Start paying attention to Jon Pardi. I feel like I need to get on a rooftop and shout this out through a megaphone. Last year Pardi introduced himself to the country music world with his debut album Write You A Song, a solid country album that I rightly praised. It was quietly one of the best albums released in mainstream country last year. I say quietly because it felt like nobody took notice of this album when they should have taken notice. My fellow critics seemed to be pretty quiet about it (they shouldn’t have). This is probably because Pardi hasn’t had a lot of success at radio because his singles, besides one bro-country like song, have been great. Pardi is making the right music at the wrong time. If it was released in the late 90s or early to mid-2000s, Pardi would have blown up and became a star. But alas he’s now going head-to-head with disco country and EDM pop music. Despite the current environment, Pardi has now followed up his debut album with a new EP titled The B-Sides, 2011-2014. And it’s even better than Write You A Song.
The EP begins with “Fightin’ The Fool,” where Pardi croons about having to always fight the fool within himself. It always seems to rear its ugly head at the worst time, causing heartache and pain for not just the people around, but for himself too. It’s a great story about a person fighting their inner demons and just always falling short of controlling them. The fiddle and steel guitar are prominent throughout the song, just like much of his debut album Write You A Song. See why country radio doesn’t play him? Because it’s country music and it has meaning. On “Over My Head” Pardi sings of a woman who’s really over his head, but continues to fall under her spell over and over again. Every time he wants to get away from her, she pulls him back in. It paints the picture of a seductive woman who may be a little too wild for the man who can’t handle her, but still gets pulled by the allure. Again the instrumentation has a very Bakersfield-like sound and it’s quite pleasant.
“Drinkin’ With Me” is a rollicking, hell-raising drinking song. Don’t worry it isn’t a drinking just to drink song, like many mainstream country songs. As the man in the song says, he’s been working his ass all week and his woman is gone, so he needs to blow off some steam. Also I would like to point out there’s a subtle line about how he isn’t going to drive his truck, since drunk driving isn’t responsible. You hear that Tyler Farr? The piano, pedal steel guitar and violins drive this upbeat track. This is the kind of song that makes you want to get up and move your feet. It sounds exactly like something Dwight Yoakam would record, who I think Pardi has some similarities with. This is one of my favorite tracks on the EP.
The next song is “Back on the Backroads,” which might make some listeners cringe when reading the title. But despite the bro-country themes present in the song, I don’t hate it. Remember what I said about Pardi being in the wrong time? Well this is definitely the case here, as I think this song would be viewed much more favorably before the bro-country era. I think what makes me not dislike this song is Pardi’s charismatic and great vocals along with once again great instrumentation, especially the fiddle play. I think Pardi is planning on releasing this as his next single and if it can get him on radio, then this song is palatable. Zac Brown Band used “Toes” to get airplay, so this could be Pardi’s “Toes” song. It’s the weakest track on the EP easily, but I find it to be decent and listenable.
“Rainy Night Song” is the first love ballad on the EP and Pardi does an excellent job with it. The premise of the song is the man is sitting at his house while it’s pouring rain outside and it makes him wish his former love was there with him, as he sits there alone. He acknowledges they broke up for the best, but he still can’t shake her off his mind no matter what he does. The fiddles weep and the mandolin is present throughout, giving the song the perfect tone of soberness, yet hope. I definitely want to hear more love ballads from Pardi in the future, as he knocks this one out of the park. The last song on the EP is “Borrowed Time,” a song that explores how short life is and how we only have so much time before it’s all over. This might be Pardi’s best song yet, as everything in this song perfectly works together. The lyrics are honest, heartfelt and to the point. It has a very similar vibe to Dierks Bentley’s “Here on Earth.” This is a song I recommend you hear for yourself, as words don’t properly describe it. It’s the kind of song that will make people respect and appreciate Pardi’s talent.
While everyone is rightly paying attention to two stellar releases this month, Chris Stapleton’s Traveller and Whitey Morgan’s Sonic Ranch, do not forget about this EP either. It deserves your attention as well, as it is my favorite release from a mainstream country artist in 2015. It’s that damn good. To think these were the songs that didn’t make Pardi’s debut album Write You A Song and they’re this great. It really makes me excited to hear his sophomore album, which will hopefully garner more attention and acclaim if Pardi continues to make country music like this. I highly recommend you check this out, as it’s worthy of much praise. Jon Pardi is the country artist we need in the mainstream right now and good on Alan Jackson for choosing him for his tour, as I’m sure Pardi will pick up a lot of new fans. Hell Jackson might be the only one for the rest of the year in mainstream country who can top The B-Sides, 2011-2014 EP. Seriously go buy this and start paying attention to Jon Pardi.