The Boom-or-Bust Jukebox – Week 9 (2021): (Vandoliers, Charlie Marie, Blackberry Smoke, etc.)

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.

This week was absolutely loaded with new releases, enough to where I reviewed two singles for Country Universe – Brett Eldredge’s “Good Day” and the Elle King and Miranda Lambert collaboration of “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” – just to cut this down. Anyway, onward!

Blackberry Smoke, “You Hear Georgia” (written by Charlie Starr and Dave Lizmi)

OK, new Blackberry Smoke album in May, produced by Dave Cobb, and you bet I’m excited on the premise alone. Granted, Cobb’s work in southern-rock can be a little more shoddy than expected, and while I’m not wild about this particular song, it’s certainly not his fault. If anything, I like that he’s bringing in his usual trademark weathered touches to accentuate the slow-rolling, lazy groove here. As far as typical Blackberry Smoke music goes, this hasn’t lost a bit of its snarl in capturing that attitude and energy, especially when you consider the ties through the content and Charlie Starr’s noticeably more ragged delivery. But I don’t know, maybe it’s because my current favorite album of the year is literally about being a misplaced southerner in Georgia, but when I hear a singular song (oddly enough) aiming for the same mark, I’m left a little colder. I do like that it aims to flip the typical stereotypes aimed at southerners without coming across as defensive or angry or engaging in played-out southern pride – and it easily could have, given the style. I just feel like it’s a song that will sound better in the context of the album than as an individual single when it has the chance to expand upon the premise. Good, but probably my least favorite of this particular bunch for now.

Charlie Marie, “Heard It Through the Red Wine” (written by Charlie Marie, Paul Duncan, Paul Mabury, and Amanda Renkel)

Oh, I’m excited for this, especially when Charlie Marie’s only musical offerings thus far are two self-titled EPs … which can make things pretty confusing when looking them up. And you’ll want this one on your radar when it releases in May, especially after hearing lead single “Heard It Through the Red Wine.” Now, I’ve said before that I’m not typically a fan of outright throwbacks – I’m happier listening to the original source. But channeling those older styles has always complemented Marie as a vocalist and interpreter, and I’m not about to complain when the intended fusion is Patsy Cline and Dwight Yoakam, especially with the brighter interplay of the piano and blasts of pedal steel that come through excellently here. Plus, I love the twist this puts on a typical drinking and cheating song, noting how a significant other’s drunkenness leads to him spilling the truth about his infidelity. The bottle let him down, but gives her the freedom to move on, and is also a good note on how one can’t always put the blame solely on the bottle for their troubles. Great stuff – it would be this week’s Boom, if not for …

Vandoliers, “Every Saturday Night” (written by Joshua Fleming)

I’ve noted before that I have a soft spot for the “old” independent country movement – the one that pulled more from punk and rock than the sleepier side of Americana (which, granted, I also quite like) that sort of died out in the early 2010s. Thankfully, there’s still traces of it around, like in Texas band Vandoliers and their new single, “Every Saturday Night.” What I didn’t expect was for this to outright reference the ongoing pandemic, and while I predict we’ll have a lot of these songs over the course of this year that will grow old quickly, it’s mostly because this particular one sets such a high bar. Really, talk about infusing the sentiment with a blasting populism that’s an absolute riot to listen through, with one of the band’s best-ever hooks playing off the crunching electric guitar and Travis Curry’s fiddle interplay to boot! Plus, there’s obviously more than a certain amount of truth to missing live shows, and what I like about this is how specific lead singer Joshua Fleming gets with his experience as a musician, in turn offering the band perspective as well and showing that they’re no different from the fans who get the same kind of high from the experience. It’ll all happen again someday, but for now, this is an excellent substitute. It’s this week’s Boom and possibly one of the band’s best yet, and I can’t wait to hear more.

We had two new entries to the Billboard top 40 Country Airplay chart this week, one of which I’ve already reviewed, and one of which that was … unexpected.

No. 34 – Cody Johnson and Reba McEntire, “Dear Rodeo” (written by Dan Couch and Cody Johnson)

I reviewed this months ago for Country Universe and feel like I enjoy it more than most. At any rate, I’m not sure what spurred this random Reba revival from Cody Johnson, but I’m liking it.

No. 38 – Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood, “Shallow” (written by Lady Gaga, Andrew Wyatt, Anthony Rossomando, and Mark Ronson)

Well, thanks for not carrying the same aversion to YouTube that your husband does, Trisha Yearwood. In all seriousness, I wanted to dislike this on premise alone. Leave it to Garth Brooks to randomly decide to cover a movie soundtrack song that’s a few years old by now and release it as a legitimate single, especially when I haven’t liked the bulk of what he’s put out in a long time – and the same goes for Yearwood, sadly. Oddly enough, though, I think I like this better than the original “live” take, if only because the production fleshes out the premise a little better than expected. Granted, of course it’s going to transition into a huge, cheesy rock opera by the bridge with Brooks involved, but I like that it starts with a darker-than-expected acoustic lead and blends in some richer piano and strings to complement the sound. Production has been my main gripe with both of them on their most recent efforts, but I have no complaints here, really. Brooks sounds fine, if inessential, but it’s Yearwood who shines here, and, wow, talk about one of her best-ever performances. She hasn’t lost a single edge of her command or tone in the years since her debut, and while I don’t think the song is strong enough to stand on its own outside of the movie context – at least, from a lyrical perspective – and that this ends a little too abruptly, this is surprisingly solid.

Finally, for today’s throwback review, we’re still looking at the charts from 1991 on this date in history, and while last week’s selection of Mark Chesnutt’s “Brother Jukebox” is on its way down on this particular chart, we have the No. 4 single to take its place, Mike Reid’s “Walk on Faith.”

Mike Reid, “Walk On Faith” (written by Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin)

Yes, the former All-Pro NFL football player, NCAA All-American, classical pianist, songwriter for Ronnie Milsap, The Judds, Don Williams, and more, once embarked on his own short solo musical career. This was his first solo release, and while the concept of using faith as a guiding compass to walk through life is cut from the cheesier side of the ‘90s, I don’t mind it here. For one, I’ve always loved the blast of harmonica (that also sounds like an acoustic lead and very well could be, for all I know) that creeps in after the hook, and with Reid’s choice to underplay the sentiment against the decidedly more upbeat arrangement, it comes across as sincere. Not the best showcase of his talent – him helping to pen Tim McGraw’s “Everywhere” is probably my favorite thing he’s ever done – but I’m happy to see it here.

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