Quick Draw is a recurring feature where I cover multiple new country airplay singles in a gauntlet style format, in order from best to worst.
In this edition of ‘Quick Draw,’ we take a look at new singles from Craig Morgan, Luke Combs and Brooks & Dunn, Carly Pearce and Lee Brice, and Lauren Alaina – in that order!
Craig Morgan – “The Father, My Son and the Holy Ghost” (written by Craig Morgan)
Personally, I’ve always found Craig Morgan to be underrated; a dynamite vocal talent overshadowed by some of his cornier singles in “International Harvester” and “Bonfire.” And on his new single, “The Father, My Son, and the Holy Ghost,” inspired by the death of his son, Jerry Greer, he’s at his absolute best … at least from a technical standpoint. One of the only minor flaws with this song is the heavier percussion that seems to overload the track with too much noise, though that’s hardly a new complaint for mainstream country music. Otherwise, what we get is a song where Morgan is openly honest, and invites the listener on a tour of his life over the past few years. Simply put, it’s one of the best proclamations of faith there is, showing how Morgan has, admittedly, turned down offers to partake in social activities from friends in order to heal by himself, only for him to realize he’s not actually alone anyway. And the second verse is particularly gutting, with Morgan telling the audience how far he’s sunk and how nothing, not even his time in the service, has shaken him quite like that particularly tragic accident. Since I don’t like grading someone’s personal pain, I’m withholding a score for this song, but between Blake Shelton’s push for this song and Morgan’s recent re-signing with Broken Bow Records, hopefully some healing comes for Morgan through this ordeal, as well as for his family. They certainly deserve it.
Carly Pearce and Lee Brice – “I Hope You’re Happy Now” (written by Carly Pearce, Luke Combs and Jonathan Singleton)
Sadly, I’m not liking how Carly Pearce’s mainstream country career is turning out. That’s not an indictment of her artistic quality, but rather her chart run success, which, with every release, garners diminishing returns. Even the safe, radio-friendly, “Closer To You,” which is easily her worst song yet, couldn’t achieve much more than a top 30 finish – and that was a lead single, for crying out loud! As such, I’m not surprised to hear her new single, “I Hope You’re Happy,” was supposed to originally feature Luke Combs (over Lee Brice), because it’s an unfortunate sign of how Nashville radio politics (continue to) work that one of the only guaranteed ways for female artists to secure a hit is with help from a huge male artist (Even Maren Morris got her first No. 1 hit from Thomas Rhett’s “Craving You”).
But as for the result, maybe Pearce is noticing the same diminishing returns and is fed up with doing it someone else’s way, because “I Hope You’re Happy” sounds much more in line with what you’d expect from her – a breezy, midtempo country release that has a modern touch to it while also sounding closer to her roots, artistically. The production and instrumentation are certainly more refreshing than her last single, featuring a darker-sounding acoustic guitar lead with hints of dobro and a thumping kickdrum that actually kind of works for driving the momentum of this track, and help its great melodic swell. Lyrically, the details don’t really fluctuate with this particular song, but they aren’t really needed when Pearce and Brice do the heavy lifting anyway. In a nutshell, the song features both perspectives from Pearce and Brice, with Pearce finding herself in the wrong as she causes the relationship to crumble.
Yet Pearce is very quick to acknowledge her shortcomings in the relationship, too, enough to where, despite falling apart, personally, she wants nothing but the best for her former lover after what she put him through. And credit has to go to Brice, too, who sounds better and more passionate than I’ve ever heard from him before, as he reveals that, for all the pain she caused him, he wanted the relationship to work, and he’s secretly crumbling away, too. Again, the details as to how and why they got there aren’t really fleshed out, but the subtle details are there, where we, the listeners, get to hear from both sides, yet know that the only reason they aren’t back together again is because they can’t admit these lessons learned to one another. A nice return to form for both artists, indeed. (Light 8/10)
Luke Combs – “1, 2 Many” (written by Luke Combs, Tyler King, Drew Parker and Dan Isbell)
No, it’s not a new single, and yes, I am late to covering this – but any new Luke Combs song these days feels like a big event. Granted, I am a little mad at myself for covering his Prequel EP, if only because one-fourth of the material will be on his upcoming What You See Is What You Get album (and, yes, five songs only adds to one-fourth, because, as String Thirty-Five pointed out, albums are getting much longer). So I might as well go ahead and cover one more song, with “1, 2 Many” feeling like a literal throwback to the ‘90s. Granted, that’s a statement I can also make for artists like, say, Jon Pardi and Riley Green, but with the addition of Brooks & Dunn here, this feels like a great song they never cut! And yes, I said “great” when it comes to this, because while it is a fairly standard drinking song that Combs has sung one too many times before, at least it leans into it all the way. The jumpier saloon piano, crunchy electric guitar and steel guitar all sound great enough to team up for a barn-burning, modern-day honky tonk number, and Combs, Ronnie Dunn and Kix Brooks have more than enough earnest charisma to make this work. To give at least some credit to the lyrical content, the hook is surprisingly more catchy and well-thought out in execution than one might expect, and if I’m just looking for a rollicking good time, this provides plenty of enjoyment. (Light 8/10)
Lauren Alaina – “Getting Good” (written by Emily Weisband)
It’s still a damn travesty that Lauren Alaina didn’t receive bigger exposure for her Road Less Traveled album a few years ago. Granted, while her songs fit onto radio playlists, sonically, she’s exploring more mature themes than radio can’t likely handle anyway, with “Getting Good” being another example of that. As always, Alaina sounds excellent on all levels, singing the song as if she wrote it, and selling the song not just on a technical level, but with a real earnest sense of passion, given that anyone so young can relate to the sentiments expressed here. Granted, the sentiment of wanting to grow older only to feel the opposite way by the end isn’t new for country music, but credit must go toward Alaina’s continuity of her own story as the song moves further. It’s a relatable sentiment altogether, but it really hits home with specific details of her calling her father, only to realize that, while there’s a certain stability we find as we grow older, it comes at the cost of lessons learned and hard goodbyes that we all must own up to one day.
Unfortunately, though, a great song is ruined by, perhaps, the biggest production mishap since Chris Young’s “Drowning.” The song starts off fine, with plenty of rollicking, light brushes of percussion, firm acoustics and plenty of atmosphere for the song to breathe. By the second verse, however, all of that is replaced by a clunkier snap beat and fake-sounding, blocky percussion to zap any warmth this song once had. Had the song stuck with its intimate, warmer formula, it would have really stuck the landing well. As it is, though, it’s a song where the message feels drowned out at points, which is a real shame. (Light 6/10)