Johnny Cash. Hank Williams. Merle Hagard. Patsy Cline. Willie Nelson. These are just a few of many country western singers who have made an everlasting name in the music business with their heartfelt, folky music. These are the artists who gave the Grand Ole Opry, one of the biggest country music shows in the US, it’s name and notoriety. These are the artists who wore cowboy boots and hats, customized suits and frilly dresses. They were real, and all American.
Since then, country music has changed a lot. Artists like Florida Georgia Line, Maren Morris, Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, Blake Shelton, Carrie Underwood, and Jason Aldean are dominating the country charts, but their sound isn’t quite the same as their predecessors. They’ve dropped the old school western styles and melodies, toned down the banjoes and fiddles, and added a whole new pop/rock influence. While the subject matter of small town southern life, love, and heartbreak have stayed the same, the origin of the genre seems to be lost more and more everyday. It’s artists like Leon Majcen that are trying to keep it alive. His song “Down the Drain” is proof of this.
Leon Majcen, from Tampa Bay, is a folk-rock singer/songwriter. His influences come from a variety of genres like country, folk, alternative rock, and blues and a variety of artists like Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan. His crisp and clear voice, mixed with his soulful guitar and lyrics written to tell a deep story are taking the age old Americana genre to the next level. Born in Bosnia, he moved to America when he was only two years old. His family loved music, and this love was passed on to him when he received his first guitar at age nine. Once he got good enough, he started playing at coffee shops and, since then, he has moved on to bigger venues. His first single was released in 2016 and for the past two years, his streams and radio rotations have been on the rise. “Down the Drain” is a song from his newest and first full length album called Numb.
The beginning of the song is simple, just an acoustic guitar. But as the melody continues on, a string bass, mandolin, and violin get added to the mix, giving this song a very folky twang.
You can hear it in his voice as well. Halfway through the chorus, he adds a harmonica and even gives it a solo later, a classic feature Bob Dylan put on many of his songs (his influence on Majcen is very clear in this way). At the end of phrases, his voice will develop a rasp which adds a nice raw emotion to the heartbreak of the lyrics.
They say that happiness is bliss but I’ve been cursing it away,
and love is just a chemical that’s running through my brain,
but I’ve no idea of all the things I knew before.
Everyone’s goal in life is to be happy, and often, being happy means having someone to love. He’s been pushing that happiness away; he doesn’t want to deal with it anymore. He wants to write love off as just a chemical reaction but he knows he feels this way because somewhere along the line, he got hurt.
Words, they give me peace, and love, it turns shit to gold.
It could settle any conflict, it could settle any war.
What a shame it is we ain’t talking.
He knows love is powerful. It makes things better and brighter. It ends hatred. This only leaves him to wonder why his love isn’t trying to talk things out. They should want love back for all these reasons.
But where are the promises we made?
Seems you’ve thrown them down the drain.
Where is the love that we once knew?
Guess you threw that away too.
The person he loved has taken their promise to stand by him and broke it. Somehow, they’ve managed to erase their feelings, while he’s just left here feeling it all.
And I could blow out all the candles on a stormy night,
drink a bottle of whiskey with girls not on my mind,
but at the end of it, I’m still all alone.
He could spend his nights in, or drink to avoid thoughts of her or past girls altogether, but no distraction will hide the fact that he is by himself. He wants someone to share life with.
I spend my days in my bed and the evenings in a daze,
and trying to find a dose of courage.
It’s no wonder that we’re dead. What a shame it is.
I’m just a mess not worth cleaning.
He is avoiding living a normal life because of the heartbreak. The sadness has made him want to wallow away and get drunk to forget. He just wants to get brave enough to tell her all of this himself but he’s not strong enough. For this reason, he’s partly to blame for why they ended. He’s branded himself as a bad guy, someone who needs to be fixed, but unfortunately is not worth fixing.
While Leon Majcen is fairly new to the business and has so much potential for growth, a country music lover can only hope he inspires artists in the same genre to bring back some of the traditions created by some of the best. Music is ever changing, and evolution is inevitable, but creating something new while nodding in respect to the old is something that will never go out of style.