Mainstream traditionalist Jon Pardi’s third album Heartache Medication isn’t out for another two months yet (September 27th), but the California native continues to not just say, but do all the right things to get you excited for what he has in store. While some purists continue to scoff at Pardi as a half measure towards real traditional country, he continues to releases songs from the album that go all the way, with ample steel guitar and fiddle, and themes you would expect to hear from traditional country songs. And Pardi is doing it all while remaining popular, opening the door for more traditional-sounding country in the mainstream.
“There’s a big void to fill in country music, to be more country, or traditional,” Jon Pardi says point blank in a new press release about the album, which is full of affirmations and assurances that Pardi will not only uphold the more traditionally-sounding style that made him popular, but double down on it and even take it a step further with the new record. “You can’t be too soft, and you have to have some attitude. I just like the fiddle and the steel and guitars all working together. This is not like a throwback, just a different era of traditional. So, you know, this is what I do; this is me. I love a good beat, good lyrics and a good melody. Put a bunch of great country sounds around that, and it’s pretty awesome.”
After the surprising success Jon Pardi had with his second album California Sunrise, he’s earned the trust of his record label Capitol Nashville to do what he wants, which is one of the most important elements when it comes to major label artists who want to keep it country. “My label was like, ‘Don’t be afraid to be more traditional. The ball’s in your court, man. We’re perfectly fine with this!'”
The first two songs from Heartache Medication—the title track and “Ain’t Always The Cowboy”—have both been very traditional and compelling, and now Pardi has released a third in “Me and Jack” that makes you just as excited for the album as the first two. A country music breakup/drinking song with a twist, it’s a little more lighthearted than the first two selections from Heartache Medication, but just as traditional.
Some of the concerns about the new album is that it will be too heavily weighted towards drinking songs. But according to Pardi, that’s part of the record’s theme. “Why do we love ‘Misery & Gin’ so much? Because we’ve all been there,” Pardi says. “But it’s beautiful and sad, so it makes you feel better.”
There’s also a song on the album titled “Call Me Country” Pardi co-wrote that could be one of the standouts from the record. “There’s a lot of sneaker country, a lot of people just trying to be hip,” Pardi says. “For me, ‘Call Me Country,’ that’s my stuff. Boots, straw hats, saying, ‘Ma’am,’ that’s not a thing of the past for me. It’s a fun, old school song, with some phaser on it—and just some of the stuff I loved about Waylon and Merle, and Willie, who’s still here.”
As much as purists love to sing the praises of staunch traditionalists such as Dale Watson, Whitey Morgan, and Cody Jinks, their prospects at mainstream radio play are few. Meanwhile Jon Pardi’s current single “Heartache Medication” has already cracked the Top 40, and will likely climb to near the top of country radio charts once the release of his new album nears.
“There’s that line about being ‘a ghost on the radio,'” Pardi says about the song “Call Me Country” from Heartache Medication. “But maybe with these songs, that kind of country can live again.”