Our “universally acclaimed” country single of 2011 emerges!
Katherine St Asaph: Billy Currington’s strengths, summer 2010: drinking beer. Billy Currington’s strengths, summer 2011: transmuting heartache into bubbly brass and pretty words about loss. Has he always hidden this or is he the decade’s most improved?
Anthony Easton: I love the horns, how smooth and casual Currington’s voice is, the use of New Orleans without beating us over the head that he is talking about New Orleans; I love how, in the best country music tradition, the jovial is used as cover for the heart breaking. A brilliant, well-constructed, well-delivered radio piece, and he keeps doing that, song after song, album after album. Too good for the mid-list, as far as I’m concerned.
Edward Okulicz: Why are there horn kicks in a song about faded love? Why is there a ludicrous singalong chorus in a song about accepting the end of a relationship? Well, it’s because they sound amazing, and if he’s not miserable, why should you be? The rest of the song more than lives up to the godlike, luscious and downright hummable chorus, from Currington’s dry, charming delivery to the lashings of horns and piano that twinkle over the outro as the song slides from view like its subject. The rain of metaphors in the chorus are playful and smart in describing how something great just goes away as it perhaps inevitably must. Its brevity and wit set it apart from so many other songs whose writers and performers have aimed for bittersweet and made a hash of it because they think it’s an easy thing to pull off right. It isn’t, but this does it so well; all other attempts at the emotion are surplus to requirement for 2011.
Brad Shoup: Just as one of Curtis Mayfield’s most moving cuts is, surprisingly, the heavenly divorce song “Give It Up,” Currington’s “Love Done Gone” strangles the meant-to-be with velvet gloves. The peppy singalong bit and cod-sunshine horns are buoyant, but can still support the suggestion of a brave front, if desired. Currington’s choral yawp is a beautiful thing: a rueful shrug, a preemptive strike. The simile to take away is “like money in a slot machine” – a wonderfully terse expression, courtesy of Shawn Camp and Marv Green, of love’s potential payoffs and risks. And hey, you can two-step to it.
Michaela Drapes: Currington’s “Aw, shucks, ma’am” demeanor (and the purring burr of a voice to match) always slays me right from the start; by third time around of that chorus I’d managed to stop hating the ridiculous indie rock shout-along chorus. (I mean, seriously, has he been listening to Okkervil River or something?) Then the Dixieland brass kicked in.
Jonathan Bradley: “Like snowflakes when the weather warms up,” is the first line of the chorus, and I appreciate that, because it means I have the vaguest of justifications for thinking of this as a Christmas song. Perhaps it’s in the manic, desperate joy it shares with holiday music; the kind of happiness one foists upon oneself during the festive season — or when a relationship heads south. Those “ba-ba-da”s and bursts of brass would be intolerable if Currington didn’t need their modeled ebullience to prevent himself from breaking apart. (Billy: Do me a favor and mix some sleigh bells over the outro. Thanks, JB.)
Ian Mathers: Once you add in the horns and the “ba ba ba”s, what exactly makes this country instead of just pop music by a guy with a Southern accent and a fondness for slide guitars? Pop could use more slide guitars. In any case, I’m not complaining; we also need more songs about the fact that just because a relationship’s over doesn’t mean that it was worthless or damaging. And Currington is such a mensch while delivering one of the hardest messages found in the annals of love (it’s not you, it’s not me, it’s just over) that it’d be hard to get mad at any aspect of this sunny, humane, gentle song.
Alfred Soto: So many years have we heard indie upstarts like Spoon and Modest Mouse, or even country stalwarts like Brad Paisley, fuck up the art of arranging a brass section that Currington’s modest stroke is a triumph. His voice up to the relief and sarcasm demanded of the lyrics, it’s also up to the generosity of the arrangement; like Billy himself, the character in the song is on the ride of his life — or about to start a new one.
Zach Lyon: My only complaint is more than a minor one — those “ba ba ba”‘s and horns that serve as the sonic hook don’t interact well and sound a little creepy mixed at their current levels. Other than that: shit, where did this come from? I can’t be the only one who thinks this might be considered a classic twenty years on. Like my favorite country songs, it comes packed with layers of beautiful sounds that only start to peak through on repeat listens, like that slide guitar in the chorus. Billy’s performance and the lyrics and how perfectly they work together need no comment, only encouraged listening.