Jon Pardi

Heartache Medication

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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Jon Pardi got to the top of the country charts the old-fashioned way: through slow, steady work. His second album, 2016's California Sunrise, found the Californian singer stripping his music to hardcore basics and it turned him into a star, so it comes as no surprise that he doesn't mess with the formula for its 2019 sequel, Heartache Medication. Reuniting with his co-producer Bart Butler, Pardi barely takes a sideways glance at the present on Heartache Medication. Opening with "Old Hat," an anthem for old cats that ain't ready to give old hats the boot, Heartache Medication also has odes to cowboys, sweet memories about old times, and tributes to the old-timers who make the best drinking buddies. Pardi's trick is how he doesn't succumb either to this sentimental streak or his own musical conservatism. Make no mistake, there are no modern frills to be heard on Heartache Medication. The closest it comes is the thumping backbeat driving "Oughta Know That," a rhythm that in other contexts could be called disco but that big beat seems as part of '90s tradition, just like the cranked-up guitars on the slow-moving "Call Me Country." These sly nods to rockin' country sit comfortably alongside "Me and Jack" and "Tied One On" -- two cuts that spin traditional beer joint music into a revved-up ruckus -- not to mention the breezy "Love Her Like She's Leaving," whose roots are firmly grounded in '70s soft rock, and the winking mariachi horns on "Tequila Little Time." All of these songs show that Pardi's traditionalism is flexible, and those subtle grace notes help make Heartache Medication the best old-fashioned mainstream country album of 2019.

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