Interesting to hear a country artist using a seven/eight time-signature so prominently during the verses of this song, and I think the usage is a slightly unusual one too. You see, a lot of instances of this metre in commercial music (I’m thinking things like Pink Floyd’s ‘Money’, The Beatles’ ‘All You Need Is Love’, and Radiohead’s ‘Paranoid Android’) tend to lean towards grouping the beats in a 4+3 pattern, kind of like each seven/eight bar is made up of a couple of four/four bars, the second of which is missing its final beat. Here, however, the seven/eight bar feels much more like it groups the beats 3+4, as if each seven/eight bar is made up of two bars of three/four, the second of which has an extra beat tacked on the end. The difference between those two groupings might initially seem academic, but I think it fundamentally affects the feel of the groove: where 4+3 groupings feel more four-square, Bryan’s 3+4 grouping has a lovely lilting quality, almost like a limping slow waltz – which seems very much in keeping with the world-weary relationship reminiscences in the lyrics.
On a technical level, it sounds like Bryan’s vocal chain is quite a bit noisier than that of guest vocalist Kacey Musgraves, and you can really hear the difference if you compare the gaps in their respective verse phrases. Not that I mind the noise from Bryan’s mic – on the contrary, I think it adds a degree of air and intimacy to the production sound. In fact, I kind of wish it was there all the way through the song, because whenever it disappears a bit of the textural ‘openness’ seems to vanish with it.
A highlight of the song for me is the lovely use of fingered harmonics in the string arrangement. Right from the outset of the track they’re adding a wonderfully glassy, gossamer quality to the otherwise fairly static chord/drone textures, but they increasingly also start contributing nice little ear-candy fills during the verses too. To start with there are the octave-up harmonics from the violin (or is it viola?) G and D strings at 0:37, followed by the two-octaves-up harmonic on the G string a 0:41. But then things get more wide-ranging and inventive during Musgraves’ verse, my favourite moment being the fingered-harmonic glissando under “but I remember you singing in the ‘88 Ford” at 2:17. (Respect to multi-instrumentalist Daniel Chase, who appears to have played the violin, viola, and cello parts on this album!)