The Boom-or-Bust Jukebox is a weekly feature in which we review one single – either a standalone entity or one from an upcoming album that interests us – along with anything new to Billboard’s Country Airplay top 40, as well as a throwback review (currently exploring No. 1 country singles of the ‘90s).
Caroline Spence, “Clean Getaway” (written by Caroline Spence)
The 2022 release schedule is picking up steam, and that’s good, because in the three years since I reviewed Caroline Spence’s Mint Condition, the album has grown on me immensely. I’ve always characterized her work as a slow burn, but when it clicks, it clicks, thanks to nuanced writing and production that takes it spare organic country vibe with just enough reverb to accentuate the striking melodies.
And that’s pretty much where I’m at with new single “Clean Getaway,” even though this sounds more like a great refinement of past strengths than anything else. To be honest, in describing her work as something of a slow burn, that also extends to how some of her material can tend to drag in pacing and progression at points. So I’m glad to hear a really fantastic burnished groove riding off the faint atmospherics and touches of bass and piano to really accentuate that hook, even if it does, admittedly, get repetitive after some time. But that’s about where the nitpicks end, because while you can tell this is a song inspired by recent years in its exploration of failure to move on from past traumas and settling into a new normal, it feels more grounded in personal experience in both her more soft-spoken, weathered delivery, and in ways that call to mind, at least for me, American Aquarium’s “Losing Side of Twenty-Five” or James McMurtry’s “Jaws of Life.” And considering those songs hit a little more close to home every year … yeah, this is excellent, and a great first step for True North, due out in April. Boom.
And now, our lone new entry to this week’s top 40:
No. 39, Ingrid Andress feat. Sam Hunt, “Wishful Drinking” (written by Ingrid Andress, Jonny Price, JP Saxe, Lucky Daye, and Rykeyz)
What to do when the artist who’s made your favorite country radio single of the decade thus far teams up with … Sam Hunt. Friggin’ joy. In truth, though, this doesn’t catch me that off guard. This is a song that’s been out for some time and has faced an uphill climb even in trying to get to the top 40 at radio. And it all just screams as trying to right Ingrid Andress’ career path back on track, given that her follow-up singles have, sadly, underperformed. I’m just not even sure Hunt is the artist you want to collaborate with these days anymore to achieve that.
But, whatever, we’re here for a discussion on the actual song itself, which sounds like a cheap, outdated pop song that Bebe Rexha might have cut in 2018, no thanks to the obvious vocal inflections, synthetic production and snap beat. Now, that alone doesn’t mean it’s a bad song, but I can’t even say I’d like to hear this no matter what it’s labeled. Andress and Hunt’s chemistry is flat, the production is pretty lacking and defined by its worst elements when it does happen to stick out, the groove is stuttered, and the details are lacking in sketching how the characters here got to be an on-again, off-again entity or even where they go from there. In other words, I think I’ll listen to the far better Jason Eady and Alan Jackson songs of the same name instead. Maybe Hunt isn’t better than this, but Andress sure is. Bust.
And now, this week’s throwback review. Talk about a great palette cleanser, too:
Patty Loveless, “Chains” (written by Hal Bynum and Bud Reneau)
I’m always one to think of Patty Loveless as a ‘90s artist first and foremost for some reason, but I’ve always attributed her mainstream success to the same reasons I attribute it to, say, Mary Chapin Carpenter or Lyle Lovett: timing. I’ve written about how the late ‘80s were the perfect period for fresh, creative new talent to emerge within the genre, and as evidence of that, we have an artist who broke through with a cover of a George Jones song. Granted, I’m also always one to think of Loveless as an expert of melancholic slow burns, so while I’ve never branded “Chains” as anywhere close to a favorite of mine, it is still pretty great, all the same. For one, that elongated hook of the chorus is an all-time great, and while a track about escaping a bad relationship really shouldn’t sound fun, this does and works, if only for Loveless’ unique charm brought to the table. An easy Boom.