Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Russell Dickerson – Blue Tacoma

And here’s another vehicle in which heaven can be found in the back seat of.


Anthony Easton: I am surprised at how muddy this sounds, and how generic the verses are. After, almost a decade of screwing in the back of pick-up trucks one would think that both the audience and the performer would be bored, but they keep being released. It’s kind of frustrating, because Dickerson knows how to sing, and the guitars have a prickly edge. Plus, I like the idea that the truck is more important than either the girl or the singer. 

Ian Mathers: The structure, the instrumentation, etc. are all fine. It’s everything draped over it that I hate so viscerally (and, honestly, probably unfairly): vocal style, sentiment, imagery, everything. I’d punt a radio playing this out a window, but when I try and step back a little and listen to the melody, it’s actually fine. I’d assume there’s something suspect going on with me, some classism or something, and maybe there is; but I don’t have a ton of money, and I grew up in the country enough that I heard plenty of pop country growing up (and didn’t loathe most of it the way I do most of the examples I hear now). But here’s the thing about when your knee jerks: it’s still a real reaction.

Julian Axelrod: There’s something about this song that I find incredibly peaceful. The stock road trip imagery is smeared and impressionistic, as if faded by memory. The depiction of romance is surprisingly lived-in and intimate. And the chorus feels sprawling and expansive, like the midpoint of a long drive when it feels you’ll never stop moving forward. I don’t know if I love the song itself, but I kinda want to live inside it.

Juan F. Carruyo: Please keep this breezy car commercial music away from me

Taylor Alatorre: It’d be easy to dismiss this as the output of a formula already codified by the likes of Sam Hunt, Locash, Dustin Lynch, and Randy Houser. It’s got the quiet-loud dynamics, the barest rhythmic hint of hip hop, and those sprightly power chords that are the universally recognized symbol of the Interstate Highway System. But it’s the little variations on this formula that show how this was crafted with care: the unexpected snare roll in the middle of verse one, the seamless integration of synthetic and live drumming, the outro that thoughtfully picks up where the guitar solo left off. And there’s Dickerson himself, who sounds calmer and more self-effacing than many of his male country brethren. He references Shania but doesn’t wave the reference in your face for cool points; her song is just another part of the scenery. The end result resembles that stable of 2000s rock bands that were lumped under “post-grunge” but were really just power pop by another name. The world needed a less angsty Daughtry, and it looks like Nashville has him.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: I like how the hook makes it sound like Russell Dickerson’s pickup truck is the name of a city in California. Because for all the joy he’s finding in this moment, it’s his car that’s acting as the conduit for all experience. Even with everyone around him, his Tacoma’s interior provides a liminal space between the outside world and intimacy with his lover. “Blue Tacoma” thus works because it’s nonintrusive but still affecting: a perfect soundtrack for exactly what he’s singing about.

Edward Okulicz: Heard it all before but still somewhat into this — it’s a big, anthemic melody and Dickerson gives it a joyous, top-of-sand-dune delivery. He gives lines like “never runnin’ out of golden road” a hint of wonderment, and the line “missin’ turns ’cause that’s our song” with goofy charm. Maybe songs like these have their success rest on how much the performer makes you like them, so this is a winner. The lite-beats and echoes of the chorus line date the song a bit, not just to the early days of bro-country, but also the late 90s, so points off for that. Still a solid entry in the genre I like to call “sunbelt pop” in the hope someone else will pick it up and run with it.

Crystal Leww: It’s been said again and again here that the best country songs are about small intimate moments from ordinary people. “Blue Tacoma” sounds like a roadtrip down the PCH when the weather has cooled just slightly but the sun is still shining. It’s a vivid and bright image, narrated by Dickerson, who sounds so thrilled by the idea that she loves him, that she chose him. I was dismayed by the direction that country took the last couple of years — a Serious Man backlash to the Sam Hunts and Maren Morrises of the world who made this kind of bright, poppy country — but I’m glad that there’s still a healthy undercurrent of folks like Dickerson. 

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