I’ve asked this question many times before: Do we really need another country-boy anthem? The answer seems to be, “it depends on how good it is.” After only two singles off his recent album Startin’ Fires, it’s Blake’s turn to release his seemingly obligatory “country boy” take. While it’s not exactly a master thesis on country lifestyles, it’s still way more tolerable than almost any other in the recent deluge of like-themed songs.
“Hillbilly Bone” starts off almost as an inversion of “Holler Back,” in that it describes not a displaced country boy in the city, but rather a city boy who’s “never been south of Queens” but still has a “hillbilly bone.” It’s a fairly interesting character sketch that leads into the line “we all got a hillbilly bone down deep inside,” and already, the song strikes a rather interesting concept that the likes of “She’s Country,” “Small Town USA”, or even Trace’s own “Ladies Love Country Boys” (not that I dislike any of those songs) have never explored. Indeed, it’s hard to disagree with the sentiment that we all have a little bit of country boy or girl in us, and by saying that, this song instantly becomes more identifiable to the listener. It still relies on a couple pieces of stock imagery, and the “bone ba ba bone” chorus could be a distant cousin to “that thang, da dang dang dang” (sorry, had to say it), but the fact that “Bone” aims just a little higher is enough to elevate any of the lyrical weaknesses.
Also working in the song’s favor are Blake’s and Trace’s voices. Both singers seem to understand that the song calls for a loose, fun delievery, and that’s exactly what they give. They especially sound pleasing on the chorus, where Blake’s countertenor and Trace’s bass-baritone contrast in a very ear-pleasing high-low harmony. The production is edgy, brash and guitar-heavy, without coming across as a ham-fisted attempt at amping it up.
Lately, it seems that every male artist with more than a couple hits under his belt is required to have at least one single that explores this same territory. But “Hillbilly Bone” is proof that the “country boy” trope doesn’t have to be bland and uninspired, and can in fact make for a good, solid song.