One of Clint Black’s greatest singles didn’t quite make it into golden oldie rotation, sandwiched as it was between two bigger hits from his third album The Hard Way, the #2 kick-off “We Tell Ourselves” and the #1 hit “When My Ship Comes In.” Both of those singles fit the climate of 1992 radio perfectly, as the format was beginning to be a bit more aggressive in its incorporation of pop and rock flavor into the new traditionalist sound.
There’s nothing new traditionalist about “Burn One Down.” This baby is old traditionalist, something that could have been released as is during the heyday of Haggard and not sounded out of place, the digital clarity being the only clear indication that this came out in the CD era. It’s very rare to hear anything like this today that isn’t either a self-conscious or ironic throwback.
“Burn One Down” captures Clint Black at the end of his lonely man phase – his last great bitter moment, if you will. The clever wordplay is there, but it remains in service of the song, something his later hits got backwards (“A Good Run of Bad Luck”, “Like the Rain.”) He’s known for a long time that his departing lover wasn’t pure of heart, and the inevitable has finally come to pass.
He knows that he’ll be the only one hurting over them coming to the end of the road, which he captures in one of my favorite song lines ever, playing off the double meaning of kind: “Anyone can see you won’t be crying over me, and you never were that kind.” After all, as he notes in the chorus, “That’s just the way you are. I’ve known all along.”