Written by Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Mark Wystrach, Shane McAnally, and Josh Osborne
A generation ago, “Drinkin’ Problem” may not have stood out from other mainstream fare. But in 2017, one of the most consistently dreadful years for popular country music in memory, a single that hinges on a wry turn-of-phrase and recognizably country instrumentation is a welcome reprieve.
One of the better songs Shane McAnally has co-written in quite some time, “Drinkin’ Problem” puts a nihilistic spin on the familiar trope of drowning one’s sorrows in booze. If the first step toward recovery is admitting that there’s a problem, then the narrator here is a long ways off from the first of his twelve steps: “They keep on talking, drawing conclusions / They call it a problem, I call it a solution.” It’s a familiar wordplay, but it’s one that works well in the context of a narrative of a man who has not yet begun to feel even a twinge of regret over his choices to turn to a bottle in the wake of his broken heart.
The traditional-leaning production– courtesy of McAnally and, somewhat surprisingly, Dann Huff– is well-matched to the content of the song itself. While it won’t have anyone mistaking Midland for the second coming of Outlaw acts, it places them alongside the likes of Jon Pardi and William Michael Morgan as artists bidding for mainstream success with a sound that isn’t yet another iteration of Sam Hunt’s lite-R&B aesthetic.
As for Midland themselves, the band has been the subject of considerable scrutiny for their dubious origin story. While genre purists who are nursing an authenticity fetish would prefer to dismiss Midland out-of-hand, ultimately it’s of little consequence that the band’s hardscrabble, rusted-out van biography is largely a work of fiction.
A greater concern is that frontman Mark Wystrach spends nearly the entirety of the song off-pitch. His adenoidal vocal tone is unpleasant, and it’s a substantial liability on a single that may be one of the year’s best, though it falls a bit short of being the outright classic it had the potential to be.