I am 100% about to compare “Billy Stay” to a Nicholas Sparks movie, but stay with me…
As you all know if you follow Whiskey Riff in any capacity, Zach Bryan released his debut studio album American Heartbreak last Friday, and we’re pretty obsessed. It’s already smashing streaming records, and will only continue to do so as more people continue to discover the stellar new record.
And listening to it could be a daunting task for someone unfamiliar with his work, as the album featured a lengthy 34-song tracklist. He covered quite a bit of ground, and every time I listen to it, I discover a new detail or song that I love for a different reason.
I saw someone post on Grady Smith’s recent album review that it reminded them of a certain film in particular, as commenter Josh Kraght likened it to the Nicholas Sparks classic (no, that’s not a strong word for what it is) The Notebook:
“Billy Stay is out of this world. The lyric, the harmonica, the tempo swings, the finish. Reminded me of The Notebook story line.”
And that’s when it hit me, that’s exactly what it is. I knew when I listened to it the first time it reminded me of some story or movie, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.
But it’s a trick out of the ‘ol Nick Sparks book through and through (literally and figuratively).
In the song, Zach tells the story of Billy and his wife, from the perspective of the wife, as she recalls their relationship when they first met and how they’d dance the night away without a care in the world.
Though our main characters in The Notebook, Allie (Rachel McAdams) and Noah (Ryan Gosling), technically met in 1940 at a carnival, they do have a sweet little dance scene very early on in the movie:
“Billy won’t you stay, we’ve been up all night Talking ’bout flowers from ’65 That print on that dress that you always liked We were young enough to go out and dance at night
We’d cross the street and you’d hold my hand Same man now that you were back then Young kids good for nothing but high hoping Broken, starving plastic ring Perfect for eloping”
Billy and his wife have kids and enjoy their life together, but over time, Billy’s memory starts to fade as they age and he can’t quite keep up mentally like he used to.
Of course, in the movie, it’s Allie’s memory that goes, but the sentiment is exactly the same as Noah spends everyday with her trying to get her to remember who he is, similar to Billy’s wife here:
“Billy don’t forget, won’t you keep on tryin’ I’ll keep my ears open to keep from crying You’re more handsome now than you were back then And I’m the same girl you fell for when we were kids”
Eventually, Billy passes away in his sleep, and in the movie, Allie and Noah pass away together because their love is so strong (I know, it’s cheesy, but I promise the movie is a little bit better than I’m probably making it sound):
“And you went back home in your sleep last night And I heard you whisper, “I love you, goodbye” But maybe your Heaven’s 1965 With my hair in your face on a long summer drive To me you’ll never be the times you forgot But all of our good times and flowers the you bought”
Of course, all the details aren’t exactly the same, but Zach’s poetic rendition of the tale is quite similar to the romantic drama that stole hearts across the country back in 2004, and has been making us bawl our eyes out at girls nights in ever since.
His tune is a real tear-jerker, too, but I guess I’d be willing to bet that Zach’s probably never even seen the movie (major props to him if he has, though). It really is such a stunning song, from the production and harmonica to the lyrics that paint a beautifully heartbreaking picture of time and the power of unconditional love.
I think it’s kind of a sleeper so far in terms of fan-favorites and immediate stand-outs, but it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked, especially if sad songs make you as happy as they make me. It may be one of the very best on the whole record, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to commit to picking just one.
So there ya have it, folks.
Zach Bryan: a country music superstar and this generations Nicholas Sparks… or something like that.