Justin Moore – “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away”

Karlie Justus Marlowe | February 18th, 2011

Justin MooreSongwriters: Dallas Davidson, Rob Hatch and Brett Jones

Films, paintings and plays have always had somewhat of an advantage over less visual forms of art such as novels, poems and songs. Whereas actors, sets and brush strokes can have an immediate impact on audiences, the written word often requires greater participation from its reader or listener.

But when done well, simple words and lyrics can paint a picture just as clearly as any big-screen feature film. In fact, sometimes they even have a leg up: Instead of offering just one concrete interpretation of a lover’s embrace or lonely breakdown, they can take on the memories and meanings from each listener’s or reader’s past, present and hopes for the future, and all of the people involved along the way.

Case in point: The opening lines of Justin Moore’s new single “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away,” which beautifully block the scene of a familiar familial memory:

Every day I drive to work across Flint River bridge
A hundred yards from the spot where me and grandpa fished
There’s a piece of his old fruit stand on the side of Sawmill road
He’d be there peelin’ peaches if it was 20 years ago
And what I wouldn’t give to ride around in that old truck with him

Small details such as the street name and type of fruit instantly bring the setting to life, and Moore carries it all with an easy twang missing from Rhett Akins’ (of “That Ain’t My Truck” fame) 2006 version. These charming, bittersweet moments are carried on throughout the song, as the singer dreams of his children laughing at their great-grandfather’s accent and driving back from heaven with his loved ones waving in the rearview mirror.

“If Heaven Wasn’t so Far Away” is the first song from the singer’s upcoming album, tentatively titled Outlaws Like Me, and its straightforward presentation – backed up by strains of steel and string – makes a strong case for Moore’s claims of its transition into a more traditional-leaning sound.

He sounds comfortable here, without pushing to be heard over the rocking electric guitars in previous hits “Backwoods” and “How I Got to Be This Way,” or keeping up with the tongue twister “Back That Thing Up.” The honest, easy delivery is a nice change of pace that makes it harder to write him off as a poor man’s Jason Aldean.

As it progresses, however, the tune’s thematic connection becomes strained and its momentum falters. Homages to late loved ones transition into mentions of a dog that passed away, Hank Williams’ death and a Janis Joplin serenade from the grave, solidifying that “Me and Bobby McGee” must be a top pick in the songwriter’s handbook under the Suggested Song References chapter. These references don’t carry as much emotional weight, and seem out of place in such a poignant song.

“If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” is a welcome addition to Moore’s radio offerings, which have been largely uneven and disposable. As a single, it serves as a memorable addition to country radio that strikes a balance between sweet and sorrowful – and in the bigger scheme of things, offers up hope for the next phase of this artist’s career.

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  1. Ben Foster
    February 18, 2011 at 7:40 am

    This is definitely the best song Justin’s released thus far. I’ll also be a bit curious to hear if his new album leans more toward traditional country.

  2. Jess Sue
    February 18, 2011 at 8:13 am

    I love Justin Moore.
    This is an great song. On his last album there was a song called “Grandpa”. I have to say it was alot easier to listen to than this song. This one hits really close to home with me. I had to stop halfway thru and recover. The tears were wanting to flow. Love it.

  3. Fizz
    February 18, 2011 at 9:00 am

    Heaven? So far away? Whaddya mean, Justin? You live in the backwoods of small-town USA, remember? Life’s a never-ending succession of bonfires, tractor-pulls, ogling the preacher’s daughter’s butt, drinking light beer (but not too much–can’t be hungover for church, hear?) and kickin’ some city-slicker rich-boy ass! Why, even working at the stamping plant is fun, right, Justin?

    “Outlaws Like Me.” Oh, really?

  4. Jon
    February 18, 2011 at 9:24 am

    @Fizz That whole “fiction” concept just goes right over your head, doesn’t it?

  5. Fizz
    February 18, 2011 at 9:33 am

    (Heavy sigh0 No-o-o-o, Jon, but did you miss that I was making fun of the type of songs this guy normally poops out?

    You sure your last name isn’t Asperger, the way you don’t “get” anything that’s 100% literal?

  6. Jon
    February 18, 2011 at 10:05 am

    @Fizz. Did you miss the way I was making fun of your predictably leaden sense of humor? Why yes, you did.

