Written by Jessi Alexander and Jon Randall
Since releasing her debut album, Honeysuckle Sweet, all the way back in 2005, Jessi Alexander has turned into one of Nashville’s most reliable go-to commercial songwriters. Honeysuckle Sweet, in its best moments, suggested that Alexander might emerge as a next-gen Matraca Berg; while her work hasn’t ascended to those lofty heights, she’s certainly carved out a niche for herself and can be counted on to elevate the quality of the songs on which she’s a co-writer.
Few of those songs, however, predicted the absolute knockout of her first solo single in ages. “Mama Drank” does what so many of the best contemporary country songs do: It takes an idea that’s so obvious on its face and makes it shocking to discover that it hasn’t been done before, or at least not with such wit and verve. Alexander plays the part of a put-upon housewife to the hilt, outlining an ever-mounting list of responsibilities and demands that build over the course of each dreary day. She structures the song’s chorus perfectly so that it ends with its killer hook: “Now I know why my mama drank.”
The line lands with a real sense of heft to it. The single’s production incorporates some down-home blues licks that recall Ray Wylie Hubbard’s output, and Alexander slurs many of her lines just behind the beat. That her voice has dropped in register over the years works to great effect here. She sings with a resignation that sounds lived in. She has a relatively small sample for comparison, but Alexander has never sounded better than she does on “Mama Drank,” and she’s reserved her finest song to date for herself.