Oh, there are some super-fine vocalists in this stack of platters, including Daniel Smith, Bekka Bramlett and Craig Reynolds. And songwriters don’t come any better than Vince Melamed.
But at the end of the day, the best piece of work belonged to the enduringly great Alan Jackson. His single is far and away the Disc of the Day.
VINCE HATFIELD/I’m Gonna Let You Down
Writer: Galen Griffin/Byron Hill; Producer: Vince Hatfield & Eric Paul; Publisher: Circle C/Almo/Great Escape, ASCAP; Blue Moon (www.vincehatfield.com)
—I have to give this guy points for persistence. He’s in there trying, month after month, year after year. I just wish he was a better singer. Having said that, this simple melody and gently rolling production are just right for his barely-there vocal.
MICHELLE BRANCH/Sooner Or Later
Writer: Michelle Branch/Hillary Lindsey/John Shanks; Producer: John Shanks; Publisher: I’m Still With the Band/Warner-Tamerlane/Raylene/Sony ATV Tunes/Tone Ranger, BMI/ASCAP; Reprise
—I was never a fan of this artist when she was a pop act. The Wreckers were okay. When this pop-country outing started out, I was with her. But by the time she had repeated the title and melodic hook for the hundredth time, I was ready to toss it across the room.
DANIEL SMITH/Life, Liberty And The Pursuit Of Happy Hour
Writer: D. Smith/C. Moore; Producer: Larry Sheridan & Daniel Smith; Publisher: Daniel Smith/Tunes from the Farm, ASCAP/SESAC; DLS* (www.danielsmithmusic.net)
—The spoken-word intro is irritating, but once he started singing and the electric guitars began twanging, I got into it. A barroom bopper. I praised his singing chops on his previous two singles, and I still think he’s got a cool voice.
ALAN JACKSON/I Still Like Bologna
Writer: Alan Jackson; Producer: Keith Stegall; Publisher: EMI-April/Tri-Angels, ASCAP; Arista (track)
—The Drifting Cowboys steel guitar is beyond cool. Alan’s straightforward country delivery remains a shining jewel of this format. Lyrically, this is a charmer, contrasting a world of cell phones, HD-TV, computers, iPhones and such with the simple pleasures of gravel roads, bird songs, sunsets, lovin’ and bologna on white bread.
AMANDA SHIRES/Angels And Acrobats
Writer: Rod Picott; Producer: Amanda Shires, David Henry & Rod Picott; Publisher: Welding Rod, BMI; Amanda Shires (track)
—Amanda is a singer and fiddler with western-swing roots who has moved from Texas to Music City. Her sweet country vibrato and the steel-and-fiddle production have earned this track airplay on WSM. It comes from a lovely little CD titled West Cross Timbers. Recommended.
VINCE MELAMED/What Mattered Most
Writer: Vince Melamed/Gary Burr; Producer: Jim Tract; Publisher: EMI Longitude/Alberta’s Paw/Songs of Universal, BMI/ASCAP; Adroit (track) (www.vincemelamed.com)
—Hit songwriter Vince has a new CD featuring his own versions of “Walkaway Joe,” “She’d Give Anything,” “I’ll Take That as a Yes” and other tunes that have made him so respected on Music Row. It kicks off with this nicely produced version of the Ty Herndon hit of 1995. I have made no secret of my fondness for songwriters’ records, and if you feel the same way, this is definitely a must-have for your collection. He is also booking dates, and you won’t find a more winning and engaging writer-artist to entertain you.
TYLER DEAN/Taylor Swift
Writer: D. Johnson/L. & M. Stout; Producer: D. Johnson & M. Stout; Publisher: Curb/Sweet Radical, BMI; Curb
—Taylor started her career three years ago by singing a song called “Tim McGraw.” Now teenaged Tyler has a hooky single called “Taylor Swift” that would seem creepy/obsessive if he didn’t sing it in such an innocent way. Tyler is the son of Ronnie McDowell, who began HIS career by singing “The King Is Gone” about Elvis Presley. Round and round we go, and where we stop, nobody knows.
BEKKA BRAMLETT/What’s On My Mind
Writer: Dennis Matkosky/Michael Caruso/Tamara Champlin; Producer: Joe Stampley; Publisher: Karles/Kobalt/Chrysalis/Heaven’s River/Tabby Chabby, ASCAP/BMI; Shongaloo (track) (www.bekka-bramlett.com)
—Supreme soul sister Bekka has a country CD produced by Joe Stampley called I Got News for You. In general, she’s better than the tunes are. That’s especially true on this first single. Better choices would have been the collection’s snappy title tune or the smoldering ballads “You’ll Never Lose My Love” or “What Do They Know.” In any case, it is impossible for this woman to turn in a poor performance. This is a singer’s singer, and she deserves our support and devotion. Buy this.
CRAIG REYNOLDS/Rollin’ In The “Hey”
Writer: Craig Reynolds/James Cain; Producer: Craig Reynolds & Greg Cole; Publisher: none listed; Lamon (track) (www.airplayspecialists.com)
—This has a big, fat, beefy track with pounding percussion and grinding guitars. The working-man lyric fits it perfectly, and Craig sings it convincingly.
JOHNNY COOPER/Don’t Feel Like That Anymore
Writer: none listed; Producer: Glenn Rosenstein & Dexter Green; Publisher: none listed; Tenacity (track) (www.johnnycooper.com)
—This young Texan kicks off his new Follow CD with a bluesy stomper. It’s kinda like a blander, countrified John Mayer.