On Jon Pardi’s last album California Sunrise, he made traditional country feel accessible and fun at times. On his new album Heartache Medication, he delivers an album that is very country, but leaves me a lot of the time saying to myself, “eh, it’s fine.” Opening track “Old Hat” is a song I’m very familiar with, as I covered it when I reviewed Jeff Hyde’s 2018 album Norman Rockwell World. It’s a great song about hanging onto some of the old traditions of being a gentleman and I love that Pardi kept that clean guitar sound to open the song. But I must admit I prefer the Hyde version of the song because it just fits Hyde’s voice better than Pardi’s, as it feels like Pardi is stretching it at times.
The album’s title track is your classic heartbreak drinking song, turning to the bar to heal a broken heart. It’s a solid song with nice production and a catchy hook. On an album full of these songs, it’s one of the better ones for sure. “Nobody Leaves a Girl Like That” is another well-trodden theme in country music: a man looking back in regret at leaving a woman who he realized was great. This is the first of many moments on the album where I say, “eh it’s fine,” because Pardi does nothing to make the song stand out. I’ve heard this done better so many times in country music and I’m left expecting more. It’s not bad, but it’s not something I find myself clamoring to hear again.
In fact, let’s just get this out of the way now about all the songs on the album that fit this description because I don’t feel like repeating myself paragraph after paragraph. Here’s all the songs on this album that cover an over-covered theme in country music that are fine, but Pardi does nothing to make standout amongst the best versions of these songs: “Ain’t Always the Cowboy,” “Me and Jack,” “Tied One On,” “Oughta Know That,” “Buy That Man a Beer,” “Call Me Country” and “Love Her Like She’s Leaving.” So that’s 8 out of 14 tracks on this album. 14 tracks are already too long for most albums, but when you have nearly 60% of the album of songs that are just fine it feels even longer to get through.
As for the rest of this album: “Don’t Blame It On Whiskey” sees Pardi joined by Lauren Alaina and these two just don’t sound good together. Their voices are like oil and water, as Alaina’s voice pairs better with a deeper male voice and Pardi’s voice would be better suited with someone like Ashley McBryde or Brandi Carlile. “Tequila Little Time” is without a doubt the best moment on this album for me and that’s because this is one of the few moments Pardi puts a fresh taste on an old theme. I love both the horns playing the song in and the play on words in the hook of the song, as it’s both catchy and clever. This is right out of the Midland playbook and why I like their new album. This is what Pardi needs to have more of on his next album.
“Love Her Like She’s Leaving” is another moment that works well on this album because of the production. The fiddle and steel guitar give the song a smooth and pleasing sound, while complimenting the feel of the lyrics too. Closing song “Starlight” is about feeling the presence of higher powers like angels and God. I enjoy this because the lyrics avoid the typical pitfalls of these type of songs and feels like a genuine proclamation from Pardi. The electric guitar and steel guitar also compliment each other well.
Ultimately, Heartache Medication is an album that lacks standout moments and plays it too safe in regards to the themes. The traditional sound is great, but most of the songwriting on this album leaves a lot to desire. It was my biggest issue on his last album too. While this album is by no means bad, I wouldn’t call it good either, as I think Jon Pardi is capable of delivering something better.