Song Review: Elvie Shane, “My Boy”

As a wise man once said, “Blood is thicker than water, but love is thicker than blood.”

Shane is a Kentucky native  who wrote his official debut single “My Boy” long before he signed with BBR Music Group in 2019 (the song only received a formal radio release a few months ago). Honestly, if Shane succeeds, it will be in spite of the Nashville system, not because of it: He’s been stuck just outside the Mediabase charts for a while now (if finally reached #50 just this week), and he, like a lot of other artists in that area of the charts, has seen established artists zoom past him time and time again with massive debut-week spin counts. It’s a disheartening spectacle at a time when the divide between newer and long-tenured artists seems to be growing by the day, and it’s a shame because Shane’s single is actually pretty decent. It’s a mature, heartfelt, and well-constructed take on a story not heard on country radio in over twenty years (Brad Paisley’s 1999 #1 “He Didn’t Have To Be” is the obvious comparison), and it deserves better than to be relegated to the fringes of country radio playlists.

The production uses an understated, less-is-more approach to getting its point across, and it (mostly) succeeds in the endeavor. Yes, at its core this is the same generic guitar-and-drum setup everyone else is leaning on, but the acoustic guitar and opens and anchors the track has some decent texture and sets a serious-but-grateful tone for the mix, and elements are added judiciously over time to help build momentum (first a drum set that slowly emerges from the ocean, and then some restrained electric guitars and background synth tones that add some depth to the sound (if not a whole lot of flavor or volume). While I wish the producer had pushed the envelope a bit more here (the arrangement could really use another instrument or two to break up the monotony of the sound, or at least a bit more muscle from the guitars to push the song along), the mix still does a nice job establishing a positive vibe for the song and putting its true source of power (the writing) front and center. It’s a good-but-not-great mix, one that recognizes its support role and checks every box along the way to accomplish its goal.

Shane’s performance is much like the production: I wish there was a bit more to it, but what’s here is still fairly solid. The song doesn’t test Shane’s range, flow, or power at all, so it’s hard to gauge his technical skill, but there’s definitely room to flex some vocal muscle that I really wish Shane had taken advantage of. However, he breezes effortlessly through the track and brings enough charm and charisma to the table to feel credible and believable in the narrator’s role. This is no small feat, especially for a newer artist: While I wish he’d done more to share his joy of being a stepfather with the audience, this is a song that not just any product of Nashville’s faceless young male assembly line could pull line, and very few creations of the Metro-Bro era could make this work (can you picture Tyler Hubbard or Dustin Lynch singing this? Me neither). It’s a decent sales job on a track with with a high degree of emotional difficulty, so I think Shane does just enough here to warrant further study.

The lyrics tell the story of a narrator who finds himself in the unexpected role of stepfather, and serves as a declaration that he accepts and appreciates the role (hence the hook “he ain’t my blood but he’s my, he’s my boy”). It’s the first time we’ve heard a story along these lines in a long time, and even Paisley’s tune approaches the topic from the son’s point of view rather than the father’s. It’s not the most in-depth story in the world, but it’s still got more plot development than your average Blandemic track, and the scenes that we get are poignant (the second verse discussing the first drawing that included ‘Dad’ in it was excellent), and the narrator’s unwavering commitment to his new role is laudable (they don’t hesitate to post the picture on the fridge, and while the chorus continuously hits you over the head with the narrator’s devotion, it never feels oppressive or overdone, which really surprised me). There’s a real sense of maturity and optimism to this track, leaving the listener with a warm feeling inside without feeling too cheesy. For a track like this, that’s about all you can ask for.

“My Boy” is the sort of track I’d like to hear more of today’s radio, as it provides some welcome variety and emotion to the airwaves. The production sets a suitable mood, the writing manages to drive home its point without overdoing it, and Elvie Shane provides enough presence and credibility to draw in the audience. It’s a real shame that the song has struggled to find traction on the radio up to this point, because it adds a dimension to the genre that’s been sorely lacking in recent years (namely, a dash of maturity and hard-won experience in what’s become a sea of party tracks and first crushes). I’m not sure where Shane will go from here (or even if country music will let him go somewhere at all), but I’m very curious to find out.

Rating: 7/10. This one is worth your time.