Sunday Music: “Boat Show Girl” Is A Poetic Masterpiece

Joshua Ray Walker can get Hank-y, Prine-y, and even country/punk-y. He’s been simmering on the Texas scene for a while but his latest album, Glad You Made It, is an uncontainable monster. We’ll focus on a single song in a moment, but just to give you a flavor about what I’m personally obsessing over – his lyrics.

The album opener is about a failed romance turned to suicide (“I might put this truck in neutral / let it roll into the lake / first, I’ll finish off this bottle / so it looks like a mistake”) and follows with the next song dismissively telling us “true love was meant to fade.” Those are just the first two tracks and he keeps rolling from there.

Every song is brutally honest, the band is killer, and Walker’s got a familiar yet distinctive voice on him. The songs are so visual they feel like movies. I haven’t been this excited over a country record since the last Sarah Shook and The Disarmers.

“Boat Show Girl” is the clear masterpiece after the first few listens. We’ve got a John Prine level character analysis alongside a perspective flip from the judged to the judge in the most non-judgmental way. While the verses address the tale of whoa that is our boat show girl’s life, the chorus is directed at the perspective of the boat show attendee (and beyond, as we’ll see). Walker narrates from somewhere in the middle on purpose, keeping the metaphor broad.

Taken from the verse:

You stand there on your altar
Astroturf beneath your feet
Like a redneck Statue of Liberty
This phrase rings out as you greet
Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses waiting on the shore
May you board this fiberglass vessel
And not feel empty anymore

And then the chorus:

‘Cause freedom ain’t that free
Happiness can be cheap
For zero down and less than you spend on cigarettes in a week
You can take this beauty home
And treat her like you should
Just like every boat show girl
Wishes that she would

Ok, now we’re into pure editorialization, but I think the whole song hinges on “you can take this beauty home / and treat her like you should.” In one line, Walker is supporting the rest of the song with two questions: What is true beauty and how should we treat it, both compared to how we actually do?

Our boat show girl hides bruises with a spray tan Walker reminds us fades quickly. The boat show attendees are told they can buy happiness for less than they pay for cigarettes in week (don’t let the cigarette/death metaphor miss you either). Read every line of the song and read them close, they are seething with characterizations of the beauty within life and how we treat it.

Walker is holding up a mirror to how indebted we can become over marketing displays for beauty-proxies while missing true beauty and treating it well along the way. We want freedom, love and beauty, we instead enslave ourselves to buy cigarettes, boats, and spray tanned-bruises. It’s a heartbreaker and it’s just part of the human condition. Walker nails it in this song, and I really do think this is a masterpiece.

There’s so much Glad You Made It has to offer. Spend some time with it, it’s worth it. Thank you Joshua Ray Walker. Here’s the full lyrics and then the song:

You sparkle like a diamond
Brighter than the boats you stand around
Your gaze is somewhere yonder
While men eye you up and down
Those five-inch heels ain’t nothing
Compared to what you left back home
Yeah, you ain’t even chilly
Though you’re wearing skin and bone
You stand there on your altar
Astroturf beneath your feet
Like a redneck Statue of Liberty
This phrase rings out as you greet
“Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses waiting on the shore
May you board this fiberglass vessel
And not feel empty anymore

‘Cause freedom ain’t that free
Happiness can be cheap
For zero down and less than you spend
On cigarettes every week
You can take this beauty home
And treat her like you should
Just like every boat show girl
Wishes that you would

Your mascara’s running
It wins the foot race every time
You’re good at what you’re doing
You can stop ‘em on a dime
Bathed in sequins, a beacon
Of when Daddy did you wrong
Yeah, fake tan covers bruises
But it doesn’t last that long

‘Cause freedom ain’t that free
Happiness can be cheap
For zero down and less than you spend
On cigarettes every week
You can take this beauty home
Treat her like you should
Just like every boat show girl
Wishes that you would

Freedom ain’t that free
Happiness can be cheap
For zero down and less than you spend
On cigarettes every week
You can take this beauty home
Treat her like you should
Just like every boat show girl
Wishes that you would
Yeah just like every boat show girl
Wishes that you would

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.