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Rhett Akins, Jamey Johnson put on their Southern fried spin

Club Rodeo, San Jose, Cal., March 31, 2006

Reviewed by Michael Sudhalter

A pair of self-proclaimed rednecks received a warm welcome in front of 550 fans in an unlikely place - the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose. Rhett Akins, who's looking to make a comeback after enjoying several hits in the 1990's, and newcomer Jamey Johnson played their own sets for about an hour, providing a healthy mix of southern fried rock, traditional country and catchy contemporary country tunes.

Johnson, equipped with a deep baritone, opened with the honky-tonk tune "Keeping Up With the Jonesin," a song that George Jones lent his voice to on Johnson's debut. The Alabama native, along with his five-piece band, sang other songs from his album, including the tongue-in-cheek "Rebelicious," "Flying Silver Eagle" and "Redneck Side of Me."

Johnson performed "Honky Tonk Badonkadonk," a song that he co-wrote and turned into a huge hit for Trace Adkins. But he shined the most on covers of classic country songs, showing the audience that he'd paid his dues at bars much like Club Rodeo.

His voice fit perfectly with Keith Whitley's "Don't Close Your Eyes" and had enough courage to do Jones' classic "He Stopped Loving Her Today." For the final verse, he changed it to "He Stopped Smoking Herb Today." While changing a country standard may have upset purists, it received a good reception.

Johnson also covered Hank Jr.'s "If Heaven Ain't A Lot Like Dixie" and Lynyrd Skynrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," Akins, set to release his fifth album "People Like Me" this summer, opened up with an old hit, "I Brake For Brunettes" but mixed it up between old hits like "That Ain't My Truck" and a new song, the hilarious "I Love Women My Mama Can't Stand."

Akins, with his camoflouge guitar, shared two band members with Johnson. He was especially impressive with his cover of Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin'."

Perhaps the most introspective of Akins' new material was "If Heaven Weren't So Far Away" where he deals with the loss of friends and relatives.

Akins' set wouldn't have been complete without "Kiss My Country Ass." The Georgia native blasted country radio for not playing the song and introduced it by saying "Everybody in LA and New York, if they have a problem with that, they can kiss my country ass." At least on this night, there wasn't any controversy surrounding the redneck anthem.

After Johnson's solo set, Akins joined him on stage for about 25 minutes and the duo performed rock classics like "Honky Tonk Woman" and "Joker" Even with rock n' roll songs, Akins and Johnson put their own distinctive southern fried spin on them.

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