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.
With only four songs on today’s docket, this is one of those weeks that’s short, simple, and to the point in the best way possible – especially when one of those songs signals the return of an artist who’s been away for too long. Onward!
Suzy Bogguss, “Sunday Birmingham” (written by Suzy Bogguss and Doug Crider)
Look, I’m not sure what prompted this random return for Suzy Bogguss, but for one, I like it. And two, if Patty Loveless can follow suit, that’d be super swell. Circling back on topic, though, Bogguss was super underrated for her time, and given that there’s hardly anyone discussing this new single, that, unfortunately, is still true, it seems. But as an isolated single release, “Sunday Birmingham” is absolutely lovely on every level. It’s certainly an older style of song, but between the warm, well-tempered acoustics and swell of organ that only gains more prominence as the song progresses to match Bogguss’ soaring performance alongside Courtney Patton (another artist who I hope releases new music soon), she’s still got it. Plus, that type of soothing, relaxing atmosphere is welcome for the content, which is less of a “road warrior” song than the first verse may suggest as it is about appreciating a moment. Instead of constantly moving to the next city or town to play, she’s appreciating what that journey offers in the sights, sounds, and little moments that are easy to pass by and take for granted. And when she also equates that calm and peace alongside the musical inclinations to something akin to her religion or salvation, the suble touches in the production round this out nicely. It certainly takes its sweet time to get where it goes, but it’s worth stopping to appreciate. Boom.
Jesse Daniel, “Think I’ll Stay” (written by Jesse Daniel)
I’m surprised to see Jesse Daniel release new music so soon yet also not that surprised. He released Rollin’ On around the time the pandemic really affected everyday life, but he also found a real breakthrough off of it, thanks to a likable country palette indebted to the Bakersfield sound that featured some great songs to boot. His newest album, Beyond These Walls, is set for release in July and will also reportedly feature an expansion in sound, which is OK with me, given that I really dig this lead single. It plays more to straightforward honky-tonk with a ‘90s polish in the pedal steel licks trading of off the electric guitar groove further riding off the bass, plus some welcome saloon piano later on to flesh out the rest of it. But this isn’t so much fun and rowdy as it is … seedy, in a good way. Daniel has grown into himself as a vocalist over the past year, and I like that he’s selling the wry, shit-kicking attitude you need here with a bit of a haggard demeanor in framing his honest aspirations to get drunk and depressed in a bar until he gets caught up in the natural atmosphere and whirlwind of a good time. Plus, he lets the band cut loose and it works in the track’s favor. Familiar for the genre, for sure, but it’s a fun time and a good start to the album. Honorable Boom.
We had one new chart entry for this week, and I’m really not sure what to make of it:
No. 22 – Old Dominion, “I Was On a Boat That Day” (written by Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen, Brad Tursi, Whit Sellers, and Geoff Sprung)
… Didn’t I talk about these guys not that long ago? At any rate, my mixed opinions on Old Dominion at this point are well-documented, and the big focus here might be on country radio’s own mixed reception to this band post-“One Man Band” anyway. It figures they’d fade just as soon as they became tolerable, even if I still wouldn’t call them anything close to an essential band. Only, there’s no need to report on the band’s demise just yet, given this new single and its shockingly high debut … and is also one I want to like more than I do. Between the decently blended accordion, acoustics, and dobro, I appreciate the continued push into organic territory that mostly works well, even if the drums feel a bit too loud in the mix and somewhat stifle the other elements and, by extension, the groove.
Like most songs by this band, though, this is mostly hindered by lead vocalist Matt Ramsey, who’s usually failed at being “cool” and charismatic on past singles, and between his choppy flow – especially that “I was getting my float on” part in the chorus – and his overdone attempt at playing things calm and breezy, he really isn’t the best fit for this track. That’s most noticeable when approaching the content, where a more appropriate vocalist could have had some shit-kicking, self-aware fun with the concept of not caring much about a breakup and its aftermath, but Ramsey just makes it sound obnoxious. It’s still harmless, but it’s not nearly as fun as it should be, and to repeat what I said about this band in general earlier, this is inessential. I could take it or leave it, honestly.
This will be our last week exploring chart singles from 1997 for our throwback reviews, folks. That means we’ll be picking a new year for next month (that won’t sound weird if you’re familiar with this feature). If you have any suggestions, let me know! For now, let’s explore the No. 4 single from this week in time … and, oh, man, this one isn’t fair.
Mindy McCready, “A Girl’s Gotta Do (What a Girl’s Gotta Do)” (written by Robert Byrne and Rick Bowles)
This is one of those cases where the immediate talking points for background and context into Mindy McCready’s life and career usually default to her short, sporadic run and the personal troubles that followed … and for what it’s worth, I think it’s overshadowed what was a pretty solid discography for the late 1990s over the years. I could also point out the double standards we’ve carried in country music in praising and condemning certain “images” portrayed by male and female artists (actually, I did).
Now, I wouldn’t call this one of her most absolutely essential singles, and if record labels modeled a plethora of male “hat acts” after Garth Brooks earlier in the decade, the late ‘90s were all about finding the next Shania Twain. And that this is a pretty standard but still well-written and composed slice of attitude-filled country-pop from late in the decade might help make the case against it as filler material, only, McCready’s tone is less playful than it is blunt. And that lends real weight to cutting any ties to the past relationship portrayed here, especially when both parties eventually run into each other again and she’s left any past feelings behind to let him know what he lost. The subtext suggests that there’s still a bitterness and hurt there, for sure, but between the joyful melodic groove buoyed by the glistening textures and fiddle play, this is more about, well, just doing what a girl has to do to get over him. It’s a damn shame we didn’t get to hear more.