If in A Farewell to Arms, Frederick and Catherine make their escape in order to create a meaningful life by investing fully in one another, so do Corbin and his girl in “Roll With It”.
And if Catherine feared the rain—Hemingway’s great symbol for devastation—seeing herself dead in it, Corbin tries to allay those fears in his own lover, albeit with the required dirt-road embellishment: “It won’t be no thing if it starts to rain/And we have to wait it out in the truck”.
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In taking stock of his preoccupations and farm-kid wisdoms is to reveal Easton Corbin as a manifesto of sorts from a 27-year-old Florida native who has this year articulated a particular worldview, and taken as a whole, it’s a statement that provides a renewal of the Hemingway code.
It’s one that stands at odds with much of the rest of pop-country radio, but one that carries a timeless appeal nonetheless in both message and sound, which helps explain the record’s considerable success.
This need for hedonistic escape is never far from the surface of these songs.
“Roll With It” is about lovers’ escaping from life’s “ordinary, everyday rut”, and it’s a theme Corbin returns to frequently, most blatantly on “A Lot to Learn About Livin’”, a Jimmy Buffet-esque (or, these days, Zac Brown-y) ode to the beach-bum fantasy, complete with a little Spanish guitar and a sun-drenched “i-yi-yi” bridge.
It’s already been well-established, of course, that if we follow a model of parallel connections to classic novelists, that Taylor Swift is the new generation’s Jane Austen; Brad Paisley is our Henry Miller; Jason Aldean is the new Scott Fitzgerald; etc. Less explored to this point, however, has been Easton Corbin’s correlation to Ernest Hemingway.
Corbin’s debut reads like a Farewell to Arms for the truck-pull set and lays out a hero’s code for existentialist country boys everywhere.
Corbin is friendly and cautious when he talks, still dazed by his success—“A Little More Country Than That” hit Number One on the country charts back in April. When I asked him about modern country music and how pop-rock it has become in recent years, he answered with sidestepping diplomacy: “That’s fine. In other words, the kid is good, but he doesn’t see much use in talking about why.
He gives credit elsewhere, citing the production of Carson Chamberlain—and damn right; it’s a terrific-sounding set of polished steel-guitar-and-denim retrograde urban-tonk—but he doesn’t say a whole lot about any of it, preferring to let the songs speak for themselves, and they are songs that further the code hero’s ethos.
On the record’s first track (and second single), Corbin establishes himself as a guy whose philosophy is to “Roll With It” when life gets turbulent.
This sort of coping—to say the hell with it and get lost somewhere—is a classic country-music trope, but Corbin makes a particularly strong case that the only way to make sense of the world is to avoid trying too hard to do any such thing: “Baby, we’ll roll with it / Won’t think about it too much”.
We can, in that case, more easily consider the work as a more abstract artistic entity rather than a product of a single voice, thereby doing away with any authorial fallacy.