The Boom-or-Bust Jukebox – Week 7 (2022): Kaitlin Butts, Dustin Lynch, and Alabama

The Boom-or-Bust Jukebox is a weekly feature in which we review one single from an upcoming album that interests us, along with anything new to Billboard’s Country Airplay top 40, as well as a throwback review.

No quippy introduction this time around; this week was a bit all over the place. Anyway, onward!

Kaitlin Butts, “blood” (written by Angaleena Presley and Kaitlin Butts)

Finally! I’ve been waiting for the announcement of a new project from Kaitlin Butts ever since she released “White River” all the way back in 2019. It’s just that that song won’t be featured on her upcoming project, which will reportedly be more concept-based around more complex situations and the way women specifically approach them, and will clock in at just seven songs. At any rate, it’s seven better than before, and those who only know her from her affiliation with Flatland Cavalry definitely should take the deep-dive into her solo work. And with first single “blood,” reportedly based around her parents’ divorce, this is a fantastic little slow-burn in every way, from the weathered touches of bass and pedal steel to writing that’s teetering on the edges of exhaustion. I do think it’s a track that will work better in the context of the eventual album, but I also love the complex untangling of an abusive relationship here and how the facade of the family image has forced a woman to both accept the pain over the years and finally find the strength to see through it for what it is and possibly take the needed next step. Although, the heartbreaking tragedy is that there’s no easy resolution to escaping it, which is, sadly, reflective of reality and could also be a nice setup point for the final track – that remains to be seen. For now, again, this is just an excellent slow-burn with a ton of burnished potency and a fantastic first step for that eventual project. Boom.

And now, this week’s lone debut on the top 40:

No. 32 – Dustin Lynch, “Party Mode” (written by Matt McGinn, Jared Keim, Jerry Flowers, Roman Alexander, and Ryan Beaver)

I’m baffled as to how Dustin Lynch has managed to stick around, and I’m even more baffled as to how a remix of a song originally featured on his 2020 Tullahoma album not only served as the lead single to his most recent project (which I have no plans to cover), but also became another huge hit for him. I’ve never doubted his vocal talent; I’ve just been disappointed by his mediocre output and self-awareness in pandering to the lowest common denominator. He’s always reminded me of Chris Young in a way, but at least Young can occasionally stumble into halfway decent territory. As to whether Lynch did on his newest single … well, no, not at all. First of all, the twist of the title in turning to “party mode” to escape heartbreak rather than actually engage in any sort of fun was done far better on a little Jake Owen album cut from nine years ago called “Life of the Party.” And as for why, there was actually a sincere, wistful, melancholic edge to its presentation and writing in putting on a happy face to escape awkward conversations with friends. This doesn’t have that nuance; it actively tries to go all in on the facade with the limp-sounding brighter tones. Lynch doesn’t possess the subtlety to sell the few moments of heartbreak, nor does he possess the charisma to at least make this fun. It’s just stuck in this weirdly neutral territory, and that’s another way of saying how, like the bulk of Lynch’s material, it’s purely forgettable. Bust.

And now, our throwback review for the week:

Alabama, “Southern Star” (written by Rich Alves, Roger Murrah, and Steve Dean)

It doesn’t surprise me that most of the first No. 1 country singles of the ‘90s began with some of the biggest stars of the ‘80s over the plethora of newcomers to come – even if they were on their way. One could argue with Alabama that their streak was just business as usual … well, kind of. In truth, their Southern Star album was somewhat molded as a “comeback effort” after their last album failed to reach gold status and spawned a single in “Tar Top” that, holy moly, did not go No. 1. And it’s this side of the band I really love for this particular album era: the hard-driven, southern-rock-meets-country band that lets loose with some excellent harmonies and more raucous production in the vein of “Mountain Music” or “Tennessee River,” with singles like “Song of the South” and “High Cotton,” which I’ve always preferred to their more well-regarded ballads. Obviously, the comeback worked. Southern Star’s title track was just another No. 1 single in a string of them, and honestly, every positive element of those other songs I just described is present here: solid, rough-edged guitar production with some welcome fiddle, an excellent progression to carry it, well-balanced harmonies, and working-class-centered lyrics that fit within their wheelhouse. Trying to distinguish it from the rest of the pack is the tougher part, but when it’s this smooth and rollicking, I find it hard to complain. Boom.

One thought on “The Boom-or-Bust Jukebox – Week 7 (2022): Kaitlin Butts, Dustin Lynch, and Alabama

  1. I’ve yet to dig into Kaitlin Butts’ catalogue, but her single from last year (“How Lucky Am I”) was one of my favourite songs of the year and I’m looking forward to her upcoming album.

    Like you, I prefer Alabama’s more up-tempo, driving songs to their ballads and “Southern Star” is another good one.

    Liked by 1 person

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