California country singer Jon Pardi was something of an anomaly when he broke into the country mainstream in 2017: His songs were steeped in classic instrumentation and songcraft that recalled George Strait or Dwight Yoakam, but unlike other throwback performers of his moment, those songs sounded entirely fresh thanks to polished, contemporary production.
Pardi’s long-awaited new single makes good on all that promise. After a quick, joyous fiddle intro (name the last time you heard one of those on any record), the band joins in with a thumping honky-tonk backbeat and we’re off to the dustiest, dive-iest joint in town. That’s where we find Pardi, bellied up to the bar and nursing his wounds by knocking ’em back until the pain begins to dissipate. “Bartender knows my name, but I don’t mind/She kicks ’em up strong, serves me up right,” he sings in the opening verse, and in short order he’s getting lost in the dim lights, thick smoke and loud, loud music.
Drinking away heartbreak is the bread and butter of countless country songs. But while sadness peeks through the open spaces in “Heartache Medication,” the song’s upbeat, two-stepping rhythm and neatly resolving chord progression makes it feel like nearly the opposite. “My heartache medication, well it suits me fine/And I’m drinkin’ enough to take you off my mind,” Pardi concludes at the end of each chorus, tagged with a bright burst of fiddle. Dancing and drinking to numb a broken heart isn’t necessarily a guaranteed (or doctor-recommended) strategy, but with “Heartache Medication,” Jon Pardi sure makes it sound like a lot of fun.