Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Billy Currington – Love Done Gone

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.

24 Responses to “Billy Currington – Love Done Gone”

  1. “Oh my Lord, I can’t make head nor tail of you”… (

  2. Woah, straight into the top spot! Sorry I missed out on reviewing it, though I probably would have dragged the average down (it’s good, but it’s not best-of-the-year good).

  3. I actually submitted a blurb for this, but it got sucked down the rabbit hole. I expected my [7] to be one of the high scores!

  4. We could do far, far worse for the top spot, and nearly did.

  5. Also, Scott, thanks for the RSF. I really enjoyed that; perhaps that’s part of the problem…

  6. This is good but I much prefer his previous single, even though I suspect most people think it’s corny bullshit.

  7. “Let Me Down Easy”? That song is magic.

  8. I’m actually sorry I didn’t rate this higher, because I’ve come to love it a lot more than an [8] in the past few days.

  9. Also, sorry my blurb is like the most incoherent thing ever.

  10. Yes, “Let Me Down Easy.” I’m relieved that someone agrees!

  11. That album’s been a grower for me. A lot of great cuts on it.

  12. You mean Billy Currington has a back catalogue? I mean, I judged him solely on “Pretty Good At Drinkin’ Beer” (I was talking to a friend about how great “Love Done Gone” was and mentioned that title, and he said it sounded like a parody of country music.)

  13. I could have stretched to a 9 here, probably, but I felt weirdly bad that I was rating (almost) everything today so highly!

  14. “All Day Long” is the leadoff track from his latest, and it’s a sunny let’s-drink-wine-and-screw song. “Let Me Down Easy” is a beautiful, shuffling ballad about a relationship’s beginning that still contains premonitions of the end. I probably would’ve given “Beer” a [7], for what it’s worth.) That said, “People Are Crazy” from the last album was a massive country hit, and a completely fucking lazy story-song. Nothing quite as great as this, but definitely has his moments.

  15. Billy Currington has a pretty solid back catalog–including the only really great Shania song.

  16. whut

  17. Party for Two.

    Also he had a really rough last few years–he took time off for laryngitis and ptsd from childhood abuse; then when he got back, he had that giant stage collapse in Camrose, that hurt him, his bass player and killed a spectator.

  18. No, I know the song, it’s just the “only really great” took me aback.

  19. i am not the world’s biggest Shania fan

  20. JBradley: This actually reminds me, melodically and structurally, of Darlene Love’s “All Alone On Christmas.”

    Completely forgot to mention my other irk with this: it could use some variation after the second chorus, I always cut it off before it finishes (this also has to do with not loving the ba ba da’s) though I still love it enough for a [9].

  21. Sally: I checked the date stamp on your blurb and it seems that the song got closed off just as you were writing it.. i.e. it was open when you clicked the “write” button, but shortly after, like, within a second or so, it was closed and editing began. An additional 7 would have given this [8.30] FWIW!

  22. I forgot to mention: this reminds me of James Taylor’s version of “How Sweet It Is.”

  23. For the first fifteen seconds of this song I thought “have The Lucksmiths reformed?”. Which is not a bad thing.

  24. Wow — Don’t imagine I would’ve given this more than a 7 at most, maybe a 6, if I could motivate myself to start writing Jukebox reviews again (soon, I hope) — the Dixieland horn coda is the only part I really love, I think. Still, good for Billy, I guess. Anyway, as for his yacht-rocking back catalog, here’s a thing I wrote three years ago, though you’ll have to imagine all those little wingding things are apostrophes or whatever: