Michael Ray wanted his latest EP to bring back a sound before country stars came from game shows and viral videos. While it's definitely slicker than any classic country record (which nowadays means '80s/'90s), it is a good one. The theme of the day is pairs - those that match and those that don't.
"Spirits and Demons," a duet with Meghan Patrick, is a standout. It's a powerful gospel about the whiskey that ain't workin' to heal the broken heart. One gut punch of a lyric is comparing the duration of the bender to the lost love ("Getting over you drunk is the only thing about us lasting forever").
Another excellent tune about combos is the title track "Dive Bars & Broken Hearts." It's got a danceable bassline and romantic steel guitar, talking about a couple drawn together without fully knowing why.
Four of the six EP tracks solidly work. "Don't Give a Truck" is a little too precious and forced of a concept. "Get Her Back" discovers a clever double meaning in a forgettable melody.
Ray's not much for songwriting, with one partial credit here. But he has an even and controlled vocal delivery. The excellent closer track "Workin' On It" sums up that nowadays he's all about keeping his head straight and steady self-improvement after his very public divorce from Carly Pearce. That's what keeps the dive bars and broken hearts away.