If Dustin Lynch feels the need to burn something, I suggest he start with the master tape of this track.
I anointed Blake Shelton as the head of the group of artists that receive zero love from me, but Dustin Lynch has a pretty senior position in this party as well. Outside of “Good Girl” (5/10), Lynch hasn’t received anything higher than a three from my song reviews, and I consider him one of the worst offenders of the Bro-Country and Metropolitan eras. Country radio, however, can’t get enough of this guy (seven of his last eight singles have earned airplay #1s), so Lynch hasn’t had much of a need to change up his terrible formula. Considering the circumstances, I suppose we’re lucky to get what we did when Lynch released “Momma’s House” as the third single from his just-barely-released Tullahoma album. It’s slightly less obnoxious than Lynch’s previous release “Ridin’ Roads,” but it’s still nothing more than a generic, forgettable rant along the lines of Sam Hunt’s “Break Up In A Small Town,” and it doesn’t convince the listener that the tale is worth commiserating over.
The production feels like a really odd choice for a song as depressing as this one claims to be. It opens with some bright, happy acoustic guitar and mandolin riffs backed with some light snare, and even as the mix slowly morphs into something more conventional (first the unnecessary snap track appears, then the electric guitars rise up, and finally the token banjo and full drum set jump in), those acoustic riffs remain a central piece of the arrangement, and the overall vibe of the mix feels surprisingly cheeful and optimistic, even with the slower tempo and usual dose of minor chords tossed into the pile. Considering that the narrator’s “momma’s house” is the only thing standing between them and federal arson charges, saying that the mix clashes badly with the writing is an understatement. By undermining the frustrated, melancholy feel of the lyrics this badly, whoever produced this mess leaves the listener completely confused as to how they should fell about the song, and blunts the impact the track leaves behind.
Of course, when it comes to selling the story, Lynch doesn’t do himself any favors with his vocal performance either. His flat tone and wooden flow during the verses fail to endear him to the audience, and even though he tries to inject a bit more passion on the choruses, he just doesn’t have the charm or charisma to make the narrator feel sympathetic or relatable. If you close your eyes and ignore the lyrics as you listen, you wouldn’t get the sense from Lynch’s delivery that the narrator was in all that much distress (heck, he uses the exact same tone on “Small Town Boy” and “Ridin’ Roads”). As a result, the listener doesn’t find this sob story to be all that exceptional, and thus doesn’t see a need to care about it (especially when the production is standing behind Lynch screaming “Don’t listen to him! Everything’s fine!”) I feel like even a veteran artist would struggle to reconcile a nasty sound/subject matter mismatch like this one, which means a weaksauce act like Lynch doesn’t have a chance.
Speaking of weaksauce, can we talk about this bolted-on hook that barely fits with the rest of the writing? In truth, it’s a bit of a deke: When you see a title like “Momma’s House,” you think “oh great, another unimaginative, paint-by-numbers, ‘I’m so country!’ ode to mom, God, and pickup trucks.” Instead, the narrator spends the entire song whining about how a breakup has destroyed their relationship with their hometown by constantly reminding them of the love that was. “Momma’s house,” however, is only mentioned as the thing keeping the narrator from burning the whole place down, and it feels detached from the rest of the impersonal references (parks, bars, parties, etc.). There’s nothing here that truly brings the town to life and allows us to walk with Lynch as he travels on his tour of pain, and the cookie-cutter relationship moments don’t shine any light on the situation either. (And don’t get me started on the nonsensical “I feel your love, I hear your laugh, got them take me way on back” line, which makes my inner grammarian retch.) It just feels like the writers didn’t put a whole lot of effort into the song, which you can’t really blame them for given that the producer pretty much ignored the lyrics anyway.
“Momma’s House” is what happens when the parties involved can’t come to an agreement about the song identity. The producer went one way, the writers went another, and Dustin Lynch just shrugged and threw down the same flavorless performance that he always does. The result is a song that cannot justify its own existence, as it tries to be too many things and winds up being none of them. This track has been done before and done better (see: Brantley Gilbert and Lindsay Ell’s “What Happens In A Small Town”), so there’s no point in wasting your time and energy on this nonsense.
Rating: 4/10. Next!