Song Review: Brantley Gilbert feat. Lindsay Ell – “What Happens In A Small Town”

The short version: “What Happens In A Small Town” is no masterpiece lyrically, but the other elements are solid enough to call this a decent track.

  • Writers: Brantley Gilbert, Brock Berryhill, Josh Dunne, Rhett Akins
  • Rating: 6/10

The long version: A combination of Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell actually doesn’t sound so far-fetched when you think about it. Ell is one of the few artists in the genre currently who has some real instrumental credibility to her name in the form of great guitar work, and that’s something that can help Gilbert’s brand of country-rock. Granted, neither artist has done exceptionally well on the charts as of late, so “What Happens In A Small Town” seemed to be the test of whether or not this pairing would work or not.

As with many mainstream country songs as of late, the main element holding back an otherwise surprisingly solid song is the lyrical content. The two singers have a surprising amount of chemistry, and while there could have afforded to be a little more punch to the production, “What Happens In A Small Town” mostly works well.

The song finds Gilbert in rare form, turning in a real, vulnerable performance that’s a nice change of pace from his swaggering machismo. Although Ell should really be the dominant vocalist too, she handles her verse well, and her contributions on guitar give the song a nice edge that’s lacking from other mainstream country songs right now.

On one hand, it’s nice to hear both perspectives in a break-up track, but on the other hand, there also needs to be some interesting stakes present. Sadly, this song doesn’t offer those, as the verses are incredibly light and non-descriptive. If there weren’t so many other songs adopting this theme lately, it would be alright to a fault, but here, the song relies more on the execution than its foundation. The overall sentiment is nice, but when the checklist of items that induce memories of a former love in a small town include the fan favorites of dirt roads and Friday night bleachers, there’s not much to latch onto ultimately with this track.

Still, the song’s good production and vocal performances do win it points for effort, and that’s enough to call “What Happens In A Small Town” a decent track hampered by a poor foundation.

(Decent to strong 6/10)

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