If you’re an artist plying your trade as a traditional country singer in 2019 the chances are good that you’re not likely to find much success in the mainstream of country radio. Jon Pardi is one of the exceptions to that rule and while Write You A Song and California Sunrise played up Pardi’s George Strait-like ability to blend tradition with songs that work on the radio, they certainly didn’t suggest we’d get a record quite like Heartache Medication. This is a star-making record for the tall cowboy. The album is full of all kinds of twangy telecasters, delicious steel guitar and divine fiddles.
The album opens up with the 1-2 punch of “Old Hat,” a song which is as much a statement about the changing of the world’s values as it is about the loss of innocence and manners, and “Heartache Medication,” is a song that could work in any decade from the 1970s to now with neo-classical country melodies and strong fiddle and steel guitar grooves backing up a lyric about a man who is totally OK with alcohol serving as his “heartache medication” for a broken heart. The album’s title is appropriate as it features no less than six songs which deal with boozy times, both good and bad. One of ‘em is a gorgeous duet with Lauren Alaina titled “Don’t Blame The Whiskey.” This mid-album highlight tells a story of a broken relationship where something needs to happen as where to pin the blame but they both agree it isn’t whiskey’s fault. It’s a contemporary sounding ballad.
There’s a Waylon-esque backbeat to “Me And Jack” while “Tequila Little Time” is a playful, horn-filled outlier that wouldn’t be out of place on an Alan Jackson or Toby Keith record. “Call Me Country” is a mission statement which finds Pardi discussing who he is and why he’s proud to be a country singer, even if he’s a “ghost on the radio.” With a song title of “Love Her Like She’s Leaving,” you know that Pardi’s gonna deliver a classic, fiddle-filled statement of love like his heroes of his youth did and that’s exactly what you get. Paired with the radio-ready “Nobody Leaves A Girl Like That,” you get the sense that Pardi walks the talk with his songs. “Tied One On” has the shuffling fiddles, the moaning cries of steel guitars and Pardi’s achin’ twang in the intro before it blends into a honky tonk raver about feeling good about being free from “the ball and chain.” It’s a fun little number.
There are plenty of moments on Heartache Medication where Jon Pardi showcases why he’s managed to be one of the few artists in the 21st century to become radio stars and it’s through knowing who he is and who he’s not. You’re not gonna get any snap or click tracks, programmed beats or anything resembling pop or hiphop or even hard rock. Instead, you get a steady dose of the country music truth.