Reigning CMA Entertainer of the Year Garth Brooks follows up his slick Number One ballad “Ask Me How I Know” with a blast of honky-tonk that’s more in line with what was on the radio when he first won Entertainer in 1991. “All Day Long” is “Rodeo” for 2018 Garth, with jukeboxes, beer and pool in place of boots, chaps and cowboy hats. Singing in his most syrupy of affected drawls, Brooks celebrates the barroom life over unfussy Nineties production that hints at the singer’s opposing influences: the twang of Chris LeDoux in the verses and the stomp of Kiss in the chorus breakdown. All in all, it’s another winner for the 56-year-old, proving Brooks, who co-wrote “All Day Long” with Bryan Kennedy and Mitch Rossell, remains a master of the country song.
So it’s too bad that most fans can’t hear it. At least when they want to. Brooks is notoriously protective of his music, removing any recordings or live performance that pop up on YouTube at lightning speed. He withheld his songs from digital services until 2014, when he went all-in with his ill-fated GhostTunes, and then partnered up with Amazon as the only digital service carrying his new music and back catalog. To be sure, Amazon Music Unlimited is a satisfying way to listen to all things Garth, including “All Day Long,” especially with the advent of its game-changing Echo smart speaker. But by withholding his latest offering from services like AppleMusic and Spotify – the latter of which still maintains a free option – Brooks is shooting himself in the foot with younger listeners.
For that demographic, playlists lord over terrestrial radio, and song downloads, while on the decline, are still easy means of acquiring a hot new song. Remarkably, even with his Amazon deal, Brooks holds fast to his decision to not allow his songs to be downloaded as individual tracks – “All Day Long” is available for streaming only and past juggernauts like “Friends in Low Places” can only be downloaded as part of a full album. (Or purchased in a physical CD format, which the entertainer has said also attracted him to Amazon.) [A representative for Brooks reached out to clarify that “All Day Long” can be downloaded, along with the new song “The Road I’m On,” with the pre-order purchase of the full album.]
In the end, Brooks’ latest will likely be a radio hit – it debuted at Number 21 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart and scored the biggest add date of any song since August 2015 – but it’s difficult to imagine it connecting the way a song like “Rodeo” did in ’91, when radio was still the prime delivery method to the masses. Instead, “All Day Long” is merely a teaser for Brooks’ next LP, which unless he changes his tune, will only be accessible digitally in one place. Where Garth wants it.