Justin Moore – “Small Town USA”
Songwriters: Dean Maher, Justin Moore and Jeremy Stover.
“Small Town USA” is a frustrating song.
Thanks to Justin Moore’s delivery, it’s easy to see him as the type of guy who lives and breaths small town country life. I can picture him in dirt-streaked coveralls, juggling his 7-Eleven spit cup while changing his truck’s sticky gears down a dusty backwoods road long ignored by the city’s transportation department.
The problem is, all the details I can see so clearly in my head show up nowhere in the song. With opening chords that closely resemble Kenny Chesney’s “Back Where I Come From,” another declaration of homegrown pride, the self-penned tune has potential to become an anthem for an audience with similar roots as Moore.
However, its glaring weakness is the (admittedly catchy) chorus, which does nothing to service the hometown he is so proud of. Save for an “old dirt road,” it contains nothing remotely indicative of a rural setting.
Even in New York City, a guy can hang out with his girlfriend, down a six pack of beer while listening to [insert country legend of choice here], or attend church on Sunday morning.
More than anything, “Small Town USA” finds Moore a much stronger singer than a songwriter. He would have done well to learn from Alan Jackson’s strong narrative arc in “Small Town Southern Man,” humor in “Where I Come From” and detail in “Home.”
But while he lacks in songwriting skills, he shines with his performance. Moore’s nuanced musical twang, a cross between Ronnie Dunn and Jason Aldean, performs interestingly organic vocal tricks without emptily sexing up or selling out his hometown.
Credit should probably be shared with Moore’s hometown of Poyen, Arkansas (population: 272), for lending a much-needed authenticity to its longtime resident’s delivery. When he sings “’Cause everybody knows me and I know them/And I believe that’s the way we were supposed to live/…Here in small town USA,” it’s easy to imagine Moore is still part of this lifestyle.
Luckily for Moore, his genuineness keeps this simple song about a simple place from falling into a nondescript stereotype.
If his fans are lucky this single won’t be his last on country radio—or his best.
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