If 2016's California Sunrise was Jon Pardi leaning into his classic country influences, his new album, Heartache Medication, is a full-on dive in. Out Friday (Sept. 27), the new project is what happens when the mainstream embraces a classic-inspired sound, as radio did with Pardi's recent hits "Head Over Boots," "Heartache on the Dance Floor" and "Night Shift."
"California Sunrise was me as, 'Okay, this is what you want? Boom, here you go,' but it’s still country at the same time. Heartache Medication is like, 'Well, I’m gonna lean this way a little more,'" Pardi explained to The Boot and other media outlets at a recent album-listening event. "I guess Heartache is a little more of my influences from the '70s, the '80s, the '90s, the 2000s, to where it’s all kinda in this record and it’s a sound that you haven’t really heard in a long time."
Traditional-sounding odes to the good old days, both in life and in love (the album opener "Old Hat," "Call Me Country," "Just Like Old Times") mingle with punny, wild drinking songs ("Me and Jack," "Tied One On") and more wistful reflections (the Lauren Alaina duet "Don't Blame It on Whiskey," the album-closing "Starlight"). Pardi co-wrote seven of the 14 songs, but also largely relied on Nashville's cache of talented songwriters who, the artist says, really understood what he was after.
"I give a lot of credit to Nashville songwriters that showed up as fans of California Sunrise and what I’m doing, what path I’m on, to really knock it out of the park to where I’m like, 'I love that song; I would write that song,'" Pardi reflects.
Whether you're in need of a cure for what ails your love life or just want to hear some modern songs that'll send you straight back to the days of neo-traditional and '90s country, press play on these can't-miss Heartache Medication tracks.
"Nobody Leaves a Girl Like That"
The narrator of "Nobody Leaves a Girl Like That" knows he messed up. Over an electric guitar and whining steel, Pardi sings about a woman who's a dream come true -- she's got "the kind of eyes you wanna get lost in" and "a heart of gold" -- and the "reckless and wild" cowboy who drove her away. By the mourning solo at the song's bridge, she's gone and found someone new, and he's going crazy.
"Ain't Always the Cowboy"
Fiddle and a steady beat that's reminiscent of a ticking clock back this breakup song that finds the man left behind by a woman who can't be tamed. Listeners can sense that there's still an enormous amount of love between them as Pardi sings about he "can't keep from smilin', 'cause damn, that girl can fly." We stan a gender trope-subverting king.
Dwight Yoakam would be proud of this raucous breakup track. Upbeat, lighthearted and humorous, the lyrics find a guy "cut[ting] her loose and t[ying] one on": ending his relationship with a girlfriend who's sick of his hobbies, his friends and his drinking and immediately going out to enjoy all three. There's not a bit of sadness here: "Don't know why I waited so damn long," Pardi sings.
We all have made decisions we know aren't the best. Pardi's "Oughta Know That" cops to that fact, but isn't exactly remorseful about it; really, this song is more of a shrug emoji-style reaction to those actions. Stick around for the jam session at the song's end.
"Starlight" is an ode to lost loved ones, but an upbeat one, full of uplifting banjo. Back in 2014, Pardi and co-writers Bart Butler and Jeffrey Steele penned lyrics that reflect how those people are still with us always, despite not being physically here: "We wanted it to be like real upbeat and lifting to where you listen and you remember happy thoughts. You kind of feel like they're around with you," Pardi tells Taste of Country.
Four years later, "Starlight" found new life after a close friend of Pardi's died by suicide. The singer sent his family a video message and a recording of the song, and after learning of the impact it made, Pardi put it on his newest album.