DISClaimer (8/14/09)

hannahMcNeil-150It is independents’ day.

We are in what are known as the dog days of summer, when major-label releases slow to a trickle in anticipation of the big fall product push. What better time for the indies to scurry about and make some noise?

As is generally the case in surveying indie singles, the quality varies widely. Some sound as good as their major-label big brothers and sisters. And then you have the lunatic fringe, raving about everything from politics to eating chicken. Oh, and let’s not forget outer-space aliens.

One release here towered above all the others. That is “What Am I Getting Up For” by Hannah McNeil. It is, unquestionably, the Disc of the Day.

THE NEW RELICS/Beautiful
Writer: M. Arbogast/J. Swiger/B. Martin/J. Bidwell; Producer: Joshua Swiger & The New Relics; Publisher: none listed, BMI; Blues Alley/Spinville (www.thenewrelics.com)
—Nicely written, but apparently recorded on the cheap.

HANNAH McNEIL/What Am I Getting Up For
Writer: Hannah McNeil/Jesse Wray/Jeffrey Steele; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Positively Platinum/Jeffrey Steele/Wray Line, ASCAP/BMI; Spinville (www.hannahmcneil.com)
—Don’t wait for any upbeat resolution to this unrelentingly existential lyric, because there isn’t one. Instead, you’ll revel in the darkly atmospheric sound, exult in her inspiring vocal and punch your fist to the driving tempo. It may be somber, but somber has never sounded so grand and gripping. This is one excellent little record.

RICHIE FIELDS/Losing You
Writer: Gerald Smith/Wynn Varble; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Melody Roundup/Warner-Tamerlane/Precious Flour, BMI; Joint Journey (www.richiefields.com)
—Richie has earned consistently high marks in this column. His latest, a moody power ballad, features cool dips into his lower register and an oomphy, melodic chorus hook.

GRANDPA ROCK/The Bail Out Boogie
Writer: Jim Lusk/Gary S. Paxton; Producer: Gary S. Paxton; Publisher: Shala Kedon/House of Paxton, BMI; Skitzopax (www.garyspaxton.net)
—Former pop and gospel act Gary S. Paxton sent this from Branson. He hopes it becomes a theme song for the right-wing “Tea Parties.” I’ll give it this much, it is certainly repetitive and simple enough to remember. And its muddled message mirrors the movement. It includes shout-outs to Lou Dobbs, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly and all your other favorites. Be sure and listen to the long version with its rabid-dog dementia fade-out.

TWO TONS OF STEEL/Hold Over Me
Writer: Kevin Geil; Producer: Lloyd Maines; Publisher: Kevin Geil, BMI; Smith Entertainment (track) (www.twotons.com)
—These Texas favorites have a new CD titled Not That Lucky, which features this tuneful, pop-country bopper. It sorta reminds me of cowboys mixing it up with the British Invasion.

NIKKI BRITT/You Happened
Writer: Craig Wiseman/Steve Diamond; Producer: Brien Fisher; Publisher: New Diamond/EverPop/BMG/Mrs. Lumpkin’s Poodle, no performance rights listed; Rustic (www.rusticrecordsinc.com)
—Youthful sounding. The tinkling mandolin and acoustic guitar notes sparkle around her sweet, lilting delivery. She’s a little pitch-y, but most kids are.

JOHNNY SANDS/Blue Diamond Encounter
Writer: Johnny Sands; Producer: John Nicolson; Publisher: none listed, BMI; Invasion (615-429-5189)
—Blue Diamond Highway, we are told, is 14 miles out of Las Vegas. On it, this performer swears he had an encounter with two bald, paralyzing aliens after his car stalled. Alrighty then. You don’t find country singles with this topic every day.

JASON MITCHELL/Chicken Man
Writer: Dale Morris; Producer: Dale Morris & Dan Mitchell; Publisher: Morris Music Group, BMI; DMP (CDX)
—It’s an R&B flavored grinder about his obsession with chicken, no matter how it’s cooked. Whatever.

MARIE ANGELINE/Let’s Get Down To Makin’ Up
Writer: Jarry Ward & Mike Lawler; Producer: Mike Lawler; Publisher: Handover Fist/Cootermo, BMI/ASCAP; Star Base (CDX)
—She’s all steamy and hot to trot, with a Bo Diddley beat.

TIMOTHY CRAIG/Tell Me Where It Hurts
Writer: Timothy Craig/Sandy Ramos; Producer: Tom Harding & Timothy Craig; Publisher: Timothy Craig/Lawyers Wife, ASCAP/BMI; Ball & Chain (CDX) (www.timothycraig.com)
—The production is big and meaty, which contrasts sharply with his almost whispery vocal tone. The tune is nicely crafted, and the chorus hook digs right in.

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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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