Those blessed dirt roads make a return once again on Jason Aldean’s latest single, sans the hick-rap this time around. “Tattoos On This Town” is a simple small-town nostalgia trip that should fit in nicely with the current trends on country radio, and no doubt supply Aldean with another chart-topping hit. It comes as a pleasant surprise, however, that this particular offering displays a notable level of creativity while largely managing to steer clear of the clichés.
A common issue that plagues many of the rural small-town songs on country radio is a failure to pinpoint specific features of one’s hometown that make it special or meaningful to the narrator (“Small Town USA” is one notable offender in this regard). “Tattoos On This Town” is different in that it highlights unique characteristics of the narrator’s hometown that bring back memories of his youth – black marks on a country road, the words “Ali, will you marry me?” painted on an overpass, and a rope burn on an old tree branch are all mentioned. The narrator notes that, while his youthful exploits have definitely left some physical marks on the town he grew up in – like “Tattoos On This Town” - he also appreciatively reflects on how such experiences have shaped him as an individual. Such specific lyrical construction supplies color to the song’s story instead of just leaving it as a vague, black and white template.
Of course, some of the typical Aldean criticisms do still apply. Yes, the production is loud, as it often is. But as it turns out, “Tattoos” succeeds due to the fact that it rises about the superficial idealization and cliché formulas that have bogged down a great deal of Aldean’s material. This is one road that Jason Aldean would do well to go down further.
Written by Neil Thrasher, Wendell Mobley, and Michael Dulaney
Listen: Tattoos On This Town