Morgan Wallen
Morgan Wallen

Quittin’ Time

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It’s track #30.

I was listening to podcasts looking for answers, trying to understand what is going on in this nation of ours, where we’re headed, but despite all the speaking I was hearing nothing, at least nothing I did not know. I started with the WaPo’s “Big Idea,” but the new host had my mind a’ driftin’, I couldn’t stay focused. And the NYT’s “Daily” was too much opinion and not enough fact. I didn’t need to be brought up to speed, I needed to be jetted into the stratosphere, beyond the micro into the macro, from yesterday to tomorrow, and it wasn’t quite working. But the moon was out and a flashlight was unnecessary, and climbing up the Backbone Trail had me sweating and the expenditure of energy made what was coming into my ears less important, but on the way down…

I jettisoned the podcasts for Morgan Wallen.

Music is in a strange spot. Lucas Shaw of Bloomberg told his friends the most played act last year on Spotify was Bad Bunny, they had no idea who that was and when they ultimately listened they said the music sucked, and they’re only thirty! As for the other night’s extravaganza…has-beens and no statements. J.Lo is pure entertainment and she can’t sing, it’s how she looks, Lady Gaga hasn’t had a hit for years, other than that movie stuff, and Katy Perry looks like she’ll never have a hit again, how did our mainstream entertainment become that of our parents, accepted by all but loved by only the mindless?

As for new music…it’s all about your vertical, your niche, can you not reach everybody and give up trying to do so? As for the listener, no one can be up on everything, it’s hard to focus, it’s hard to feel that direct hit. And then I heard “Livin’ the Dream.”

That’s the funny thing about a hit, you hear it immediately. I’d been through at least a dozen Morgan Wallen songs, many of which were good, but “Livin’ the Dream” demanded my attention, my focus, whereas before my mind was wandering to the music, now all other thoughts were excised.

And one can say that the story of making it is an old one, but really it’s about the sound of “Livin’ the Dream”…it’s got the darkness of the sixties, of Del Shannon, the Beau Brummels, music that’s more personal, eerie.

But then I heard “Quittin’ Time,” and it made me think Wallen was the new Springsteen, but it was better than anything the Boss had cut in years, “Quittin’ Time” had the feel of “My Hometown,” but a bit less poignant, yet it was a slice of life all the same…

And like with “Livin’ the Dream” the sound is what hooks you, but in this case the lyrics are key.


“Quittin’ Time” sounds like what the guy sitting in the corner of the roadhouse is picking on his guitar, whether people are paying attention or not. “Quittin’ Time” is heartfelt without being maudlin, it’s down but there’s hope. It’s what music does best.

“Puttin’ in that overtime and comin’ up with nothin’
Sure as hell ain’t for lack of tryin’
There’s no use wastin’ time in fightin’ for somethin’
When you see that white flag a flyin’
Can you hear that whistle blow?”

With the title “Quittin’ Time” and the line about the whistle blowing, never mind the overtime, your mind thinks of the factory, at least those that still exist, blue collar jobs, too often boring and now underpaid, where you put in your time like in a prison and then get out and try to drown away the depression.

“There’s all day thinkin’ time
And all night drinkin’ time
And time to sing or time to find if
Rhyme has a reason
Time to pack it in and stay down
Pack it up and walk away now
And give it one more day or call it a season
I can tell by the tears not in your eyes It’s quittin’ time”

It’s a sentence, you can’t even cry, and then…

“There’s somethin’ to be said for sayin’ what needs sayin’
A suitcase says it all to me
Before the credits roll just know I always loved you So we wrote that famous final scene Where you turn and walk out on me”

Wait a second, this isn’t about a job at all, this is about the end of a relationship. How do you know when it’s time to go? There are people who leave, what’s hard for them is to stay. And then there are those who once they commit can’t get out, and then those who wait for the other person to make a move.

Now Jackson Browne laid this down right in “Late for the Sky.”

“All the words had all been spoken
And somehow the feeling still wasn’t right And still we continued on through the night Tracing our steps from the beginning Until they vanished into the air Trying to understand how our lives had led us there”


We’ve all been there. Other than those who married their first loves. That night when you lay in bed and talk it out for hours and realize when conversation stops, it’s over.

