The Boom-or-Bust Jukebox is a recurring song review series. There’s only three possible ratings – Boom, for the good stuff; Bust, for the stuff best avoided; and In Between, for the stuff that’s somewhere in between Boom and Bust.
We have three songs on today’s docket, and, oddly enough – thanks to natural alphabetical order – in order from worst to best. Anyway, onward!
Dierks Bentley, “Beers on Me” (featuring HARDY and Breland) (written by Ashley Gorley, Luke Dick, Ross Copperman, Breland, Dierks Bentley, and Michael Hardy)
I wish I had a better angle on where Dierks Bentley is heading with this current album era, because after the sour taste left by “Gone,” I’m ready for something better … and this isn’t providing that remedy. Even despite seeing HARDY’s name and immediately raising a red flag for me, I was at least hoping for a fun drinking song where the camaraderie could make this somewhat fun. Instead, it’s a “drink to forget your troubles” track that’s more carefree and nihilistic than Kenny Chesney’s worst attempts at the theme, and while Breland sounds the most invested out of these three, there’s no chemistry or actual interplay between any of these acts outside of trading verses simply for the credit. Actually, investment is a good note on this song, because while this track is certainly aiming for something loose, with the limp-sounding guitars this song has that don’t carry any punch, it backfires to the point of being lethargic. And without even a breezy groove to make this somewhat likable, or an actual effort from Bentley, this simply provides empty calories and, along with “Gone,” sets up an era that’s thus far worse than Black. For Bentley, that’s not good. Bust.
Erin Enderlin, “Somebody’s Shot of Whiskey” (written by Ben Chapman and Erin Enderlin)
It’s never good to embellish in hyperbole with this exercise, but if you want to know who is one of the best songwriters currently working in country music, it’s Erin Enderlin – easily. Her projects are slow-burns, to be sure, but they’re always worth it. There’s no word yet on whether this standalone single is fueling a new project or not, but while it’s pleasant, it is punching a little lower for Enderlin’s standards. For one, the hook is familiar and fairly predictable in trying to frame Enderlin as wanting to be somebody’s shot of whiskey over everyone’s cup of tea. And while she can sell bitter heartache better than just about all of her contemporaries, she’s not as convincing at being the hell-raiser, so the song falls somewhat flat in actual execution. Still, the rough-around-the-edges presentation in the thicker acoustic strumming and welcome sawing fiddle help her present her case, but I can’t help but think this is just OK as a whole. For now, In Between, but I am looking forward to new music.
Emily Scott Robinson, “Old Gods” (written by Emily Scott Robinson)
I’d rather say this now than in the eventual album review, but if I had to cite my absolute worst review, it would be my one for Emily Scott Robinson’s Traveling Mercies – not just because my opinion hasn’t held up as well, but because it was simply factually incorrect in places in trying to frame the context and background. Let’s try and get it right this time around, then. One of the most promising new singer/songwriters has signed with the late John Prine’s Oh Boy Records and is set to release a new album in October, and as a first taste of what’s to come, “Old Gods” is excellent. While Robinson’s writing has always (rightfully) took center stage in discussions surrounding her, her tone and delivery also deserve a special mention, especially here, when her angelic tone has never sounded so gorgeously clear. The production may offer little more than a muted low-end acoustic sway, but there’s a surprising amount of pure atmosphere captured here that’s simply rich and warm, especially in the echo provided by the equally delicate backing vocals in the latter half. I hate to go with the obvious Emmylou Harris comparison, but the song really does capture that feel excellently. Of course, the gentle touch also works in framing the content, which is a simple prayer from Robinson to a significant other afar wishing for a safe return home, with the subtext suggesting that her wish may be for naught and she may have to learn how to live alone. In other words, for as excellent as it sounds, it’s still a heavy listen, and an absolutely beautiful start for what’s to come. Boom.