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 singles, and a throwback tune. There’s only two possible ratings – Boom, for the good stuff, and Bust, for the stuff best avoided.
This was a weird week: I sampled a lot of new singles off upcoming projects and wasn’t really impressed by a lot out there. And my unwritten rule of sticking to one single review per album release is starting to backfire, I think. Plus, with only one new chart entry, it’s just looking like one of those lighter weeks, folks. At any rate … onward!
Casi Joy, “The Money” (written by Casi Joy)
I wasn’t expecting one of the few releases to grip me this week to come from The Voice, of all places, but stranger things have happened. The title and sentiment of this single is fitting, though, given that Casi Joy is still an independent talent who’s put out a few scattered projects over the years of uneven quality and that, like pretty much every other artist last year, had plans for something more that were put on hold in 2020. I mostly think the writing is the clear standout for this song, namely in its admittance that passion projects and dreams need more than just hope to work out, especially when it addresses easy clichés and platitudes that say otherwise, many of which that frame a lot of bad or boring modern mainstream country songs (making it oddly timely). Now, it’s pretty clear this single is pulling from the 2000s in the familiar melody and delivery against the prominent lazy bass groove, keys and slightly rougher guitar tone and could have worked for that era. And considering it’s mostly aiming to be loose and tongue-in-cheek through the delivery of the content, I get the choice to keep things laid-back and rollicking. It’s just that Joy isn’t playing up the humorous irony behind it or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, choosing to play things darker to highlight some actual dramatic stakes of that sort of situation, and while it’s still good and Joy is still an expressive vocalist, this isn’t quite a standout for me. I am interested to hear more, though.
John R. Miller, “Lookin’ Over My Shoulder” (written by John R. Miller)
So, there’s a lot of hype in the independent circuit for this artist, and if you’ve heard Tyler Childers’ 2020 album Long Violent History or his Live at Red Barn I & II project, you’re familiar with John R. Miller. For further context, he’s mostly been a local talent in West Virginia until now who’s adopted a DIY approach to the music-making process, and while he does have a few projects under his belt through solo works and other ventures, it’s his upcoming project for Rounder Records that will likely determine where he goes from here. Now, I admit the starkly live, sparse feel of those earlier albums wasn’t quite my taste, so I do appreciate the actual production budget placed behind this. I dig the meatier, blues-inspired, lazy bass groove and rougher tones overall that better benefit Miller’s equally rougher delivery. It’s a little too low-key in overall tone for my personal tastes, but it’s pretty solid. And for an implied tongue-in-cheek ode to dodging an old flame upon moving back home, with the subtext suggesting he constantly moves away to do so and is somewhat bummed he can’t explore those old haunts like they used to together anymore, it helps that this doesn’t take itself too seriously and is just sort of a loose jam overall. Good stuff.
We only had one new chart entry to the top 40 this week, and it features an artist I feel like I discuss every few weeks.
Jameson Rodgers feat. Luke Combs, “Cold Beer Calling My Name” (written by Alysa Vanderheym, Brett Tyler, Hunter Phelps, and Jameson Rodgers)
Nothing says “genuine passion” behind an artist like recruiting the current biggest artist in country music for a follow-up single to a No. 1 hit no one remembers, that’s only gaining traction now a year after its release. Jameson Rodgers is just another young faceless male singer in mainstream country music, and this is another paint-by-the-numbers bro-country-esque song you’ve heard before, only redeemed through the blue-collar-inspired, down-the-middle, somewhat likable delivery that’s characterized Luke Combs’ work so far … even if this feels too generic even for his tastes lately and he sounds mostly checked out here. I’ll still take his unique tone compared to Rodgers’ nondescript one, and I don’t mind the slightly rougher guitar tones that creep up now and then to keep things loose, but I’ll forget this as soon as this piece publishes. Barely a Bust, but one nonetheless.
This is our second-to-last week examining the charts from 1991 (for now, at least), and since good ol’ Garth Brooks is, well, Garth Brooks, let’s skip ahead and talk about an artist who doesn’t mind releasing his music digitally for all to hear, with the No. 3 single from this week.
Alan Jackson, “I’d Love You All Over Again” (written by Alan Jackson)
I’ve made it clear before that Alan Jackson is one of my favorite country music artists, mostly because his material just feels oddly timeless to me. Now, this isn’t quite a personal favorite of mine – Jackson would write a better version of this exact song called “Remember When” a decade later that simply benefits from a more lived-in experience and a veteran’s poise. But this is still an early highlight of the era and Jackson’s earliest days. That jangly piano adds a sweet touch against the fiddle and pedal steel, Jackson’s liquid smooth, understated, earnest delivery keeps this from feeling cloying, and come on, it’s a slow country song celebrating 10 years of marriage that went No. 1 off of a debut album – that wouldn’t happen today and is something to appreciate here! At any rate, while other members of the often-dubbed “class of ‘89” may have had quicker starts out of the gate, Jackson made up for it in consistency and longevity, and his material is all the proof needed for that statement.