“Awake again I can’t pretend
And I know I’m alone and close to the end Of the feeling we’ve known”

I know no better words about this feeling, but Jackson doesn’t write this kind of music anymore. And he’s into a band sound, which is less intimate, and he’s been in a committed relationship for years, maybe you have to be in the throes of turmoil to write this stuff.

“There’s somethin’ to be said for sayin’ what needs sayin’
A suitcase says it all to me
Before the credits roll just know I always loved you So we wrote that famous final scene Where you turn and walk out on me”

She’s in charge. This is the opposite of hip-hop, pop lyrics. The man is not always in control, he doesn’t always make all the decisions. And when Morgan sings about the suitcase…you can see it by the door, maybe you’ve experienced it yourself, you come home to your shared abode and something is different, stuff is missing, you know a change has come.

And the movie metaphor works well, the credits and the final scene, with her leaving him.

“Every start has an end
Every first has a last
Every now has a then
Every future has a past
And sometimes you want it back”

It’s guys who can’t let go, who can’t get over the breakup, they may not talk about it, but they feel it.

Now I doubt you’ll ever hear “Quittin’ Time” on terrestrial radio, I’m not sure there’s a format for it. Sure, country radio could pick it up, but right now it’s mostly still focused on trucks and beer, good times, broad stroke laments, not intimacy that’s not a paint by number picture dream, everybody’s a pretender.


But it’s songs like “Quittin’ Time” that make people music fans, forever, hungry for one more hit of what’s contained therein, the essence. We play our records to death and then we want more, where do we look? First and foremost to those who made what hooked us, but too often success hobbles them, too often we have to wait for years, at least Morgan Wallen’s “Dangerous” has thirty tracks, it takes a very long time to digest.

And it comes down to the song. And how it’s played and produced. It’s an elixir, it can be created in an instant…actually, the less thinking and the more channeling the better it is, the more you build the track from the ground up, from disparate elements provided by different people, the further you get from the magic.

Now Morgan Wallen had a hand in writing “Livin’ the Dream,” but not “Quittin’ Time,” that was composed by Eric Church, Luke Laird and Josh Thompson, all of whom are over forty. Experience counts, music is not inherently a young person’s game. Now Eric Church is a country music titan, rejected by rockers because of his below the Mason-Dixon line vocal. To make it in rock… Just like the Brits sing like Americans, you can’t have an accent in rock, to the point where rockers ignore Church, to their ultimate detriment, listen to his live album “Caught in the Act”…it’s as powerful as any classic rock live twofer, the energy is palpable, and the tracks are loaded with hooks.

And Church may be country, but his ethos is different. Kind of like Steely Dan used to be rock, but nobody else sounded like them. Well, not quite like that, but the point is Church is not part of the Nashville factory, and he doesn’t trade in clichés, he speaks from his heart, his own.

And Morgan Wallen sings this song like he’s lived it, even if he didn’t write it. Delivery counts. If you sing the song like you’re reading from the now nonexistent phone book you’re missing the point, and the song. You’ve got to add emotion, you’ve got to know when to melisma and not, but too often in today’s overloaded world we focus on the extreme, if you’re not outrageous, you don’t get notice.

And “Quittin’ Time” is not outrageous, it’s intimate, it’s personal, it’s human, it’s life.

And most people won’t hear it. But those who are exposed might become attached, like me.

And walking down the trail all I could think was I couldn’t wait until the pandemic was over, so I could go see Morgan Wallen. In advance I’d play the album over and over until I knew it by heart. And I’d sing along with the multitudes during the loud numbers, but when he played “Quittin’ Time,” he has to play it, that’s what a fan believes, I’d have my head in the air, staring blankly into space, as I marinated in the sound, with a warmth pouring through my body. It can be fun to see the oldsters, but there’s nothing like finding a new fave, wanting to see them in concert, having that desire, for that experience, wanting and needing to connect.

Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3671RMj
YouTube: https://bit.ly/2Y6HWss

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