Josh Thompson – “Way Out Here”
Songwriters: Josh Thompson, David Lee Murphy & Casey Beathard.
Josh Thompson’s latest single, “Way Out Here,” is far from way out anywhere. It treads familiar ground, that walked by many musicians who have attempted to speak for the spirit of small-town America and the traditional, hardworking people who live there–a path Justin Moore tried recently with his paltry offerings “Small Town USA” and “Backwoods.”
That said, “Way Out Here” is certainly steeped in country music tradition, taking a cue from classic political-statement songs like Haggard’s “Okie from Muskogee.” Here, Thompson guides us on a tour of the contemporary American experience that is potentially more dark and in earnest than much of what can be found among today’s typical radio fodder.
Thompson’s gritty, world-weary vocals simmer with anger, despair and moral force as the song approaches numerous key concerns including the economy, military service, work ethic, religious belief, gun ownership, governance, and musical taste. The government bailout is not well-received in these parts, to say the least.
The inhabitants of this imagined town are sure of their way of like, and certainly won’t tolerate laziness, flip-flopping or moral relativism. But the message falls flat.
While “Way Out Here” may be gold to Thompson’s growing fan base, and well-received in today’s tense political climate, its unctuous, try-too-hard style and lyrics walk a fine line between commentary and insult. Instead of offering something substantive, the song brushes over gross generalization of a wide swath of topics, shouting its talking points from a foot away when whispering an well-reasoned case would be so much more effective of a strategy.
The people of “Way Out” are defined by their love of “John Wayne, Johnny Cash and John Deere,” and they defend themselves with “The Good Lord and a gun.” But name-checking Jesus and the Man in Black isn’t a complete, sufficient or fair characterization of any group of people. Like so many of its contemporaries, the song is an attempt to lump people into “us vs. them” categories, utilizing criteria like regional food preferences and political coteries to stratify “country” and “not country.”
Lost in such an attempt is the suffering, joy and passion of these people’s day-to-day existence.
Thompson flops badly in this brooding piece of backwoods bravado. “Way Out Here” amounts to just the latest posturing, wearisomely sloganeering homily trying to encapsulate what it really means to be country or really means to be patriotic in rural America.
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