Single Review Roundup: Luke Combs, Kenny Chesney, Cam, and Mo Pitney

This roundup features a few summer ditties that don’t succeed in their approach.

Luke Combs Lovin On You

“Lovin’ On You”

Luke Combs

Written by Luke Combs, Thomas Archer, Ray Fulcher, and James McNair

I get it – no one wants to hear quarantine-themed songs. But if we had to dump “Six Feet Apart” for the Brooks & Dunn-knockoff, couldn’t we at least get the song that actually features them? Granted, while I would prefer “1,2, Many,” there’s nothing inherently wrong with this: the saxophone interplay with the saloon piano and pedal steel gives this a raucous pulse and some distinguishable flavor, at least for modern country music standards. But it’s still, at its core, an interchangeable love song with some bad vocal mixing toward the end, and while I get why Combs and his team are playing it safe – who wouldn’t want to capitalize on his momentum? – it’s a slightly disappointing choice.

Grade: B-

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Kenny Chesney Happy Does

“Happy Does”

Kenny Chesney

Written by Brad Clawson, Brock Berryhill, Greylan James, and Jamie Paulin

It’s only slightly less tone-deaf for the moment than his previous single, but Kenny Chesney’s “Happy Does” is a shot of optimism that misses the mark. Granted, it’s the umpteenth Chesney single about living in the moment and finding happiness in one’s own way, but it’s also the umpteenth one to come with a condescending attitude and from a place of privilege. Drinking a beer and hanging a palm tree in one’s truck is an empty, nihilistic way to find comfort in any capacity, especially now.

Granted, the ultimate point is to find comfort in the little details of life, but Chesney’s attempts to sell that sentiment always feel preachy; some people have to, you know, face their fears, especially when they don’t live on an island paradise and have a humongous net worth. There’s a nice rollick to the acoustics in the midrange on the chorus, and I think Chesney’s intentions are always admirable with these types of songs, but this is empty comfort that breezes right by.

Grade: C+

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Cam Classic

“Classic”

Cam

Written by Camaron Ochs and Jack Antonoff

Well, I suppose I can retire my rant from my “Redwood Tree” review, as Cam has scored a rare record deal that lets her stay with RCA Records while Triple Tigers promotes her material to country radio. She’s long overdue for a sophomore album, but I’m left wishing they pushed “Redwood Tree” over new single “Classic,” instead.

One listen through will confirm it was made for the summer months, what with the driving, bubbly acoustics and all. But it borrows from the standard modern pop formula of favoring loud percussion over a strong melody, which, ironically enough, means it’s automatically just not as catchy with that approach. It doesn’t help that the lyrics are fairly dull, even if they’re not the driving focus of the track – a “Johnny & June” reference to explain why your love with a significant other is classic? Really?

Without a strong pulse to this, it’s a fairly boring, disappointing track overall. On a positive note, her upcoming album will include “Diane.”

Grade: C

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Mo Pitney Ain’t Bad For A Good Ol' Boy

“Ain’t Bad For a Good Ol’ Boy”

Mo Pitney

Written by Mo Pitney, Trent Willmon, and Phil O’Donnell

I’m a firm believe that there are some books you can judge by their cover, er … title. The real test is whether or not they match those expectations. Upon listening to Mo Pitney’s first piece of new music in four years, I’m left thinking, “really?”

Granted, it’s not quite the southern pandering schlock I expected – Pitney’s brand of this is more homespun and not as forced. But that doesn’t mean his daily routine makes for an interesting song idea. It doesn’t help that the second verse devotes itself to talking about his significant other, but only describes her by her looks rather than, you know, any interesting character attributes about her. Again, it’s not all as smug as it sounds, but Pitney is better than this. And while I didn’t agree with critics who found the production approach on his debut album dull, I understand their concerns here.

Like with Cam, I’m excited we’re finally getting another album from Pitney, but I wanted more from this.

