The Boom-or-Bust Jukebox is a weekly series where I cover new entries to the top 40 of Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, standalone oddities, and a throwback tune.
So, as I said at the beginning of this year, this is an experiment in progress, and, given that this feature offers a mix of standalone singles and radio hits – not to mention how I haven’t followed the charts since, like, middle school – I didn’t notice that Billboard updates every Tuesday, when this feature typically publishes. And since I’ve already devoted a feature to wrapping up what goes on over the past week, I am pushing this feature back to either post on Tuesday nights, or Wednesdays, depending on when the time allows, of course.
OK, with all of that out of the way, this is the Boom-or-Bust Jukebox, starting with …
The Other Side
The Wilder Blue, “Feelin’ The Miles” (written by Zane Williams)
You know, I’m not sure anyone expected The Wilder Blue (formerly Hill Country) to take off like it did, not even lead singer Zane Williams. But it’s musically solid, harmony-driven, well-written material that even got a shoutout last year from Luke Combs, of all people – It’s really not that surprise, and if anything, it’s just well-earned. And here’s a new surprise single, seemingly out of the, ahem, wilder blue, where I have to be honest and say I thought I was initially listening to a different band – especially with the aforementioned name change and how that translates to music-listening services. I don’t mean that as a slight, either, though it is different from anything on that debut album, with a slightly spacier, more atmospheric aesthetic driven by the bass groove and darker chord progressions that places this somewhere in the early ‘80s, sonically. Now, I’ve never been a fan of that time period, but this doesn’t adopt that same slickness that marred so many singles from that era. That wouldn’t make sense for a band known for its organic presentation, and indeed, there’s a deeper subtlety to the mixing in the pluckier acoustics and liquid banjo that gain more ground as the track progresses and Williams’ lower, haggard delivery that makes this compelling as a whole. And what sounds like a road-weary touring song is actually an extended metaphor for a relationship not meant to last and questioning what do after the eventual downfall … at least, I think; it could even be directed toward the road itself, which is a bit meta for these times. It’s never quite clear, and while that’s usually a mark against it, it adds to the mysterious appeal here. Simple, for sure, but when the presentation supports it to offer that tired resignation it needs, it works. Now, the harmonies are still solid, though the backing vocals are blended a bit too oily for my personal tastes, and I would classify this as a grower, overall. But I’m really digging this. Honorable mention for this week’s Boom.
Again, I’m including new arrivals for last week and this week, which is pretty easy, actually, given that I’ve already covered our two arrivals from last week.
No. 36 – Chris Young, “Famous Friends” (feat. Kane Brown) (written by Chris Young, Corey Crowder, and Cary Barlowe)
I discussed this last year, in my final single review roundup of 2020. I didn’t like it then, and I don’t like it now. Sadly, until this feature evens out, I’ll likely have to resort to these shorter blurbs and pointing back to older reviews, since country radio moves at a snail’s pace. Anyway, this is easily this week’s Bust.
No. 37 – Carly Pearce, “Next Girl” (written by Shane McAnally, Carly Pearce, and Josh Osborne)
Well, I reviewed this already too, for Country Universe (and for This is Country Music’s “Best of” list). I will say it’s a solid song that’s grown on me with time, and I’m excited for this new direction from her.
No. 38 – Old Dominion, “Never Be Sorry” (written by Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, Brad Tursi, Shane MacAnally, and Josh Osborne)
Oh, hey, something to actually review! And it bears repeating that Old Dominion is actually fairly decent these days. I didn’t love their last single, “Some People Do,” but it deserved better than what it got. Anyway, I’ve always liked “Never Be Sorry” more than I probably should. I don’t believe in guilty pleasures – there’s always a reason for why you like what you like – but for as many marks as I can make against it in lead singer Matthew Ramsey’s flat delivery, the overall just goofy approach and abrupt ending, and the production that leans a little too slick for my personal tastes, what can I say? A good hook and impressive groove can do a lot of the heavy lifting, especially when Ramsey handles the faster flow surprisingly well. Not an essential single, by any means, and I’d probably prefer to see “My Heart is A Bar” here, but I’m also happy to see this. Good stuff.
No. 40 – Runaway June, “We Were Rich” (written by Ross Copperman, Nicolle Gaylon, and Ashley Gorley)
Another Country Universe review … that I wrote last June (and for This is Country Music’s “Best of” list)! Seriously, why wasn’t this the single to rule 2020? It may have stemmed from a 2019 album, but come on, the sentiment was important to hear and remember last year. It’s close between this and “Feelin’ The Miles,” but I’m selecting this as this week’s Boom. As always, do better, country radio.
Lastly, for this week’s throwback tune, we’re looking at the No. 2 single from this week in 1981. Yes, I’m following a pattern with how I select these. Just roll with it.
Dolly Parton, “9 to 5” (written by Dolly Parton)
At the risk of spoiling it, I’m planning a big essay soon for Country Universe, which, in part, has to do with Dolly Parton. And I think what sticks out to me from the research is how in control she always was of her public persona – truly one of few artists who actually managed to sell country music’s appeal to outside fans without any reservations. Like this, a jumpy, working-person’s anthem that’s so much more than the big soundtrack to the movie it’s known for, though even if that’s all it was, that’d be fine too. Still, what to say that hasn’t already been said? Of course Parton is the sort of huge personality who can play effortlessly off the pounding keys and blaring horns, but what gets ignored is the subtext – a dark indictment of corporate culture and exploitation of workers, looking to find hope in one another to press onward. Still, it’s all, ultimately, presented as good-natured fun, just as Parton intended. And while her discography is so impressive that I wouldn’t even call this among my absolute favorites from her, it’s still excellent. Also, it’s another track I wrote about for my Pop Goes The Country series.