Thanks to reader Wes for inadvertently making me aware of a recorded version of this song; I first heard this live in September at Medicine Stone and sought to review it then but could not find a recorded version. This isn’t a studio version per se, it’s a live acoustic recording of the song.
Sometimes, the best songwriting is marked by lyrical poetry and unique turns of phrase, things said in a way that we’ve never heard before or that paint the same sentiments in a new and clever light. Sometimes the best songwriting is simple, marked only by its ability to relate to us on a personal level and make us feel something. And it doesn’t have to be something we’ve experienced–Saving Country Music’s 2017 Song of the Year is a good example of this, as you don’t have to be childless to understand Sunny Sweeney’s longing for a baby in “Bottle by my Bed.” In fact, good songwriters can make us understand and feel things for characters we might not otherwise empathize for in real life.
The woman in the new song by Oklahoma songwriter Kaitlin Butts might not be a character for which we’d all readily have compassion, as she describes sneaking around repeatedly to cheat on her husband, whom she calls “honest as the day is long.” It’s the details, though, that paint a better picture of this narrator–she was married too young and too soon and from a small town, not really even understanding what she was promising. She doesn’t say why she got married under these circumstances, but it’s not hard to imagine–maybe she was just naive, or maybe she married with hopes of security, a better life, or of leaving the town. Maybe this was what she wanted, but now she has grown up and realized it isn’t, something many of us can understand. We can only speculate on that part. We do know that she doesn’t want to hurt the man she married, yet now she understands that this isn’t really what she wants for the rest of her life. She doesn’t see a way around that, so she tries to find herself and what she’s looking for with other men. She knows she should stay home, but that doesn’t make her happy, and in the end, she’s losing either way. It’s all summed up in the line, “I’m damned if I do, and I’m bored if I don’t.”
It’s the frank honesty with which she delivers this song that’s missing from so much of today’s country music. The production is incredibly simple as well, with just her guitar supporting her and allowing the lyrics to be the focus, although I expect there to be more to it if there is a version recorded for a future album. Hopefully, we’ll be getting a full album from her in 2018. For now, this is a fine song, and Kaitlin Butts is a name you should keep your eye on.