July 28, 2013
One of my longest running criticisms of contemporary country music is the disappearance of the working poor. It’s a segment of the population that has been growing exponentially, but the genre that has historically been associated with chronicling their experiences has instead chosen to lionize and romanticize small town partying and country living. Lots of songs about Sunday mornings and Saturday nights, but almost none about those tiring days in between.
This necessary documentation has found some mainstream success through Kacey Musgraves, who has a keen writer’s eye for capturing the specific realities of the daily existence of working class folks. “Blowin’ Smoke” is one of the most effective examples of her talent in this area, crafting an entire song around a smoke break for exhausted waitresses with limited options and dwindling hope for the future. They talk a big game about getting away someday, but they know that opportunities are as impossible to grab as the smoke departing from their cigarettes.
Unfortunately, the monotony of their experiences is replicated a bit too faithfully in the song’s production and melody, which both plod along without any sign of a hook. I get that they were trying to be faithful to the theme of the song, but if Musgraves is going to become the modern day Merle Haggard that we need, she must keep in mind that as vivid as Hag’s classic songs were in their depiction of the struggling underclass, they were also quite catchy and had memorable vocals and guitar work, too.
Written by Luke Laird, Shane McAnally, and Kacey Musgraves