The Boom-or-Bust Jukebox – Week 23 (2021): (Michael Monroe Goodman, Brit Taylor and Dee White, Matt Stell, and Chris Stapleton)

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.

We have five songs on today’s docket, and unlike last week where only half of the selections were decent, this is a mostly great week! Onward.

Michael Monroe Goodman, “Not Today” (written by Michael Monroe Goodman)

You know, it’s fitting that I celebrated six years of writing last month, because Michael Monroe Goodman is one of those artists I remember championing back in my This is My Country Music days. This is one of the first tastes of new music from the singer and stage actor since 2015, and if you’re looking for a good entry point into his music, this is a solid choice. I like the fuller sound utilized here compared to his last album in the deeper production balance, especially in the bitter minor chords anchored by fantastic interplay between the rougher acoustic strumming, liquid pedal steel, brushes of bass, and warm yet rickety percussion. For a song about exercising personal demons, this certainly provides the appropriately dark background for that. I do wish the details pertaining to how the narrator ended up in the rut they’re in were fleshed out a bit better, though. But, given his background, it’s fitting that Goodman is able to imbue his performance with enough conviction and charisma to make up for some weaker spots in the writing. It’s a familiar song for country music, but when the overall components click, it doesn’t really matter. Great stuff. I’m tying it with a later single for this week’s honorable Boom, because it’s just that kind of week!

Brit Taylor featuring Dee White, “At Least There’s No Babies” (written by Brit Taylor and Dee White)

For as predictable as Dan Auerbach’s production tactics have become in country music, when the artists he’s worked with have had a sweeping lushness to their work that’s been fairly likable thus far, it’s hard to complain. I’m less familiar with Brit Taylor than I am with Dee White, who released a solid debut album a few years ago. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the follow-up, and while this isn’t the quite the answer to that, given that it’s being included on a deluxe edition of Taylor’s 2020 album Real Me, this is excellent. It might even be the best song in either of their catalogs – a bitter divorce song where the relationship is utterly dead and the hook is built around being thankful they don’t have to see or hear from each other again … I mean, damn. I would have liked hearing some piano to flesh out and anchor the sound, but the intimacy is part of the point and cuts regardless. Again, you generally except a softer touch with the style and artists involved, but between the brittle acoustics and pedal steel (organ, too, later on) cutting through in the low-end to add spacious texture rather than drive or define the mix, it places the emphasis on Taylor and White themselves. And beyond giving credit to the song for being an actual duet, I love the tired reservations expressed by both artists in being able to finally move from one another. There’s no anger present, but there is a noticeable exhaustion and relief to finally reaching that end. Again, absolutely excellent stuff. Not only is it this week’s Boom, but it may be the best song I’ve covered through this series thus far.

We had two new chart entries for this week, of which only one is worth discussing.

No. 39 – Matt Stell, “That Ain’t Me No More” (written by Hunter Phelps, Jake Mitchell, Michael Hardy, Nick Donley, and Smith Ahnquist)

The last (and only) time I talked about Matt Stell, I ripped his “God made a woman just for me!” song in half and didn’t think I’d ever discuss him again. Two years later … of course he’s got a few No. 1 hits and no one really cares or knows his name anyway, because that’s how the country music industry operates in 2021. This new single isn’t changing my mind on him, especially when I’ve heard artists approach this theme with more maturity and nuance than Stell is even capable of. Because, when he says “that ain’t me no more,” he’s referring to the fact that his significant other moved on and found happiness and that he’s left to stew in his misery and complain about it. Now, granted, I completely understand fostering bitterness and being unable to move on, but there needs to be resolution to that beyond blaming an ex-significant other for what are obviously your own problems. Sadly, that’s the only notable thing worth mentioning about this single other than it’s obvious that it took six dudes to pen this and that one of them is HARDY. In other words, Bust.

No. 40 – Chris Stapleton, “You Should Probably Leave” (written by Ashley Gorley, Chris DuBois, and Chris Stapleton)

Call me predictable if you want, but I see Chris Stapleton’s name in this section and am immediately thankful I can discuss an artist who actually knows what he’s doing in mainstream country music. Granted, I didn’t love his latest album, and the hype surrounding his Traveller triumph has long since faded as a noteworthy event, especially when country music has expanded stylistically a ton beyond his sound ever since that moment. But I don’t think that should take away from what a phenomenal talent Stapleton is even on a basic level, and considering this was one of my favorite singles on the album next to “Hillbilly Blood” and “Nashville, TN,” I’m happy to see it here. Yes, the mix is smooth and can feel lacking in greater dynamics, but the groove is strong and pronounced and makes up for it in its overall rougher emotional delivery. To Stapleton’s credit, he picked up the subtlety to match his pure power on that last album, and he handles the yin-and-yang feeling of not wanting to end an on-again, off-again relationship yet knowing it’s for the best really well. It’s the secret to this track’s success that I think has gone unnoticed, and while this isn’t explored in any greater detail than other tracks within this vein, it’s got what it needs to hit. An honorable Boom for the week.

We’re still exploring 1989 for our throwback reviews, so this week, let’s discuss the No. 2 single from this week in time, given that last week’s selection of Clint Black’s “A Better Man” completely fell out of the top ten.

Rosanne Cash, “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party” (written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney)

OK, this is a weird one to discuss, if only because Rosanne Cash’s last chart hit at country radio was a cover of a Beatles tune. The thing is, too, it was a steep drop after this – a No. 1 single that led to a top 40 hit and then a string of hits that never even charted. Cash deserved better in the ‘90s, but for a decade closer, this is good for what it is. The other irony surrounding this track is that Cash was never one to dress her songs up with overtly country instrumentation, instead letting the vocals and stories do the work and making that aforementioned qualifier seem unnecessary anyway. So to hear this led by prominent fiddle is a welcome surprise, given that it lends nicely to the bouncy groove and supports the brightly plucked acoustics, especially when this song has always been more angsty than “fun” anyway. It shouldn’t have been her final No. 1 hit, but it’s a good way to go anyway.

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