Here for your listening enjoyment are top-tier new sounds from Carrie Underwood, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, Sugarland and Jamey Johnson. That’s what I call an embarrassment of riches. Up-and-comers like Jaron & The Long Road to Love and Crossin’ Dixon have fresh offerings, too.
Almost all of them are worth your attention. But for clear-cut sonic creativity, you can’t top Sugarland’s “Stuck Like Glue.” Give that duo a Disc of the Day prize.
Dandy newcomers? We have some of them as well. Troy Olsen, in particular, is well worth your spins.
But even fresher is that slap-in-the-face slab of sound by Joanna Smith. Give the little lady a DisCovery Award.
SUGARLAND/Stuck Like Glue
Writer: Jennifer Nettles/Kristian Bush/Kevin Griffin/Shy Carter; Producer: Byron Gallimore, Kristian Bush & Jennifer Nettles; Publisher: Jennifer Nettles/Dirkpit Music Control Group/Primary Wave Brian/Worldwide EMG/You Want How Much of What/Wixen, ASCAP/BMI; Mercury (CDX)
—Kinda crunchy sounding and more than kinda cool. The rhythm track is a sheer delight. The tune is loaded with hooks. The mood is merry. The highly inventive veering into reggae patois is goofy fun. And I love it when they harmonize together.
PHOENIX STONE/Proud To Be
Writer: Brent Miller/Phoenix Stone; Producer: James Stroud; Publisher: G and L/LCL, BMI/ASCAP; Rounder (CDX)
—There already is a “God Bless the U.S.A.”
CROSSIN’ DIXON/Lovin’ In The Country
Writer: Garrett Parris/Terry Dennis; Producer: Garrett Parris; Publisher: Magic Mustang/What Is Written, BMI; Stoney Creek (CDX) (www.stoneycreekrecords.com)
—We’ve heard this one a zillion times before—back in the woods, in the pickup truck, swimming in the creek, dancing, rebel yells, raising cane, looking for action, blah blah blah.
CARRIE UNDERWOOD/Mama’s Song
Writer: Carrie Underwood/Kara DioGuardi/Marti Frederiksen/Luke Laird; Producer: Mark Bright; Publisher: none listed, BMI; 19/Arista (CDX)
—Sweetly earnest. Distinguished by a lilting melody and superior supporting work by keyboards, voices and strings. The parallels with Carrie’s impending nuptials in the lyric will doubtless tickle her many fans.
TROY OLSEN/Summer Song
Writer: Troy Olsen/Ben Hayslip/Jimmy Yeary; Producer: Troy Olsen; Publisher: 2010 Hillbilly Petry/Rio Nuevo/Made for This Music/Warner-Tamerlane/Melissa’s Money/Get a Load of This/WB, BMI/ASCAP; EMI Nashville (CDX)
—As warm and comforting as sunshine. The rolling, thumpy tempo and the airy arrangement are just perfect, as is the personable presence of his vocal. If this guy doesn’t make it as an artist, I’d hire him as a record producer in a heartbeat.
RASCAL FLATTS/Why Wait
Writer: Niel Thrasher/Tom Shapiro/Jimmy Yeary; Producer: Dann Huff & Rascal Flatts; Publisher: Feet in the Creek/BMG Gold/EMI Blackwood/Little Dooley/Black to Black/ole, ASCAP/BMI; Big Machine
—Bright and jaunty. It’s a marriage proposal set to a giddy bopping beat. Radio friendly in the extreme.
JOANNA SMITH/Gettin’ Married
Writer: Joanna Smith/Tom Hambridge/Jeffrey Steele; Producer: Jimmy Ritchey; Publisher: Big Borassa/EMI April/Sarachel/Jeffrey Steele/BPJ Administration, BMI/ASCAP; Columbia
—She’s as country as grits and is definitely in your face about it in this slap-happy rocker. The lyric is hilarious. The pickers are playing their fingers off. And she’s having a vocal ball. Count me IN.
DIERKS BENTLEY/Draw Me A Map
Writer: Jon Randall/Dierks Bentley; Producer: Jon Randall Stewart; Publisher: Reynsong/Wha Ya Say/Big White Tracks, BMI/ASCAP; Capitol Nashville (track)
—This lovely, mid-tempo meditation leaves plenty of “open” space for the instrumentalists to shine and Dierks to deliver one of the most expressive vocal performances of his career to date. Enchanting. By the way, that’s Alison Krauss singing harmony in the background.
JARON & THE LONG ROAD TO LOVE/That’s Beautiful To Me
Writer: Jaron Lowenstein; Producer: Jaron Lowenstein; Publisher: Jaronwood, BMI; Jaronwood/Big Machine/Universal
—Ultra romantic. He lists all her qualities and quirks that make him love her while piano, fiddles and guitars chime along. His breathy tenor delivery is irresistible.
JAMEY JOHNSON/Playing The Part
Writer: Jamey Johnson/Shane Minor; Producer: Jamry Johnson & The Kent Herdly Playboys; Publisher: none listed; Mercury (track)
—Jamey’s double CD The Guitar Song is a heaping helping of music. Divided into “Black” and “White” song collections, it is indeed a feast for the ears. This rollicking, drawling track from the “Black” album casts a jaundiced, wary eye on Hollywood and its phoniness. He wryly remembers back to, “when the only L.A. I knew was Lower Alabama.” Hang on for the band members’ catchy instrumental ride at the finale.
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