I said it in a comment on this blog but I’ll say it again. While our choice for “album of the year” will be pretty easy to choose, song of the year was anything but that. You see, complete bodies of work that we call albums were all pretty great this year, but if anything, it was the power of an individual song that triumphed in 2016.
That being said, while we did have eight candidates for this award, we even felt then that we were leaving off too many fantastic songs. Even now we feel as if just giving one song the top honor is unfair.
But those are the rules.
However, while a band like Evan Webb and the Rural Route Ramblers offered us a story with those rich details I mentioned, it’s actually the grand scope of it all that pushed them over the edge for this award. At the very beginning of this year, the Mississippi, Meramac, and Missouri rivers flooded areas of Illinois and Missouri along with several other creeks. “Dry Up Or Drown”, our 2016 song of the year winner focused not on that event, but instead focused on the aftermath of it all.
I said it before when we announced the nominees but I’ll say it again, how many country songs do we get that focus on environmental issues? The story of “Dry Up Or Drown” isn’t one that talks of how the townspeople will rebuild their town or how everything will be alright. It’s about reflecting on how everything’s gone, and no matter how much work the narrator or anyone else involved will do, it won’t be enough. Now, I suppose you could read this as an advocation of pessimism, but in reality, Evan Webb and the Rural Route Ramblers had the guts to tackle an issue that we don’t see covered that much as well as provide an accurate description of what it’s really like.
The songwriting alone is worth the price of admission, taking on a defeated tone. However, the vocals and instrumentation also reflect that. The pedal steel is fantastic to hear, but at the same time there’s a sense of melancholy to it, as if it’s ghostly as the town that got abandoned after the flood. Evan Webb himself also does a fantastic job portraying the defeated emotions of this song.
There are much bigger problems out there in the world than me trying to decide which nominee will win these awards, and this song is proof of that. Another band this year named Blackberry Smoke stated this year in one of their own songs that “there’s a world going on outside the world that I’m in”, and that’s the perfect summation of “Dry Up Or Drown” by Evan Webb and the Rural Route Ramblers. Sure, a lot of credit is given just for tackling the issue itself, but where this song really shines is in its brutally honest framing and stellar melancholy sound throughout. I’m not rewarding a national tragedy, I’m rewarding a band for bringing that tragedy the attention it deserves.