Saturday, May 21, 2011

Kenny Chesney, "You and Tequila" (featuring Grace Potter)

Songwriters:  Matraca Berg, Deana Carter

Kenny should mine the Matraca Berg catalog more often.  It seems to work well for him.  With this performance, Kenny reminds us once again of the strong balladeer skills he possesses.  He's a talented vocalist, but his previous hit "Live a Little" didn't come close to doing him justice.

Here we find a narrator drawing a parallel between two things that are damaging to him, but that hold him in a seemingly inescapable grasp - liquor, and the love of an unhealthy relationship.  Desire collides with better judgment in these bitter lyrics, as the character realizes that "It's so easy to forget the bitter taste the morning left," and that "It's always your favorite sins that do you in."  The memorable chorus culminates in the winning line "One is one too many, one more is never enough.  "You and Tequila" is a beautifully-written piece of mature emotion-filled storytelling, the likes of which are scarcely heard on country radio anymore.

Grace Potter's contribution comes in the form of [what used to be called] background vocals, as opposed to a proper duet, but she's a worthwhile inclusion nonetheless.  Her softly understated vocals add an extra layer of longing to the performance, fitting in perfectly next to Kenny's smooth delivery.  The subtle acoustic arrangement sounds beautiful on its own, but it gives both vocalists plenty of room to shine.

At this high point in his career, Kenny could probably make a number-one country hit out of the Oscar Mayer jingle.  When an artist like Kenny reaches automatic-add status on country radio, it's always heartening to see an artist use that position to shine the spotlight on quality song material that might not otherwise have a shot at mass exposure.  In recent years, intelligent lyricists such as Matraca Berg seem to have fallen by the wayside on country radio, so Kenny deserves a great deal of credit for reintroducing the mainstream country audience to her unique work.  At any rate, it easily makes for the finest Kenny Chesney single in recent memory.

(Scores are given on a scale of 1 to 10)