The road is central to country music. It’s an avenue of escape from soul-killing pain and provincialism — as in Jason Aldean’s “Rearview Town” and Sweethearts of the Rodeo’s “Midnight Girl in a Sunset Town.”
Or it’s the welcoming way back to one’s heart’s desire — as in John Denver’s “Country Roads” or Porter Wagoner’s “Highway Headin’ South.” Sometimes, it’s the trail to a triumphant homecoming — as chronicled in Johnny Carver’s “Yellow Ribbon,” or a trail of tears to a sad return — as in Elvis Presley’s “Long Black Limousine.”
The road looms large in the hit songs of Dustin Lynch, too, who’s observing his 34th birthday today (May 14). But it doesn’t fit into any of the categories above. As Lynch sings about it, the road becomes the gateway to frisky romances.
Here’s a look back at the roads he’s traveled so far:
“Cowboys and Angels”
No. 2, 2012
Writers: Dustin Lynch, Tim Nichols, Josh Leo
In this, the gentlest of Lynch’s singles, the road is more figurative than literal. “I’m hell on wheels, and she’s heavenly,” he croons. Later he says, “We ride side by side / A cloud of dust and a ray of light” and “I’m not sure why her path crossed mine / Accident or grand design.” Throughout, there’s the implication of a romance going somewhere. And the accompanying music video drives the point home.
“She Cranks My Tractor”
No. 16, 2012
Writers: Lynch, Nichols, Brett Beavers
One can only assume it’s a series of high-speed vehicles — the singer chief among them — that the lady is cranking. “We’re a cloud of dust / Once I get her buckled in my pickup truck,” he crows, and continues with “I go fast, she hollers faster” and “Burning the back roads/sucking jet fuel from the radio/Cows and cornfield flying by.” Do you sense a certain eagerness to get to the main business at hand?
“Wild in Your Smile”
No. 23; 2013
Writers: Rhett Akins, Ben Hayslip, Marv Green
Not one for subtleties, the singer begins with this direct pitch: “Hop in, let’s ride, take it down this road.” He later elaborates confidently, “Something tells me you don’t care/You’re up for goin’ anywhere/A long as that wind’s blowin’ through your hair.” Eros in the fast lane.
“Where It’s At”
No. 1, 2014
Writers: Cary Barlow, Zach Crowell, Matt Jenkins
More emotions in motion. “On a plane or a train or way back in the sticks / I swear if she’s there, that’s where / Yep, yep, that’s where it’s at.” However, he adds, “It ain’t in a souped-up shiny red new truck / If she ain’t to my right.” Well, at least there are limits.
“Hell of a Night”
No. 1, 2014
Writers: Crowell, Adam Sanders, Jaron Boyer
The road is downright hazardous when the guy in this song gets the girl into his truck. “Foot heavy on the floorboard, everywhere we go / I’m talking once in a lifetime, blowing your mind / Burning down these back roads.” But wait, there’s more: “Ooh, baby you and me, just a-running down crazy / Flying high, living careless, on the edge of wild and reckless / Hold on tight, I’m ’bout to show you one hell of a night.” And he seemed to be such a nice boy.
No. 1, 2015
Writers: Akins, Hayslip
OK, so he sets the scene, “And right here in this car / It’s like you knew that smile was gonna melt me down.” If she really is “a little mind reader,” as he flatters her, she’s already concluded there’s no bachelor pad or hotel with room service in her immediate future.
No. 1, 2016
Kurt Allison, Steve Bogard, Tully Kennedy and Jason Sever
On the road again — he just can’t wait to get on the road again. “And I just can’t wait to get you out tonight / Yeah, you know how bad I want it / Ride this Chevy like a Cadillac with that one stoplight / No lookin’ back / Wherever we’re going gotta get there fast.” Are you sensing a pattern?
“Small Town Boy”
No. 1, 2017
Writers: Akins, Hayslip, Kyle Fishman
Lynch sings, “She’s my cool, she’s my crazy / She’s my laid back in the front seat.”
“I’d Be Jealous Too”
No. 34, 2017
Writers: Lynch, Ross Copperman, Jon Nite
No. 1, 2018
Writers: Lynch, Justin Ebach, Andy Albert
Writers: Lynch, Crowell, Ashley Gorley
In his current single, the mobile romance references are rampant, perhaps best summarized by, “Just ridin’ roads on a night like this / Ridin’ roads / I got one hand on the wheel / And I got the other tryna cross the line, line, line.” And he’s not talking about that broken yellow line because he’s not passing on this one.
On his way to becoming a country music star, Lynch earned a degree in biology, no easy achievement and one to remember.