With just a scuffed-up acoustic guitar, a microphone and his cowboy hat, Cody Johnson digs deep into simple, classic country heartbreak with his cover of Reba McEntire‘s “Whoever’s in New England.”
McEntire had a hit with this ballad in 1986, and it’s also the title track of her tenth studio album, the first of McEntire’s studio projects that ever landed her at the top of Billboard‘s country albums chart. The ballad went on to join the canon of classic country cheatin’ songs, telling the story of a wife who gets wise about the true reason why her husband has to make so many business trips, but vows to still be there for him no matter what.
With a few pronouns tweaked to approach the storyline from the viewpoint of a man whose wife spends too much time out of town, Johnson’s plaintive rendition of “Whoever’s in New England” stays pretty faithful to the original. Johnson’s vocals are the star of the show in this acoustic cover, doing justice to the heartstring-tugging original vocal delivery.
Johnson’s affinity for McEntire (and fellow rodeo alum) is well documented. Earlier in 2020, he and McEntire duetted on his single, “Dear Rodeo,” a personal song for Johnson that she says spoke to her, too.
“”[Hearing the song] took me to the ’70s, when I realized that my rodeo career was going absolutely nowhere. And that I did have a God-given talent and I needed to be using it,” McEntire explained of her participation in the track. “This [song] was kind of a reminder that it’s going to be okay, that if you do leave rodeo for the music, you’re going to be okay. I knew I was going to miss it. And I was mad because I love that life of rodeo. I’m a third-generation rodeo brat.”
Johnson penned his single as a tribute to the career in bull-riding that he left. In 2018, he performed “Dear Rodeo” at RodeoHouston, the largest livestock exhibition and rodeo worldwide.
Love Traditional Country Music? You’ll Love Cody Johnson!
These Country Artists Are Keeping Traditional Country Alive: