When it comes to judging country music and country artists, I like to think I’m right more than wrong most of the time. But there are times when I’m dead wrong. One artist that I was completely unfair to in my initial judgment upon hearing him sing was Jon Pardi. When I heard “Up All Night” on the radio I chalked him up as just another bro country artist cashing in on a hot trend. Then he released his second single to radio, “What I Can’t Put Down.” I heard this and I couldn’t believe how much I enjoyed listening to it and I was shocked to find Pardi was the artist behind the song.This is what led me to listening to his new album Write You A Song. It’s one of the biggest surprises in mainstream country music in 2014.
Best Songs on the Album
“What I Can’t Put Down” is the obvious standout. It’s about picking up and becoming addicted to dangerous vices, from cigarettes to alcohol. The song has infectious steel guitar licks and a catchy beat that appeals to a lot of country music fans. It’s currently a single on the radio, but it’s not having the best numbers. If you don’t check out his entire album, I recommend at least checking this song out.
I assure you that Pardi isn’t a one trick pony though. “Love You From Here” and “Missin’ You Crazy” are two great love songs, with the first being about a long distance relationship and the second being a heartbreak song. Both feature great use of the steel guitars and fiddles. Yes, you read that correctly. Fiddles are present on these two songs and others on this album. I don’t know about you, but I’ve missed hearing fiddles in country songs. Another instrument I’ve missed in country songs is the piano and Pardi features the piano heavily in “Chasin’ Them Better Days.” It’s an upbeat song about striving for a better life. I should note the steel guitar play is quite good in this song too. The song I feel should be his next single and the other standout song of the album is “Empty Beer Cans.” It’s a contemporary breakup song that is country enough for traditional fans and has a beat that is catchy enough for mainstream country fans. Based on the song title you wouldn’t expect this song to have some feeling, but it does. There’s a great comparison in the song where the man who just broke up with his wife says he feels as empty as the beer cans around him. That creates a great visualization in the listener’s head, while also creating the right feeling. The album closes out with a solid drinking song that features strong string instrumentation in “When I’ve Been Drinking.”
Worst Songs on the Album
The obvious dud is “Up All Night” for being a blatant bro country song. But it’s the only bro country song on the album. This leads me to speculate that Pardi and his label purposely did this to draw more attention to Pardi and the rest of the album. Many artists make “radio friendly” songs to build a fan base and this allows them to make their own music later on in their career. Zac Brown Band did a similar thing with “Toes.” Another song that stands out to me at the bottom of this album is “That Man.” It’s an above average love song that feels like a filler song.
The Rest of the Album
The album’s title track “Write You A Song” is a self-referring song by Pardi about traveling on the road and promising each girl he falls in love with that he’ll write a song about them. “Happens All The Time” is a solid modern country song about a man contemplating falling in love with a girl who has caught his eye. “Trash a Hotel Room” is what you think it’s about. Despite the immature premise of the song, it’s actually well-put together. There’s a noticeable rock influence mixed in with the country sound that is present (instrumentation and theme wise). I’m surprised how catchy it is, despite the questionable theme of the song.
Jon Pardi’s vocals are undeniably good on Write You A Song. His voice reminds me of a cross between Dierks Bentley (who he coincidentally opened up for before landing a record deal) and Dwight Yoakam. The Yoakam comparison is quite apt because Pardi definitely has a Bakersfield country sound to his music. It’s appropriate considering Pardi is from California, where the Bakersfield sound originated. Another thing I appreciate about Pardi and this album is he had a hand in writing every song on this album, except “Trash a Hotel Room.” And none of the songs are written by Dallas Davidson! Pardi is quite talented and he’s certainly one of the best in mainstream country right now. What Pardi chooses on his follow-up album will be key to watch because if he continues to struggle on country radio with his current singles then he could turn to “dark side” of mainstream country music. He could stick to making great country music that will either cause him to get more attention or not get any recognition and be another victim of Music Row politics like Sunny Sweeney and Jamey Johnson. Nevertheless, Write You A Song is easily one of the best country albums to come out of mainstream country in 2014. If you like Dierks Bentley, I think you’ll like Jon Pardi. Give this guy a chance and I think you’ll be impressed.