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