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Jon Pardi – ‘Mr. Saturday Night’ review

Jon Pardi’s fourth album sees the artist moving further and further into traditional Country, melding that Texan twang and a little of his native Californian sunshine with some aplomb. As artists like Chris Stapleton and Luke Combs continue to drag mainstream Country back into more authentic and traditional sounds, it’s fantastic to see people like Pardi also throwing in a little red dirt, fiddle and two-step tinged music as the genre and the radio begin to move away from that late teens influenced Pop and R&B sound. ‘Mr Saturday Night’, following on from Pardi’s 2019 album, ‘Heartache Medication’, is a fiddle-filled romp through a number of sounds and styles that meld his Californian roots with his cowboy lifestyle.

The album is bookended by two terrific examples of awesome lyrical bait-and-switch which Nashville and Country music is renowned for. Title track, ‘Mr Saturday Night’ should really be seen as ‘Missed Her Saturday Night’ and closer, ‘Reverse Cowgirl’ is not what you think it might be about at all, there needs to be a comma put in-between the two words in the title! The former is the poster-child song for this album with it’s fiddle driven vibe and bar room blues. It has a sort of drunken melody that fits the song perfectly as Pardi sings about playing up to an image after the end of a relationship whilst ‘Reverse Cowgirl’, which features a delightful vocal turn by Sarah Buxton, has a wonderful melody that exists right at that intersection where Texas meets Nashville as Pardi implores the departing woman to ‘put that thing in reverse, cowgirl,’ all to no avail.

There’s a good amount of honky-tonking all over ‘Mr Saturday Night’ if bar room guitars, organ, fiddle and piano is your thing. ‘Fill Her Up’ is a simple but infectious romp about having a good time with all your rowdy friends whilst ‘New Place to Drink’ and ‘Workin’ on a New One’ deal with those traditional subjects of women and beer with some style.

The light and shade and the nuance on ‘Mr Saturday Night’ comes on songs like ‘Neon Light Speed’, Raincheck’ and ‘Hung the Moon’. ‘Neon Light Speed’ starts with a kind of ‘Stand by Me’ vibe before building through the verses to arrive at a gorgeous, mid-tempo chorus and a bluesy guitar solo awash with romance. ‘Raincheck’, meanwhile, is pure 80s George Strait. A ballad about heartbreak and loss, it’s a slick, smooth retro-sounding Country song full of fiddles and feelings. ‘Hung the Moon’ could be, with a twist of production and a little less Country, a primetime 80’s Bon Jovi power ballad. There’s a depth to this song as Pardi sings about angels, redemption and growth. It’s not an obvious in-your-face song like ‘Last Night Lonely’ (which is the most obvious link on the album back to those that trio of big hits that Pardi had on his ‘Californian Sunshine’ album) but it’s a song that begins to breathe with repeated listens and patience, a true blue album track rather than a single but one that will delight time and time again.

That aforementioned Californian sunshine shows up a little on tracks like ‘Santa Cruz’ and ‘Longneck Way to Go’. Both have a western tinge – ‘Santa Cruz’ changes the mood of the album with its lighter touch and acoustic vibes whilst ‘Longneck Way to Go’ feels like the Laurel Canyon bands of the 70s jamming with Pardi and the boys from Midland on a rollicking Eagles-esque influenced track.

Special shout out must go to ‘Your Heart or Mine’ which is a darker, funkier song that someone like Jason Aldean would kill to record if he was brave enough to put fiddles in his songs! It’s an obvious potential single with its radio friendly chorus and fiery subject matter as a couple sing about ‘playing with fire’ because they keep ending up together despite their better intentions. It’s another example of Pardi’s ability to meld big melodies and more traditional sounds into these 3 minute nuggets of joy. The song should have a life for him outside this album if the label decide to go down that route.

‘Mr Saturday Night’ is the perfect fourth album from an artist that is ever-evolving and not afraid to tinker with his sound. Pardi is definitely putting himself ahead of a curve that is seeing mainstream Country swinging back round to more traditional sounds and because of that he should get some chart success over the lifecycle of this release. ‘Last Night Lonely’ has just hit number one in the charts this week so that chart success is already happening. Radio plays don’t equal real success though, do they? What Pardi has done fantastically well on ‘Mr Saturday Night’ is to provide a set of songs rooted in the traditional sound of the fiddle, guitar and piano whilst also throwing in elements of Texas, Nashville and California for good measure too. It makes for an interesting listen and the little touches of nuance and depth only serve to make this album all the more rewarding.

Track list: 1. Mr. Saturday Night 2. Fill ‘Er Up 3. Last Night Lonely 4. Neon Light Speed 5. New Place To Drink 6. Your Heart Or Mine 7. Santa Cruz 8. Longneck Way To Go 9. Raincheck 10. Workin’ On A New One 11. Hung The Moon 12. The Day I Stop Dancin’ 13. Smokin’ A Doobie 14. Reverse Cowgirl Record Label: Capitol Records Nashville (USA) Snakefarm (UK) Release Date: September 2nd Buy ‘Mr Saturday Night’ now

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