    But really, thanks for the Asperger’s “joke.” As the father of a son with ASD, I really appreciate it, and I’m sure the other folks here who have family members with ASD or who work with (or just know) folks with ASD feel the same way. What a big man you are!

  7. Matt B
    February 18, 2011 at 10:22 am

    No need for Asperger’s jokes, Fizz. I didn’t get your “joke” about “Justin Moore” either. Just seemed a hackneyed attempt at a joke.

  8. Leeann Ward
    February 18, 2011 at 10:38 am

    Not appreciated by me either. Some things just really aren’t funny.

  9. the pistolero
    February 18, 2011 at 11:44 am

    ROTFLMAO. Jon Weisberger passing judgment on someone else’s sense humor. That’s the funniest joke of all on this thread. But the “never-ending succession of bonfires, etc.” thing wasn’t bad, Fizz, not bad at all.

  10. Rick
    February 18, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    Gosh, a Justin Moore single that doesn’t totally suck! This is a vast improvement…

  11. Nicolas
    February 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    I really like this. <3

  12. Thomas
    February 18, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    …give him the right kind of song and his vocals that sound really country in country kind of way are quite pleasant. the fact that he is totally useless in picking songs and his label people even seem to surpass him in falling short in this department is somewhat unlucky, but things could be a lot worse backwoods.

    of course, it would be of some comfort, if his trusted video-team would take care of the visualisation of this song – grandpa’s daughter in a skimpy nurse uniform playing doctor and that female driver backing up the ambulance… – you gotta love these country music videos.

  13. Noeller
    February 18, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    Rhett’s version was much better, but that’s just my opinion. Very glad Moore isn’t releasing Aldean throw-away’s this go ’round.

    I personally loved Fizz’s post — no problems here.

  14. Rick
    February 18, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Looks like this song is going to do well at Top 40 AirHead Country radio. Here are the Top 6 of this week’s “Mediabase Most Added” singles chart:

    1) Kenny Chesney/Live A Little (45)
    2) Keith Urban/Without You (39)
    3) Justin Moore/If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away (27)
    4) Ronnie Dunn/Bleed Red (25)
    5) The Band Perry/You Lie (15)
    6) Steel Magnolia/Last Night Again (10)

    Just another reminder why I quit listening…

  15. WAYNOE(Jon's Friend)
    February 18, 2011 at 8:22 pm

    @Fizz – Funny, and yes some of us intellectuals got the joke.

    @Jon – Sorry to hear that, but sometimes you just open the door and invite this sort of thing.

  16. WAYNOE(Jon's Nemisis)
    February 18, 2011 at 9:08 pm

    “Poor man’s Jason Aldean” – That is actually pretty clever.

  17. Occasional Hope
    February 19, 2011 at 4:13 am

    This is the first Justin Moore record I’ve liked.

  18. Terry
    February 21, 2011 at 1:59 am

    You all just wait and see…Justin Moore’s career is going to take off. Unlike Jason Aldean, Justin Moore actually writes 90% of the songs he records. Not this one in particular but 11 or the 13 on his new album and 9 out of 10 on his 1st album he wrote. So the quote, “poor man’s Jason Aldean” is garbage. And @Fizz your joke wasn’t funny to me at all and I’m a college graduate @Waynoe so not all of us intellectuals found it to be funny.

  19. WAYNOE
    February 21, 2011 at 9:18 am

    @Terry – If you will read my comment again, I said, “…some of us intellectuals…” so your comment was not required. Glad you graduated from college. I might have taught you.

  20. Fizz
    February 21, 2011 at 9:30 am

    Yeah, he writes most of his own songs .. and most of them blow. Except for this one, which he didn’t write, which is passable. Go figure.

    As for the joke? I’m over it. It’s the Internet, people!

  21. PaulaW
    February 21, 2011 at 12:23 pm

    Not a big fan of Justin Moore … but I do really like this song.

  22. zag
    February 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Good song. If the rest of his new album is similar to the song–simple, good lyrics–it could be a really good album. I like the idea of him doing some more traditional country. I actually saw him in concert and he was great.

  23. Noah Eaton
    February 23, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    I can’t say I’m sold on this, even while this is sonically a sure step in the right direction for him.

    I feel he only succeeds halfway in trying to shake out of his “countrier than Thou” rut both lyrically and musically. He still leans on that crutch, particularly with the dropping of iconic pieces of imagery associated with country living in the chorus to tie his point together (where he stumbles).

