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 – as well as anything new to Billboard’s Country Airplay top 40, and a throwback single (currently exploring No. 1 country singles of the ‘90s).
With no new entries to this week’s top 40, this may very well be the lightest week we’ve had thus far for this feature. Oh well – quality over quantity, am I right? Anyway, onward!
Sunny Sweeney, “A Song Can’t Fix Everything” (feat. Paul Cauthen) (written by Lori McKenna and Sunny Sweeney)
Finally! It’s been a long five years since Sunny Sweeney released Trophy, and if her past work is any indication, Married Alone – to be released September 23 – is going to be my most anticipated release of the year. And until that comes along, we have lead single “A Song Can’t Fix Everything,” a track that rips away the veneer of what music will actually do us for in times of strife. It won’t physically heal us, and it’s not a real person that will comfort us; if anything, any dopamine rush we feel is just that – something temporary to provide an escapism so desperately needed … even if our real world problems and demons will wait for us after it’s over. We empathize and sympathize with characters in song constantly, but it’s also revealing of how much it says about us in the ones we gravitate toward. I mean, leave it to writers like Sweeney and Lori McKenna to just cut right to the bone like that.
Now, full disclosure: I still want to like this just a bit more than I do. For as excellent as the content itself is, this is a track that basically drowns itself in its atmosphere from the over-extensive use of reverb, when the natural flair is right there in the firm acoustics and pedal steel to cut regardless. And look, I know my track record with Paul Cauthen is pretty negative, but he really feels unnecessary here as a whole, especially when there’s a sub-narrative present here where Sunny uses music to heal a heartache and note the distance felt from a partner, making it all the weirder to have this be a collaborative effort anyway. Still excellent as a whole, though; Sweeney has been sorely missed. Boom.
And now, this week’s throwback review:
George Strait, “Love Without End, Amen” (written by Aaron Barker)
In a week of long overdue returns, it’s fitting that this is the first George Strait single we’ll discuss for this feature … even if I always get this particular track confused with the similarly titled Randy Travis song. Truthfully, I’m at an awkward place with this one – father-themed songs don’t tend to do much for me, but for as broadly sentimental as this track obviously is in its framing and execution, it’s also a surprisingly well-realized and tempered story song. As I noted in a similar piece from last week, Strait is an excellent vocalist who can sell the grace and understanding of the father figure here exceptionally well as he watches his son grow up and sees himself in the boy, knowing full well that there’s a time to teach the harder lessons, but also a time to empathize and realize he’ll have to make his own mistakes along the way. And as far as punishments are ever concerned for that, love will not be one of the things taken away. I’m not going to say it’s the Strait single I’ve returned to the most over the years, but it’s a quality track worth recognizing in his extensive catalog. Boom.