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).
William Clark Green, “Baker Hotel” (written by Dean Fields, Ross Cooper, and William Clark Green)
I can’t tell you how thankful I am that William Clark Green decided to release another single from his upcoming Baker Hotel album, because I had wanted to feature him in this series earlier. But, I don’t know, “All You Got” left a sour taste in my mouth, and as someone who was disappointed with 2018’s Hebert Island, I had my worries, even despite the fact that I consider him a personal favorite of the Red Dirt scene. Now, I’ve actually heard the album already, and I’m thankful that it’s not emblematic of the entire experience. And while I wouldn’t necessarily call the title track one of my top highlights either, it carries the weirdly creative scope of ambition that I loved about his earlier work, especially seeing as how this incorporates throwbacks to his own “Ringling Road.”
In a sense, “Baker Hotel” is a standalone anomaly that Green usually likes to throw in on his albums to serve as an homage to Texas history – in this case, a study of an ominous, run-down, 17-story landmark in Mineral Wells, Texas. Now, beyond the more playful, jumpy stabs of bass and old-school organ supplementing the mix, you can tell it’s a track aiming more for a fun stab at something weird and off-kilter rather than an actual history lesson, and it’s probably better for it. But there’s also an entire first verse here that doesn’t really connect with the rest of the story, and I can’t help but feel it’s all a bit undercooked as a result, even if I do like it. All in good fun, though, so I suppose the best is yet to come. Boom.
And now, this week’s lone new entry to the top 40 on the charts:
No. 35 – Morgan Wallen, “Wasted On You” (written by Morgan Wallen, Ernest K. Smith, Josh Thompson, and Ryan Vojtesak)
Look, I’ve had no problem stating that Morgan Wallen’s return to stardom came far too soon, and I’d be just as fine with him never returning to the spotlight, to be perfectly frank. But that’s not going to happen, and while I can at least admit to liking “Sand In My Boots,” I feel like I’m just dishing it out to an easy punching bag by reviewing “Wasted On You.” Hell, I didn’t like the oily, droopy, unflattering synthetic tones when I reviewed it through the parent album in January of 2021, especially against a slicker vocal delivery that Wallen is incapable of pulling off effectively. But the writing … look, I like dark and lonely to a fault, but not when it’s utterly miserable and whiny and never once considers his ex-significant other’s perspective in their respective downward spirals. There’s a way to unleash anger like this that could potentially feel cathartic or could be the first step of personal growth, but this just feels like it’s stewing in its own misery for the sake of, which is just unpleasant all around. Bust.
And now, this week’s throwback review:
Paul Overstreet, “Seein’ My Father In Me” (written by Taylor Dunn and Paul Overstreet)
If you know classic country songs like “On the Other Hand,” “When You Say Nothing At All,” and … uh, “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” you know Paul Overstreet, at least as a writer. Even I’ll admit, however, that my knowledge of his solo career from the late ‘80s to early ‘90s is limited; though I do always enjoy when artists known primarily as writers get their own chances to shine. “Seein’ My Father In Me” was one of Overstreet’s first big hits, but it was far from his only one. And listening to it now, even though songs centered around fathers don’t tend to work for me, there is something graceful and likable about everything here, from writing that feels celebratory of a father who simply loved with all he could, to Overstreet’s gentle grace, even if he’s not the strongest performer in the world. Some of the production feels like it’s cribbing from the ‘80s in a bad way through some of the more synthetic tones, but they feel like minor complaints when the warmth of that dobro gets to shine. This was a new discovery for me, and I’m looking forward to diving into Overstreet’s solo material a bit more.