DISClaimer Single Reviews (7/14/10)

It’s Duo Day!

All three of our top contenders this week are teams of two. If your taste runs to authentic, nostalgic country music I urge you to seek out Keeping Up Appearances by Texas-based label-mates Amber Digby and Justin Trevino. It does my heart good to hear that somebody is still making music this pure and fine.

Our DisCovery Award goes to a pair that also has ties to tradition. Their discoverer and co-producer is none other than Mel Tillis. Ronny McKinley and Jody Beggs wrote all of the songs on their By the Fire CD—individually, together or with other collaborators—and the results are impressive. Give McKinley and Beggs a prize.

The Disc of the Day goes to the husband-wife duo Thompson Square. And while you’re presenting it, congratulate Keifer and Shawna on finding such a cool little song.

JASON MEADOWS/You Ain’t Never Been To Texas
Writer: Roger Springer/Tony Ramey; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Red Cape/ole/Cherry Lane, ASCAP; JM (www.jasonmeadows.com)
—Believe it or not, it is a ballad that is against the Theory of Evolution. “If you don’t believe in God/You ain’t never been to Texas” is the refrain. I know this is going to come as a shock to him, but Charles Darwin was a Believer, as are many who espouse his thesis. I have a suggestion, the next time you get sick with the flu, have them give you a medicine that treats the version of the virus that infected people 100 years ago, rather than the evolved virus that is active today. Good luck with that.

REBA/Turn On The Radio
Writer: J.P. Twang/Mark Oakley/Claire Oakley; Producer: Dann Huff; Publisher: Ten Ten/REM/The Loving Company/Charie Amour, ASCAP; Valory Music/Starstruck
—He’s a no-good mistreater, and this grinding-guitar rocker tells him just where to get off. Don’t bother “Twittering until your fingers bleed,” because she’s not responding. Instead, he can listen to the radio in his Chevy truck and hear the songs that speak her mind.

SANDY KASTEL/Indiana Rain
Writer: Sandy Kastel; Producer: Ron Aniello; Publisher: Silk and Satin, BMI; Silk and Satin (www.sandykastel.com)
—He’s died, it’s raining, and she’s crying at night. It is well written and produced, but there’s nothing particularly “country” about her vocal.

JOSH GRACIN/Cover Girl
Writer: Josh Gracin/Brad Tursi; Producer: Kevin Murphy & Josh Gracin; Publisher: Beautiful Monkey/Francis Lock, BMI/ASCAP; Average Joe (CDX) (www.joshgracin.com)
—He is such a fine and true vocalist, so it’s a shame to hear him drowning in this busy, cluttered, overly amped and junky rock track. Pass.

THOMPSON SQUARE/Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not
Writer: Jim Collins/David Lee Murphy; Producer: New Voice Entertainment; Publisher: Sexy Tractor/Big Loud Bucks/Hope-N-Cal/Cal IV/Old Desperados/N2D/Carol Vincent, BMI/ASCAP; Stoney Creek (CDX) (www.thompsonsquare.com)
—He is pondering making a move, when she startles him by taking the initiative. Their courtship progresses until the wedding day. After their vows are taken, it’s his turn to ask the same question. Very cute. Very bopping. Very catchy. So nice I played it twice.

GRETCHEN WILSON/Work Hard, Play Harder
Writer: Gretchen Wilson/Vicky McGehee/John Rich/Chris & Rich Robinson; Producer: John Rich, Gretchen Wilson & Blake Chancey; Publisher: none listed, ASCAP/BMI; Redneck (track) (www.gretchenwilson.com)
—I know I’m a little late getting to this, but nobody sent me a review copy so I had to track it down and buy the CD. By the way, I found a copy at the Fontanel gift shop and highly recommend this newly opened and tour-worthy mansion, its amphitheater, its trails in the woods and its excellent restaurant. In any case, Gretchen remains a tremendous singer, as at ease with a heartbreaker as she is with a blue-collar rocker like this. Come to think of it, I’m proud and glad to spend money on a first-class indie project like I Got Your Country Right Here.

GREG HANNA/What Kind Of Love Are You On
Writer: Greg Hanna/David Lee Murphy/Kim Tribble; Producer: Buddy Cannon & David Kalmusky; Publisher: Hannamania/Old Desperados/N2D/Little Kings/Calhoun Enterprises, SOCAN/ASCAP/SESAC; Pheromone (track) (www.greghanna.com)
—Celebratory. The track bubbles with excitement, the melody soars and his singing is sensational. Well worth your spins.

U.S. SENATOR ROBERT BYRD/There’s More Pretty Girls Than One
Writer: none listed; Producer: Barry Poss; Publisher: none listed; County (track)
—West Virginia Senator Robert Byrd recorded his Mountain Fiddler album for County Records in 1977. In the wake of the death of the longest serving U.S. congressman in history at age 92 on June 28, the label has reissued it. It is exactly what its title says it is, an Appalachian collection. This was his favorite track on it, showcasing both his rustic old-time fiddling and his soulful mountaineer voice. No wonder he got guest spots on both the Opry and Hee Haw. If you loved O Brother, buy this at once.

McKINLEY & BEGGS/Too Many Horses
Writer: Ronny McKinley/Monty Savitz; Producer: Mel Tillis & Sonny Tillis; Publisher: none listed; Radio (track) (www.mckinleyandbegg.com)
—Hall of Famer Mel Tillis discovered this team of singer-songwriters in Florida. The first single from the duo’s By the Fire CD is a rolling rodeo tune with plenty of steel, a potent bass line, keyboard tickling, plenty of western atmosphere and a lead vocal that is loaded with heart.

AMBER DIGBY & JUSTIN TREVINO/Keeping Up Appearances
Writer: Liz Anderson; Producer: Justin Trevino & Amber Digby; Publisher: Sony-ATV, BMI; Heart of Texas (track) (www.heartoftexascountry.com)
—With a roster that includes Darrell McCall, Curtis Potter, Georgette Jones, Tony Booth and more solid stylists, Heart of Country Records has become a bulwark and shining light for True Country Music. Two of its leading vocalists have teamed up for a duet CD with this classic as its title tune. Originated in 1967 by Lynn Anderson and Jerry Lane, it’s a harmonized shuffle that will have you grinning from ear to ear. Both Amber and Justin sing their faces off throughout the collection, which boasts remakes of great songs by the likes of Hank Cochran, Porter Wagoner, Buck Owens, George Jones, Boudleaux Bryant, Harlan Howard and other titans. The next time somebody says, “They don’t make country like they used to,” refer them straight to this.

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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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