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Very nice, Ryan. The story line has a Johnny Cash-ish feel to it.
I prefer the faster version - it kept my interest better. Though Justin is right that after a while, the song seems like it's not going anywhere. I think that could be remedied with a very small change. The first two times the chorus comes around, change the melody in the first line to something that incorporates some higher notes. That would give a little separation from the verses. I think the melody works as-is on the last chorus because it's coming off of the bridge.
I think you nailed the verses. The melody and its rhythm lie perfectly with your guitar. Very nice phrasing. I agree that the refrain needs different note choices. Here's the first thing that popped into my head:
Try going UP to the tonic note on "least" and descend down the scale. In C it would be
Well (g) at (g) LEAST (C) I (b) played (a) it (g) well (a)
And play a IV chord on the word 'well'. And then the repeated refrain goes back to your current melody and chords. Repeat.
And... It really feels like that bridge wants to come right after that 2nd verse. Perhaps you could use the bridge twice if you need.
Anyway, I think you've done a great job of keeping that melody a little tighter for this one. It really suits the song.
Your god doesn't exist but my god does and he is all loving. If you disagree with me I'll kill you. - Prince Ea
I was going to say, (but Lee beat me to it) I wanted a change on the chorus to an F (the IV chord). Something to signal this is the refrain. Same on the second line of the chorus. Then return to the C on "At least I've played it well."
Subject-wise, I've never understood why songwriters like to use so many old wild west metaphors. That's pretty far from our common experience. And the Western, as a movie genre died about 30 years ago. But every once in a while one western theme does cut through the din. And I think this one works pretty well in that regard. So, don't pay me no mind then.