Cat Cohen's Anatomy of a Hit a Hit in 2010

The House That Built Me by Melissa Lambert

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A touching nostalgic song about revisiting one’s childhood home and reliving many of the memories that it brings up.

Song: The House That Built Me
Artist: Melissa Lambert
Album: Revolution
Songwriter: Tom Douglas, Allen Shamblin
Producer: Frank Ridell, Mike Wrucke
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Concept
Lambert sings about returning to the home where she was raised in order to get in touch with herself again.

Lyric
An excellent word painting of the universal experience of coming back to one’s childhood home years after someone else is living in it. The images are so vivid one almost doesn’t even need a video to experience this. VERSE I know they say you can’t go home again I just had to come back one more time Ma’am, I know you don’t know me from Adam But these handprints on the front steps are mine Up those stairs in that little back bedroom Is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar And I bet you didn’t know that under that live oak My favorite dog is buried in the yard PRECHORUS I thought if I could touch this place or feel it The brokenness inside me might start healing Out here it’s like I’m someone else I thought maybe I could find myself CHORUS If I could come in I swear I’ll leave Won’t take nothing but a memory From the house that built me

Groove
A subtle rippling 16th feel provided by the guitars with no bass or drums.

Melody
A memorable melody set in a 7-tone major scale ranging over 10 notes. It that starts slowly and builds up in the prechorus and resolves in the chorus with a strong button hook.

Harmony
Simple major diatonic triads with a few minor chords to heighten to nostalgic feelings of the lyrics. Verse I iii IV I V Prechorus IV I ii iii IV vi V Chorus I IV I V I

Structure
A A B C A B C D B C Verse Verse Prechorus Chorus Verse Prechorus Chorus Bridge Prechorus Chorus

Signature
A simple guitar fingerpick pattern that goes on to accompany the whole song.

Production
Likewise simple and direct, the production is built around the acoustic guitar with understated electric and steel guitar overlays. It is rare these days to have a hit song without bass and guitar, but this really matches the lyrics and melody perfectly without overshadowing it.

Performance
Lambert relates this homecoming simply and straightforwardly. Her vocal has the right touch of sincere emotion without getting overly sentimental or hackneyed.

Predicted Longevity
The recording strikes such a universal emotional chord that it has the potential to be around for a long while. Well performed and tastefully produced, it rose to number one on the country charts for a month and should linger on the airwaves for quite a while. Everyone leaves home and wonders what it the old place is like. The feelings that returning to one’s roots brings up are communicated here perfectly. I wouldn’t be surprised to find it used in a film if it hasn’t been already.

Album Cover: Revolution

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