flame,” the piano-driven “Dirt Cheap,” and “The Painter.” While “Watching My Old Flame” is a heartbreak ballad with unique lyrics that chronicles the pain of watching an ex move on, “The Painter” is a gorgeous love song. “I think it’s the first song I’ve ever recorded where I sing it in my talking voice,” He shares. “I intentionally tried to stay out of the way of the song, so the listener could paint their own image, and have their own interpretation of it. But for me, obviously, it’s about my wife [Brandi]. Without her, my world wouldn’t be what it is. We’ve been together for 15 years, so we’ve had some real highs, had some real lows. We’ve been through a lot together. She has stuck with me through thick and thin, and I think she deserves for me to be able to say this song is for her.”

Johnson shows his heavier side on tunes like “Jesus Loves You” and “People in the Back.” While the latter is an ode to the special people who you may find in the back row of a concert or the back row of a church, “Jesus” puts a unique spin on anger and betrayal. Speaking to Billboard, he revealed, “I think this song will raise some eyebrows, but you don’t get to sing about anger very often. It’s about a guy whose home is broken into, and he basically tells the person who broke into their home that he’s lucky he wasn’t killed while trying to break in. He’s basically saying, ‘God must’ve been looking out for you, but if you try that again, it’s over for you.”

Two clear highlights of the album are its title track, “Leather” and its stunning final track, “Make Me a Mop.” Co-written by Ian Munsick, “Leather” was shared with Johnson while the pair toured together and he revealed the moment he first heard the song. “My jaw dropped,” Johnson recalls. “Everything about a cowboy has to do with leather, so lines about it taking ‘Years of work and dirt and hurt to make him,’ or ‘He’ll start out stiff and rough, but give him time and he’ll soften up/ And that just makes him twice as tough’… It is so well-written.”

Lastly, the album ends on the especially poignant “Make Me A Mop,” which is a sparse and chill-inducing prayer of vulnerability as the singer begs God to make him something more than he is. “Make me a mop to clean up the messes that I’ve made in my life.” He begins. “Lord make me a spoon, smooth on the edges, when my words want to reach for a knife.”

With the release of Leather, Cody Johnson promised an album to outdo his last one, and he’s done just that. The LP is a solid collection of tried and true country that is sure to even further launch Johnson into superstardom.

Leather Tracklist:

  1. Work Boots (Jason Afable, Brett Beavers, Canaan Smith)
  2. Double Down (Jeff Hyde, Adam James, Clint Daniels)
  3. Watching My Old Flame (Kat Higgins, Wynn Varble, Clint Daniels)
  4. That’s Texas (Andy Sheridan, Erik Dylan, Wyatt McCubbin)
  5. Dirt Cheap (Josh Phillips)
  6. Jesus Loves You (Mark Holman, Chase McGill, Michael Hardy)
  7. Whiskey Bent (feat. Jelly Roll) (Adam James, Mikey Reaves, Rocky Block)
  8. Leather (Ian Munsick, Rivers Rutherford, Jeremy Spillman)
  9. People In The Back (Devin Dawson, Austin Taylor Smith, Mark Trussell)
  10. Long Live Country Music (feat. Brooks & Dunn) (Phil O’Donnell, Wade Kirby, Trent Willmon)
  11. The Painter (Kat Higgins, Benjy Davis, Ryan Larkins)
  12. Make Me A Mop (Jessi Alexander, Connie Harrington, Alan Shamblin)

Country Swag Picks:

  1. The Painter
  2. Long Live Country Music
  3. That’s Texas
  4. Leather
  5. Make Me a Mop

Cody Johnson shares his third studio album, ‘Leather,’ out now on all streaming platforms.

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Leather is available everywhere you buy or stream music. Take a listen below and check out more new recently released tunes on our ‘New Country Music’ playlist. Be sure to give the playlist a follow for your weekly new country music fix.