DISClaimer—Happy New Year

We’re starting things off just right here at DisClaimer. I am happy to report that The Bellamy Brothers, Tim McGraw, Darren Kozelsky and Trent Tomlinson are all ringing in the new year with excellent 2009 singles.

Let’s face it, 2008 was no banner year for country sales. I’m suggesting that we start looking off the beaten path for success stories. Thus, Rounder’s Grammy-nominated The SteelDrivers have the first Disc of the Day award for the new year.

And it’s always healthy when we have a DisCovery Award winner as potent as Bluefield. This duo is very promising indeed.

Here’s to a happy and prosperous new beginning for us all.

BLUEFIELD/Ready To Love You Now
Writer: Rick Ferrell; Producer: Rick Ferrell & Herbert Graham; Publisher: Warner-Tamerlane/Rick Ferrell/Rockin’ Rodeo, BMI; Country Thunder (615-327-2788)
—Bluefield is a duo consisting of songwriter Rick Ferrell (Martina’s ”Where Would You Be,” Tim’s “Something Like That”) and former Nashville Star competitor Jennifer Hicks. The debut single is enchanting, featuring her plaintive lead and his hearty harmony on a mid-tempo production with plenty of wooshing atmosphere and heartbeat rhythm. I think I’m in love.

STEVE HOLY/Might Have Been
Writer: Doug Johnson/Pat Bunch; Producer: Phil Gernhard & Lee Miller; Publisher: Mike Curb/Sweet Radical/Pat Price/Songs of Mighty Isis/Kobalt, BMI; Curb
—Co-produced by the late Phil Gernhard, Steve Holy returns to the fray with a tender ballad about the saving grace of love. Touching.

TODD FRITSCH/Texas Talkin’
Writer: John Ramey/Tony Colton; Producer: Butch Baker; Publisher: Sixteen Stars/Dixie Stars/Horipro, BMI/ASCAP; Diamond Music Group (www.toddfritsch.com)
—Well written. He’s a polite, gentleman cowboy because that’s the way he was raised. Todd’s performance is on the money, but the pace feels like it’s plodding a bit. Goose the tempo.

TIM McGRAW/Nothin’ To Die For
Writer: Craig Wiseman/Lee Thomas Miller; Producer: Byron Gallimore, Tim McGraw & Darran Smith; Publisher: Big Loud Shirt/Big Loud Bucks/EMI Blackwood/New Songs of Sea Gayle/Noah’s Little Boat, ASCAP/BMI; Curb
—The mighty Tim knocks another one out of the ballpark. In the midst of a chiming production, he delivers a morality tale of a man who heedlessly risks his life. I got completely swept up in its audio excellence.

JONALEE WHITE/Wake Me
Writer: Pauken/Harris/White; Producer: Jeff Tweel; Publisher: none listed; Lick (www.jonaleewhite.com)
—It’s a snappy bopper that she delivers with panache. But the overall sound is thin and malnourished.

CHUCK WICKS/Man Of The House
Writer: Chuck Wicks/Michael Mobley; Producer: Dann Huff & Monty Powell; Publisher: Universal-MGB/CEW/Castle Street, ASCAP; RCA
—The little 10-year-old shoulders household responsibilities because his dad’s away at war, and he’s now the “Man of the House.” Great storytelling has always been what country music does best.

THE STEELDRIVERS/Blue Side Of The Mountain
Writer: Mike Henderson/Chris Stapleton; Producer: Luke Wooten & The SteelDrivers; Publisher: EMI April/Sea Gayle/Iriving/Chicken Shack, ASCAP/BMI; Rounder (track) (www.steeldrivers.com)
—Hey country radio, why don’t you try playing something that people will actually want to run out and buy? This slab of raw soul singing meeting for-real country acoustic instrumental work is like discovering a banquet when you’ve been eating Jello for years. Thrilling is the only word that will do. This track is also well-deservedly nominated for a mainstream country Grammy Award. Play it now!

TRENT TOMLINSON/That’s How It Still Oughta Be
Writer: Trent Tomlinson/Jim Collins/Tom Shapiro; Producer: Leigh Reynolds & Trent Tomlinson; Publisher: Hope-N-Cal/Trent Tomlinson/Sexy Tractor/Big Loud Bucks/EMI Blackwood/Little Dooey/Cal IV, BMI; Carolwood
—Back in the day, when kids got into fights, there weren’t any guns or knives involved. Dinner was eaten as a family without TV. Jobs weren’t sent overseas. Preachers and teachers were trusted role models. This song yearns for all kinds of perceived bygone values. I know, I know. On paper, it sounds ridiculously corny. But the writing is so sturdy, and Trent’s delivery is so sincere, that it all works.

DARREN KOZELSKY/Good Day To Get Gone
Writer: Jason Blaine/Willie Mack/Noah A. Gordon; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Anchor Down/Red Cape/Ole/New Millennium/NMM Tunes, SOCAN/BMI/ASCAP; 9 North/Spinville (www.darrenkozelsky.com)
—This Texas roadhouse regular has a “driving” tune that makes you want to hit the open road and throw caution to the wind. It may be winter outside, but this sounds just like summer sunshine. Turn it up and sing along. Somebody get the name of that producer, ‘cause he’s got a little Springsteen in his blood. An absolute winner.

THE BELLAMY BROTHERS/Lord Help Me Be The Kind Of Person (My Dog Thinks I Am)
Writer: David Bellamy; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Curb/Spinville/Bellamy Brothers (www.bellamybrothers.com)
—This lopes rhythmically along with the steel guitar answering the vocal lines brilliantly. As is usual with the Bellamys, the whole thing is wildly catchy.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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