"Sweet Distraction" starts off the album with a chunky, Confederate Railroad-esque rhythm. Here, he sings about needing a "sweet distraction" to get that woman off his mind — namely, another woman. The lyrics use some interesting tricks, such as intentionally mispronouncing "Chevrolet" to make it rhyme, and the chorus has a definite singalong quality. Josh Thompson co-wrote this song with Andi Zack, and I could easily see it fitting on Thompson's fine debut. It's entirely possible that he's singing that song to "My Kind of Crowd," the blue-collar, "more Walmart than Wall Street" kind of crowd that neatly but tunefully fits into all sorts of country boy clichés. (As an aside, said clichés never bothered me.)
Speaking of tuneful clichés that don't bother me, "Down Homegrown" comes dangerously close to going too far, but redeems itself with an exuberant delivery. There's also "Any Other Way," an ode to conservative, small-town values, and of course, how he wouldn't have it any other way. "If You Didn't Have a Woman" plays with gender tropes in an original fashion: sure, if you didn't have a woman, you could let your buddies crash on the couch and lay around all day watching football, but you'd have no one there for moral support. It's an interesting look at things.
Fiddle and steel are up against Hammond and electric guitar on "One Too Many Times." It uses a beat-up truck as a metaphor for a woman who's broken his heart too often, but he keeps coming back to her. Maybe later on in the same relationship is "She Only Wanted Flowers", such as a Cadillac that hadn't moved in 18 days and a drawer of fine clothes; he realizes too late that she only wanted the little "Buy Me a Rose"-type things. With a killer lyric like "The last thing we did together / Was tear each other apart", it only gets better in the second verse. "Maybe She Won't Go" fits somewhere in between, with the narrator hoping that something will change her mind at the last second so she doesn't leave him. It's a bit of a thematic cousin to Lee Brice's "Happy Endings" and a sonic cousin to Trent Tomlinson's "Just Might Have Her Radio On," but in no way is it derivative. And maybe even earlier still is "Long Gone," a "Thank God for Believers"-type song about a woman who still sticks by her rather messed-up man.
On "When I'm Done Missing You," he promises to fix up his truck and mower and stop eating fast food, once he's done missing her. As down as he sounds, there's still that glimmer of hope he's holding on to — a hope that he'll be better and clean himself up. Similarly, on "That's What I Tell Myself," he tries to convince himself to take down her picture, not drink as much, show up at church, but he's down to nothing more than telling himself that. This leads into the most downbeat cut, "More Afraid of Living," where heavy drinking and smoking show that he's more afraid of living (without her) than he is of dying. It's a great hook to a great heartbreak song. "The Jukebox, The Bottle and Me" is yet another heartbreak song, where he's missing her, drinking and listening to "A-11." And finally, there's "When I Get There," an easygoing midtempo about abandoning everything to chase the dream of being a musician. It's a clear-eyed look at the often slow rise to fame.
Perhaps the lyrics of "When I Get There" will hold truer some point down the road for David Adam Byrnes. For now, almost no one's heard of the man except for maybe a few other reviewers such as I. But as is so often the case, I'm doing my part to get the word out for an artist you maybe haven't heard of. And I'm enjoying the music once again. I hope you do too.
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