Grade: C-

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8 Comments

  1. Of this lot, I’ll go to bat for the Cam single as a decent pop-country escapist track. The songwriting isn’t anything noteworthy– I’d happily retire “Johnny and June” references as the laziest shorthand for a relationship that songwriters clearly do not actually understand the nuances of– but I find the production and Cam’s performance engaging.

    I remain unmoved by Pitney’s output thus far. I hear the obvious potential, but potential alone doesn’t mean much of it goes unrealized. Right, Chris Young?

  2. I do think it’s a better version of “‘Til There’s Nothing Left” from the same project – I’ll give it that.

    I think there’s a certain “aw, shucks” charm to Pitney’s delivery, not unlike, say, Easton Corbin. It’s just a shame that neither artist has offered much in the way of actual personality, whereas the artist who does, with power to boot – Young, as you said – completely wastes it and still attains the hits.

    Annnnddd … with how these conversations on Cam and Pitney intertwine, I’m reminded of how much country radio sucks. *Sigh*

  3. None of these songs did a thing for me. With just a few exceptions, I guess modern mainstream country in general is just not for me anymore. I always felt country radio was more interesting during the Fall/Winter months anyway with usually more quality releases, but now we’re living in a time in which these “summer songs” are played to death during the winter as well.

    The Luke Combs song is a B&D knock off alright, but unfortunately it’s 2000’s B&D instead of 90’s B&D, which I would’ve preferred. Like the steel guitar, but otherwise it’s so meh.

    As for the Kenny Chesney song….yawn.

    And I agree that Cam and Mo Pitney are much better than either of these songs. Sucks that they needed to pander to radio with these. I actually liked the majority of the songs on Mo’s debut album, so hearing this new one was a big let down for me. I already knew I was in for a disappointment with that opening drum machine and that same beat that’s been used in nearly every other song on the radio. Definitely a pass for me!

  4. I don’t think either Cam or Pitney needed to pander. Cam had to sidestep radio years ago for a fair shake, and she’s done remarkably well in getting her name out there, at least to me. Alas, radio is king in country, so her new deal doesn’t surprise me.

    Pitney … Yeah, I liked his debut too. I don’t think pandering to radio is going to do anything for him, sadly. He reminds me of Josh Turner in that he’s too … what’s the word … polite? At least for modern mainstream country radio standards.

    But yeah, country radio singles don’t do much to elicit much praise out of me these days, though I cover them anyway! There’s some good stuff out there, though – “Small Town Hypocrite” by Caylee Hammack, “We Were Rich” by Runaway June, “Black Like Me” by Mickey Guyton … and, of course, a plethora of material outside the radio.

  5. Just so you know, I appreciate the coverage of both older and the latest country on this site. Sometimes you guys help me discover some of the better modern country songs and artists out there, and your coverage of the not so great ones serves as a good warning of what I’m in for, lol. Keep up the great work, guys! :)

  6. Thanks, Jamie! That’s about the best compliment I think we could receive! For the record, I think that, while it’s obviously the content that fuels the website, it’s the readers who serve as the inspiration to keep going with it. I’ve always considered CU to have the best comment sections out there.

  7. Re. Kenny Chesney: Apart from his 2002 hit “A Lot Of Things Different” (which was co-written by no less a legend than Bill Anderson), it’s very difficult to think of him as all that big of a deal as an artist, country or otherwise, when he seems intent on plowing over the same ground that Jimmy Buffett has done has done with a lot more ingenuity.

  8. Erik, pretty much agree with you on Kenny. “A Lot Of Things Different” is one of the last songs I’ve truly enjoyed from him, as well. Besides a few good singles here and there (“Anything But Mine,” “Who You’d Be Today,” “You And Tequila,” etc.) I never really understood what was the big deal about him either for the last 15 or so years. He did have quite a few great songs throughout the 90’s and very early 00’s, though, like “That’s Why I’m Here,” “When I Close My Eyes,” “A Chance,” “The Tin Man,” “What I Need To Do,” etc. I even consider ditties like “She’s Got It All” and “Fall In Love” to be much superior to most of his 21st century output. It’s just too bad he decided to go all Jimmy Buffett/frat boy on us.

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