Before you ask, yes, AJ Croce is the son of Jim Croce, one of my most favorite singer-songwriter from the 70s. Though this live acoustic version is reminiscent of what his dad did, I think AJ actually sounds closer to Elvis Costello here—his voice has that same reedy honk and his chord choices are a little more complex than the relatively straightforward songs his dad wrote. Though the recorded version of this song is firmly in the country category, this version has a more complex sonic palate—kind of a honky-tonk western swing tune. (Also, “this version has a more complex sonic palate” may be the single most pretentious clause I’ve ever written.)
What really drew me to this version of the song, though, was the chemistry between Croce and his guitarist Michael Bizar. The guitar duo is, I think, one of the most flexible pairings in pop music. There’s a lot of different sounds you can coax out of just two instruments like that, and these guys know how to maximize their sound. Bizar’s entrance at 00:36, for example, is just percussive strumming, which gives the song a rhythmic backbone without drums—a technique bluegrass players have used for years. The two men work in harmony to fill each other’s sonic space, a technique Keith Richards calls “guitar weaving.” To do it right, you have to really know your partner, as Croce and Bizar do. Croce seems to be able to anticipate where Bizar is going with his solo lines, and adjusts his comping accordingly. That kind of telepathic connection is one of the best parts about playing music—it’s startling how you can get a feel for what another player will do. It doesn’t hurt that Bizar is a great lead player who has an ear for crafting solo lines that crest and crash like waves.