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Country Music's Love for Boating Grows Stronger with Latest from Old Dominion

By: Scott Way

Old Dominion I Was On A Boat That Day
The scene for Old Dominion's latest single "I Was On A Boat That Day"

We have covered the history and evolution of yacht rock before, and the best thing we discovered during our foray into boating's discerning tastes is that country music dropped by for a docktail sometime around 2010, and just never left. As we claimed at the time, country crooners were making an obvious effort to trade in their dinner plate belt buckles and ten gallon hats for white slacks and sandals. Who can blame them? A mojito on a Sea Ray at sunset has an appeal that a Budweiser on a bucking bronco does not. Regardless of the reasons, The New Boat Rock movement kicked up its first wake in summer 2010 when the Zac Brown Band (of "Chicken Fried" fame) convinced yacht rock deity Jimmy Buffet to unretire for the dock party anthem "Knee Deep." It was a rebirth after yacht rock's demise in the 80's, and it had all the hallmarks of a torch passing from Margaritaville to Nashville. Newer artists are picking up on the concept like the latest single from Old Dominion, "I Was On A Boat That Day." The pickup truck to pontoon boat migration is in full effect.

Now, if you want to really nitpick (and I do, because I can) you can make a case that the first signs appeared years earlier in the liner notes of some of country's most coveted old hands. Alan Jackson's 2002 single "Drive (For Daddy Gene)" went deep into his reverence for an 18' plywood boat with a 75 hp Johnson outboard. It was thickly American. With so much star spangled starpower on the mic it's no surprise other country artists began taking notes. It's also not difficult to draw the emotional parallels between cruising a country road in a pickup truck and cruising a lake in your beloved bowrider. Check out the lyrics:

It's painted red, the stripe was white It was eighteen feet, from the bow to stern light Secondhand, from a dealer in Atlanta I rode up with daddy, when he went there to get her

Put on a shine, put on a motor Built out of love, made for the water Ran her for years, 'til the transom got rotten A piece of my childhood, will never be forgotten

You can also make a case that before the movement broke wide open in 2010, the Zac Brown Band was already chumming the waters to see who'd bite. Their 2006 single "Where The Boat Leaves From" was a glimpse of what was to come, and it was noticeably more Rastafari and a lot less Reagan:

Take one part sand, and one part sea

And one part shade of banana tree

And the drinks they're cold, and the reggae is hot

And I know this is the place for me

As the success of the concept began gaining traction it was followed by the quintessential summer jam "Pontoon" by Little Big Town in 2012, then followed shortly thereafter by Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" later that same year (yes it was technically about cruising in a car, but every dock party in existence had it on their playlist). Then Chris Janson dropped "Buy Me A Boat" in 2015, and there's little doubt US boat sales in the southern states enjoyed a little uptick in business. The New Boat Rock movement would be a decidedly (pop) country affair.

Which brings us to now. Country superstars Old Dominion can seemingly do no wrong. They hold the bulk of country music's annual awards from 2018-present and are the current three-time reigning titlists for "Vocal Group of the Year." They've been doing well. Seemingly to keep the dock rock rolling they just released their submission for summer anthem of 2021 with "I Was On A Boat That Day." The accompanying video is not short on boating clichés, but getting some good press for boating culture never hurts pontoon sales. The timing is perfect, too. Boating is on a record surge, and everyone is hitting the water for summer 2021 in the hopes of reliving the glory days of Hall & Oates and the Doobie Brothers with a side of moonshine and a fiddle. Until the inevitable pop-punk remix of Sailing by Christopher Cross happens, boaters can expect The New Boat Rock movement to continue down a country road towards the marina.

Check out Old Dominion's "I Was On A Boat That Day" below:

If you're looking for a new playlist, either with some original yacht or the new stuff, check out our article on reviving the soundtrack to your summer.

The New Boat Rock Playlist:

  1. Thundercat ft. Kenny Loggins & Michael McDonald- Show You The Way

  2. Kid Rock- All Summer Long

  3. Chris Janson- Buy Me A Boat

  4. Florida Georgia Line ft. Nelly- Cruise

  5. Zac Brown Band ft. Jimmy Buffet- Knee Deep

  6. Little Big Town- Pontoon

  7. Sugar Ray- Highest Tree (from the Little Yachty homage to yacht rock album)

  8. Zac Brown Band- Where The Boat Leaves From

  9. Bedouin Soundclash- When The Night Feels My Song

  10. Pharrell Williams- Happy

  11. Nickelback- This Afternoon

The Classic Yacht Rock playlist:

  1. Christopher Cross- Sailing (1979)

  2. Toto- Rosanna (1982)

  3. Kenny Loggins- This Is It (1979)

  4. Captain & Tennille- Love Will Keep Us Together (1975)

  5. Hall & Oates- I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) (1981)

  6. Doobie Brothers- What A Fool Believes (1978)

  7. Steely Dan- Hey Nineteen (1980)

  8. Robert Holmes- Escape (The Pina Colada Song) (1979)

  9. Player- Baby Come Back (1977)

  10. Pablo Cruise- Love Will Find A Way (1978)

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