He looks like he could just as easily knife you in the gut as tell you the time, but Jamey Johnson epitomizes the old warning that one shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. The long, fuzzy brown hair and scruffy beard are merely window dressing for Johnson’s mythology, and that itself is the stuff of a country song — and not that shiny, sassy, spit-shine clean country either.

This is the country that comes from the bottom of a whiskey bottle, rough ‘n’ tumble, a bad boy with a tortured writer’s soul — the stuff of misunderstood, mad-dog legends like Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, and Johnny Cash. Only Johnson’s just getting started.

Six years ago, Johnson was just a young family man running a contracting business in Nashville with eight years under his belt as a U.S. Marine. Now, he’s a 34-year-old divorced country star known for his songwriting skills (the ridiculously titled but undeniably catchy “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” anyone?) and the friends in high places who like to cover his tunes, among them George Strait and Trace Adkins.

The road between those two points — family man and divorced celebrity — was predictably fraught with complications. After achieving a heady bit of success with his first studio album in 2005, Johnson partied hard and bottomed out (dropped by his record label, for being “too wild,” by his own admission), retreating into self-imposed seclusion. He emerged a year later, sober, with more than 40 songs under his belt and a desire to get back in the studio. He released That Lonesome Song in 2008, which was quickly certified gold and garnered multiple Grammy nominations.

So it’s really only fitting that as Johnson finds steadier footing as the heir apparent to Nashville’s glory days of gruffly charming, grizzled poets, his upcoming double album, The Guitar Song, due Sept. 14, is already generating huge buzz. Pop culture bible Entertainment Weekly just listed “Macon,” the album’s first single, as a summer must-listen. The praise is well deserved. A blues-riffing, sweetly snarling meditation on getting home after being gone too damn long, “Macon” positively drips with the season’s Southern heat and makes the long wait for Guitar‘s release seem absolutely excruciating. See the man in small venues while you still can. 

The Jamey Johnson gig at Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ on Sullivan’s Island is a semi-private UMG Nashville event with a full buffet and open bar. Songwriter Randy Montana opens the show at 8 p.m. Allotted tickets for the event are officially sold out, although some additional tickets may be available at the door on the night of the show. Proceeds will be will be donated to the Sullivan’s Island Police Department. Check out hometeambbq.com for more.