The Boom-or-Bust Jukebox – #38 (2022): Adeem the Artist, Zach Bryan, Tommy Prine, and Shania Twain

Most of these songs are a couple of weeks old, which in the modern age means I’m months late to covering them. Let’s talk about them anyway. Onward!

Adeem the Artist, “Going to Hell” (written by Kyle Bingham)

You know, coming off of Adeem the Artist’s decidedly strident and confident Cast Iron Pansexual in 2021, it only makes too much sense that the lead single to their next album is about romping around in Hell. They had an interlude on that last project called “Going to Heaven,” which, if you’re familiar with Adeem’s confrontation their queerness in typical small town America and the country music genre in general on that project, makes this pivot tongue-in-cheek in the best possible way. After all, they might “play country songs in Heaven, but in Hell they play them loud.” And with a lot of flavor coming through this song’s traditional country flavor in the prominent mandolin and fiddle interplay, this sounds like one hell of a party. Oh yeah, and the writing is so mischievously in character that it still manages to become the highlight – including references to Robert Johnson and Charlie Daniels that I dare not spoil because of where they take said references. White Trash Revelry is coming December 2nd, and this is a great first step. Boom.

Zach Bryan, “Burn, Burn, Burn” (written by Zach Bryan)

While I’m still convinced Zach Bryan’s absurdly rapid release pace is going to lead to diminishing returns within the next year or two, I’ve learned to just accept it for what it is, because for now, what we’re getting is usually pretty great. I mean, of course this new single isn’t included on either of his last two projects – and apparently it will be included on a new album in February, because again, of course it will be – but for now, I actually like this standing just as an isolated single. It’s a musing on newfound success that you can tell has taken him out of his element; hell, that was one of the main themes on American Heartbreak in general. But this is more fantasy-driven and centered more around what he’d like to do, which is to take off to somewhere where he can clear his head, write songs, and get away from the spotlight. It’s pretty telling of his rapid pace and a possible “here today, gone tomorrow” mentality that may drive his output, but I’ve also heard this type of song from pretty much artist I’ve covered here at various points in their respective careers. Perhaps not this early, but I digress.

Of course, that also means for me that this is lacking the unique character of similar past songs of his like “She’s Alright” or “Tishomingo” off of American Heartbreak, where even though I like a lot of the restrained liquid texture in the guitars, I’m not wild about Bryan’s monotone flow or his howling toward the end. But I’ve been mostly in his corner this year, and this is another overall good addition to his discography.

Tommy Prine, “Ships in the Harbor” (written by Tommy Prine)

There are a lot of expectations in play when John Prine’s son decides to release his first song to the public. Not his first ever, mind you – Tommy Prine has written songs before and shared them on his YouTube channel. But this is him striking out on his own and releasing a proper studio version of a song, inspired by his father’s passing in 2020. And, to potentially no one’s surprise, it’s excellent, sporting the same observational, storytelling-driven detail you’d expect. It’s just that Tommy’s approach is a bit warmer in the guitar texture and overall production, sporting a somber restraint meant to highlight his surprisingly smoother, fuller tone. And he’s not looking to imbue cracks of wry humour or dry wit into his message, instead choosing to communicate a really potent observation of time and its cruel never-ending nature, with little things like the sunrise and still waters as well as bigger things like a visiting friend acting as his metaphorical devices used to drive the point home. You know, things we observe all the time that are easy to take for granted, because we always expect to see them again. They leave as they should and return as they should, which is why it hurts when the ultimate disruption to that cycle – death – comes. In other words, even knowing that the final verse surrounding his father’s passing is coming and that it can be much harder for him not to notice the fragile balance of that cycle in everything he sees, it still hits tremendously hard. And it’s just beautifully empathetic as a whole, a fantastic song all his own. Boom.

Shania Twain, “Waking Up Dreaming” (written by David Stewart, Jessica Agombar, and Shania Twain)

Ugh. Look, I love Shania Twain’s output up until around her first Greatest Hits collection – I can even prove it – but everything she’s released since her return has ranged from mediocre to outright terrible, and “Waking Up Dreaming” just feels like a Now! leftover that shouldn’t have moved beyond the writing room. The same horribly cheap vocal production is here to strip Twain of any of her charisma or flair and make her come across terribly just on a technical level alone, and the overblown percussion-over-melody approach is here to make sure this doesn’t feel as melodically smooth, groove-driven, or, hell, fun as any of her best work. It’s the sort of dated-sounding song that just feels incredibly slapdash, not helped by writing that can also feel broadly sketched and by-the-numbers for a love song about chasing down dreams that lacks any of the same urgency or passion as those ‘90s and 2000s classics. I mean, come on, ‘90s country is cool again, and Twain used to be one of the best in her field at handling the poppier side of that era. So for her to keep sounding this mechanical and for her sound in general to continue being this dated … it’s just sad to see. Bust.

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