Hidden Gem: Eli Young Band’s “Highways and Broken Hearts”

Back before the Eli Young Band signed with Universal South Records (and later Republic Nashville followed by Valory Music Co.) and were known for big hits like “Always The Love Songs,” “Crazy Girl” and “Even If It Breaks Your Heart,” the band was independent. They released two albums, with 2002’s self-titled album showcasing a band that was trying to find their sound before they really came into their own on 2005’s Level.

There was only one single from Level with “So Close Now,” but it never even charted. That’s unfortunate, because Level continues to house some of the band’s best material to date (it’s my personal favorite album from the band).

“Highways and Broken Hearts” is easily one of their best and most overlooked tunes, showcasing a nod to their stellar songwriting skills they would later show on future singles and album cuts. “Highways and Broken Hearts” is for the lonely drifters out there. What’s gripping about this song is the way it builds up the narrative, with the verses introducing a scared kid, out on his own, before the chorus reveals that he never really got a chance to be a kid. All he knows are what the title says – highways and broken hearts.

The song doesn’t offer a positive outcome either. He takes time to reflect, sure, but he also ponders giving up because the “bad” is all he’s ever known, and likely ever will know. The neat catch here is that while this is centered on a character, the end to the chorus states “wondering where you are, you’re so far away,” indicating the singer in question may just be this character after all.

With its smokier production backed by pedal steel and Mike Eli’s convincing vocal performance, this song perfectly matches the right tone with its lyrical atmosphere. It’s a shame that this isn’t among the band’s better-known songs.