Ushered in by the sudden return of James Newton Howard's bombastic orchestral arrangement, which almost makes it seem like an extension of the album opener "Tonight", "One Horse Town" is an equally abrupt departure from the dominant Blue Moves psychodrama in its depiction of a dissatisfied young man who lives in a rural community and yearns to escape to the bright lights of the big city.
And that link is quite remarkable in its own right; it's a swaggering cock-rock electric guitar riff, accompanied by dissonant keyboard sounds (or perhaps percussion) that reminds me of someone striking a soda pop bottle with a drumstick, and the strings swirl and eddy around this in the background. Then, abruptly, the tempo increases, the strings become more prominent as the guitar steps back into rhythm mode, and we're off with the song proper as Elton steps up, spitting out the lyrics.
It's an odd vocal performance; Elton sometimes struggles to keep up with the headlong rushing tempo, and in doing so alternates between lower register asides and falsetto passages...along with his notorious penchant for weird pronunciation quirkiness that comes to the fore as he sings about the old folks on the porch and how "they'll peeek (pick)...ahwl noyt..."
In Taupin's lyrics, there's a bit of casual condescension directed at the local yokels of this "Alabama mud-bed town", but this is Bernie writing in character with a smile rather than a scowl so it's easy to look past it. For example:
Saw a Cadillac for the first time yesterday
I'd always seen horses, buggies, bales of hay
'Cause progress here don't move with modern times
There's nothing to steal
So there's not a great deal of crime
As far as the rest of the arrangements go, it at least rocks out a bit but the bells and vibes and busy strings kinda work against it insofar as the subject matter goes; it would have been a wonderful country-rock Tumbleweed Connection or Madman Across the Water-era track, but it sounds a little off on the more urbane and polished pre-Disco Blue Moves. Still, I like this track and this album could have used a few more of these.