Thus far, Cody Johnson’s bid for country airplay has mirrored similar past scenarios of Texas artists trying to “make it” in Nashville – he’s got the underground support, but he’s only got “On My Way To You” to show for it. It’s still a victory for the independent spirit, if nothing else, even if the actual music leaves a bit to be desired.
How fitting, then, that, following the underwhelming “Nothin’ On You,” Johnson has decided to recruit a heavy-hitting country legend in Reba McEntire for a remake of “Dear Rodeo.” If you can’t win by following the Nashville rulebook, you may as well play by your own. Given both artists’ rodeo backgrounds, it’s a fitting remake, even if it hardly works as a duet in its original form. McEntire mostly sings background and one verse toward the end. It’s still nice, but it feels like a missed opportunity to slightly alter the song further to make it feel more cohesive.
Granted, it’s also a single where the background information does the heavy lifting for it. As it is, it’s fine, and I don’t doubt Johnson’s powerful performance isn’t coming from a real place of sincerity. Outside of that context, though, the details used to foster that connection feel fairly boilerplate (“all the miles and wild nights we’ve been through”), and while there’s some notable heft in the ending solo, for one, it drags on way too long, and the production makes this feel like the result of a country power ballad trying to polish its blemishes. It’s simultaneously basic and passionate.
Still, it’s a nice surprise for a third single, and certainly one of the better singles released to country radio this past year.