    That said, the strongest aspect of this release is Moore’s vocals. I repeatedly made note during his disposable debut era that his vocals, nonetheless, demonstrate incredible promise for someone his age especially………..and he comes closer to espousing his range and effect here.

    If he can only find some stronger songwriters to collaborate with, he’ll be all set for the longer term. He’s not quite there yet, but this is certainly a step up from everything he released during his frustrating self-titled debut era. I can confidently say while I’m not exactly cheering this single on enthusiastically or anything, this is also the first Moore single I’m not rooting against charting well.

  24. becca
    March 11, 2011 at 10:30 pm

    i love this song…mi grandpa just died today and this song just made me brake down in tears…i mean it has a real meaning to it…if heaven wasn’t far i would be able to see my grandpa anytime i wanted to and it wouldnt be this hard for me to cope with his death.

  25. john
    March 14, 2011 at 11:10 pm

    anybody remember this song being released a few years ago by rhett atkins may have just been my local georgia radio but i loved it then but its already old to me now

  26. Kimberly
    March 27, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    Are you people freaking kidding me? Seriously?…Don’t hate! Justin Moore is the most COUNTRY artist with a wonderful and powerful “Country” voice and the most “Country” sound that has happened to the COUNTRY MUSIC genre in a very long time! He’s ACTUALLY “Country”, he ACTUALLY writes (damn well I might add), he ACTUALLY plays an instrument and he ACTUALLY sings with the very heart and soul that defines country music, not to mention the fact that he is a down to earth guy who truly loves what he does and cares about the music he’s putting out and the fans that support his music. Put him in a room full of people with just his guitar and listen to him belt out these songs without all the studio hoopla, backup vocals and so forth and tell me he can’t sing and I will tell you that you need your damn hearing checked because we saw him just a few nights ago do exactly this as we sat back thinking he is going straight to the top. He is the most honest to goodness country thing that has happened to country music in a very long time so clean out your damn ears, take off your blindfolds and sit back and watch this star shine brightly as he climbs the charts!

    It’s about time someone comes to town and takes some fame away from the whiney a** pop singers like Taylor Swift, Rascal Flatts and Laura Bell Bundy…damn even Kenny Chesney has gone so far from his country beginning you’d think he was born in the tropics! These are about as country as my British husband!

    As a side note to the immature person making fun of people with Asperger’s…seriously…grown up! What are you 5? I suppose you make fun of fat people, short people, etc, etc…too?

  27. matt
    April 6, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Thumbs UP!? No way, the fist song that I like on here that gets a thumbs up.

  28. Code
    April 6, 2011 at 11:50 pm

    I like the lyrics, but i HATE his voice, it’s just way to twangy and grating. Brad paisley shoulve sang this

  29. gloria
    April 7, 2011 at 7:43 am

    I don’t care for his voice either. The song is good, but his voice just isn’t.

  30. RowdyRed
    April 26, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Heaven according to this song is a very literal place. Everyone is recognizable in their human (or canine) form and your favorite artists are just waiting to take time away from their afterlife to explain their misspent lives, or just plain perform for you. (This heaven sounds like Artist Hell, to me.) I highly, highly doubt the afterlife is just like our day-to-day existence. Just my opinion.

    I know he didn’t write this song, but Justin Moore does seem to specialize in cornpone stereotypes (complete with super-heavy country drawl), which is exactly the kind of country song that makes me have to defend the genre to non-fans. A much better standard-bearer is Brad Paisley, whose music is much more accessible to any music fan, while still being absolutely grounded in country-ness. (This was key to his appeal when I first saw/heard him.) I mean, he can make references to Sinatra, Coltrane and even The Righteous Brothers while singing about Alabama — with Alabama! And it sounds right, natural and thoroughly country. That is a guy reaching out while staying put in his roots. Justin is really just perpetuating the sterotypes that allow many people to dismiss “our” music as trite.

    July 6, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Songs that have emotional messages that touch people’s hearts are always a better choice on radio for the masses then the silly “Teen-Pop-Country” we now hear. Hey even if you don’t like the singer, his or her image,(or the opinions of a few overly zealous fans)remember that Love transcends all things and never goes out of style. Just sayin. Peace.

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