(Editor’s note: With the possible introduction of a new writer here soon, we’re going to revert back to individual single reviews for the time being, just to keep things flexible.)
Jake Owen is one of current country music’s most charismatic presences within the format, enough to where he’s sold fluff with a likable charm and easygoing personality, and to where I don’t immediately raise a red flag upon seeing a single called “Best Thing Since Backroads.”
Still, it’s called “Best Thing Since Backroads,” so there’s a low ceiling for how interesting this thing gets. Sure enough, the basic concept is that Owen’s significant other being addressed is the best thing since backroads. That’s it. End of story. It’s basically Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Backroad” without the overblown misogyny attached to it. Or Sam Hunt.
Which is to say that, as always, it’s at least a charming record. Owen doesn’t sell it creepily, even if the thumping groove and sharper electric axes bring to mind, oddly enough, a weird mix between Alabama and Hank Williams Jr that feels like an odd choice here, even if it somewhat works in spite of it. At the very least, Owen has embraced the growing resurgence of neotraditional tones over recent years, and, save for the robotic vocal production on the chorus that feels completely unnecessary, Joey Moi, of all people, does a surprisingly decent job in his lane.
Still, there’s just something about this record that’s missing the looser charm of Owen’s better material. He’s still likable, but perhaps a bit too overly serious here, and this isn’t the kind of song for that. In other words, it’s not going to be the summer smash of 2021, but it’s an interesting first step for Owen’s next project, if only from a sonic standpoint.
Written by Ben Johnson, Geoff Warburton, Hunter Phelps, and Jordan Minton