Justin Moore is one of the most underrated country artists in the business.
I know that may sound like a weird thing to say about a guy with seven number 1 singles – a guy who’s never released an album that hasn’t reached the top 3 of the country charts.
But despite his stacked resume, Justin somehow always seems to get overlooked in conversations about the modern-day superstars of country music. I mean, look at the hits that he’s charted. “Small Town USA,” “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away,” “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home”…that’s a catalog that should put any artist in the conversation for best in the business.
I was listening to a recent episode of Whiskey Riff Raffwhere Wes and Steve sat down and talked to Justin, when the topic of his 2016 album Kinda Don’t Care came up. While the album itself received some criticism for being over-produced and perhaps venturing too far from the traditional sound that Justin is known for, there’s one song from the album that never gets the respect it deserves: “Hell on a Highway.”
Since its release, this has been one of Justin’s standout songs for me – not just from Kinda Don’t Care, but from his entire career. It’s a country heartbreak song about a girl taking off down the road and putting her man’s heart through “hell on a highway.” And despite the fact that it’s a story that’s been told in countless other country songs throughout the years, this one manages to paint the picture in a way that you can almost feel the heartbreak – and see the taillights fading off into the distance.
“She’s got them high heels pressed down hard like she hates that floorboard Leavin’ her red tipped, still lit, lipstick cigarette trail behind taillights Gone as it gets with her wings on the wind, angel made her getaway Now she’s out there puttin’ my heart through hell on a highway.”
But along with a healthy dose of heartbreak, my favorite line from the song is about the self-reflection that comes from watching the love of your life take off down the road – and knowing that she’s pissed off and not coming back.
“She probably called up her mama, and her mama said ‘It’s about time’ She said I ain’t worth a damn, and damn if she ain’t right.”
Yeah, that one’ll hit you hard.
While the song eventually became a fan favorite from Justin’s Kinda Don’t Care album, “Hell on a Highway” was originally set to be recorded by another country superstar: Luke Bryan. When Justin first heard the song, Luke already had it on hold for himself. But Justin liked the song enough to ask Luke if he could have it, and Luke was nice enough to give it up. And if you ask me, it’s a perfect fit for Justin’s voice, his style and his delivery.
Now, I think even Justin would tell you that Kinda Don’t Care isn’t his favorite album that he’s ever released. But let me tell ya, Justin Moore at his worst is still better than most mainstream artists at their best. And he managed to silence any remaining shit-talkers with his 2019 album Late Nights and Longnecks (which was probably the most underrated country album of the year, but that’s a different discussion for a different time).
“Hell on a Highway,” though, would stand out on any album he put it on.
It’s a severely underrated song from a criminally underrated artist. And it’s time it gets the credit it deserves.
Watch the full episode of Whiskey Riff Raff, featuring Justin Moore, here: