Ah, so this is the Jon Pardi everybody’s been talking about.
In the battle between traditional and modern country music, Pardi has been playing the awkward role of peacemaker, as his past singles (“Dirt On My Boots,” “Heartache On The Dance Floor,” etc.) have both incorporated long-forgotten classic instruments (he’s about the only act to consistently work a fiddle into his songs) and embraced the electronic elements that are currently popular (prominent drum machines are also a theme in his work). For the fourth (and likely final) single off of his California Sunrise album, however, Pardi has gone all in on a neotraditional sound with “She Ain’t In It,” and the result is probably my favorite Pardi single yet.
The production here is not only traditional, but surprisingly acoustic as well: The percussion is handled exclusively by a drum set, and the electric guitar stays mostly in the background, with a brief turn in the spotlight on the bridge solo. Melody duties are generally covered by an acoustic guitar and an organ, but a steel guitar and fiddle are tossed in at nearly every opportunity, and one of these two is usually the loudest, most noticeable instrument in the mix. As a result, the song trades some of the groove and intensity of Pardi’s past work for something slower and more reflective, which suits the song’s tone perfectly and gives the listener ample space to comtemplate the writing. Unlike some songs I’ve reviewed recently (*cough* “I’d Be Jealous Too” *cough*), the frequent minor chords used here actually complement the song instead of working at cross purposes with it. Let’s hope Dustin Lynch is taking notes…
To be honest, I’m not terribly impressed with Pardi as a vocalist. His range and flow are tolerable (not neither is really tested here), and he certainly has enough charisma to adequately fill the narrator’s role, but his voice has no tone at all and just sounds flat and nasally. While I wouldn’t say he detracts from the song at all, he definitely keeps it from reaching its full potential (in the hands of a stronger singer like Chris Young or Easton Corbin, this would really be something special). Thankfully, Pardi brings just enough earnestness to the table to sell the song, connect with his listeners, as pass along his heartbreak.
The lyrics here tell the tale of a man preparing to rejoin society and go out for a good time in the wake of a breakup, knowing full well that he’s still hung up on his ex and that things will end in disaster if they show up (think of it as a prequel to Walker McGuire’s “‘Til Tomorrow”). There’s nothing terribly groundbreaking here (although the writers get credit for the numbers of things they manage to rhyme with “in it”), but it checks all of the emotional boxes that a post-breakup song should, and forms a good foundation for a charismatic performer to command his listeners’ attention and sympathy. (Given my reservations about Pardi as a singer, I would argue that the lyrics do more to sell the song than he does.) At best, this is a relatable song that may draw a tear or two from those who’ve lived through this sort of thing; at worse, it’s an inoffensive cry-in-your-beer track bolstered by enjoyable production.
Overall, “She Ain’t In It” is a good song that features great production, solid writing, and a passable delivery. While I’m still not the huge Pardi fan that others in the country blogosphere are, I’ll certainly tolerate having him around if it means hearing more songs like this.
Rating: 7/10. Check this one out.
One thought on “Song Review: Jon Pardi, “She Ain’t In It””
First of all, glad to see you back! Hope the craziness is dying down a little!
“While I’m still not the huge Pardi fan that others in the country blogosphere are…”
Personally, I’m torn on him at this point. I very much enjoyed his debut because I thought it brought an interesting sound (rocking neo-traditional music) and some interesting writing to an otherwise bleak time in mainstream country music. I thought his B- sides EP was even better.
I have however been critical of his new album though, mostly because he seems to be playing to that “savior of traditional country music” reputation he’s gained a little TOO much. Sure, good on you for incorporating fiddles, but what the hell are songs like “Dirt On My Boots” or “Heartache” supposed to be?!? That’s not to mention that the majority of the album focused squarely on him getting off of a long days work and hooking up with his woman.
With this song though, you’re right, it’s not groundbreaking, but man does it ever hit my sweet nostalgic spot for country music. I think Pardi does a great job vocally both on a technical and an emotive level (who would have thought we’d ever say that?) , and the George Strait style fiddles combined with the pedal steel really makes for such a smooth, solid as hell country song. I like it more than you do, but I respect where you’re coming from with your criticisms.
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