DISClaimer Single Reviews (9/15/10)

This is apparently Country Ballads Week.

Almost all of the class acts in this stack of platters are making their marks with slower tempi fare. James Otto, Lorrie Morgan, John Mellencamp, Charlie Louvin, the LoCash Cowboys, Jerrod Niemann and Teea Goans ain’t about rockin’ the house. They have generally thoughtful things to say.

Competing for Disc of the Day were Mellencamp, Louvin, Niemann and Goans. I’m splitting the prize this week. For the major-label effort with the most sonic ingenuity, the winner is Jerrod Niemann. For back-to-basics country authenticity on an indie effort, Teea Goans takes the prize.

KEN DOMASH/Ding Dang Darn It
Writer: Ken Domash; Producer: David Bechtel; Publisher: none listed; Thunder Mountain/Spinville (track) (www.domashmusic.com)
—The track totally rocks, with plenty of “bottom” in the bass and beats. The song is cutely catchy, and he sings with verve. What’s not to love?

JERROD NIEMANN/What Do You Want
Writer: Jerrod Niemann/Richie Brown/Rachel Bradshaw; Producer: Jerrod Niemann & Dave Brainard; Publisher: New Songs of Sea Gayle/Ozworth/Words & Music/Coburn, BMI; Sea Gayle/Arista
—Of course he’s a star. He spells his last name with two “n’s,” doesn’t he? The follow-up to “Lover Lover” is a moody ballad with lots of space around his haunted vocal and some profoundly deep atmosphere. Audio paradise. Beyond cool.

ANDY MEADOWS/Give Me A Microphone
Writer: Andy Meadows; Producer: Patrick McGuire & Andy Meadows; Publisher: Andy Meadows, BMI; Oscar (track) (www.andymeadows.net)
—The title tune to this Texas guy’s CD lacks personality. Both he and the band sound bored.

JAMES OTTO/Soldiers & Jesus
Writer: James Otto/Chris Wallin; Producer: Paul Worley & James Otto; Publisher: Warner-Tamerlane/Eldorotto/29 Cent Hamburgers/Red Cape, BMI/ASCAP; Warner Bros.
—The ballad is well written, and, as usual, he sings with immense soul. But there’s this constant drone in the production that I found distracting.

SAM ROARK/The Sound Of A Woman Saying Goodbye
Writer: Lori Saunders/Ann M. Schneider/Robert D. Andrew; Producer: Joe Sun; Publisher: Air Deluxe, BMI; Kat (track)
—“Sam” is “Samantha,” and she sings with oomph-y hillbilly moxie on this sassy bopper. Country with a capital “K.”

TEEA GOANS/I Don’t Do Bridges Anymore
Writer: Jim McBride/Don Poythress/Jerry Salley; Producer: Terry Choate; Publisher: Dream Island/Rightfield/BMG/Don Poythress/Country Gentleman/Evergreen, BMI/ASCAP/SESAC; Crosswind (track)
—I LOVE THIS. I have praised this woman’s hardcore country approach in the past, and this ballad performance only adds to my admiration. If you like your country served straight up, lend this woman your ears. She is the Real Deal.

CHARLIE LOUVIN/Back When We Were Young
Writer: Tom T. Hall; Producer: Michael Manning; Publisher: Sony-ATV Acuff Rose, BMI; Chicken Ranch (www.chickenranchrecords.com)
—Heartbreaking. Charlie’s delivery of this deeply sad lyric will put a lump in your throat, for sure. And the 83-year-old Hall of Famer’s current battle with cancer only adds to the touching poignancy here. Beautifully produced.

LORRIE MORGAN/I Walk Alone
Writer: Lorrie Morgan/Mark Oliverius/Kelly Lang; Producer: Lorrie Morgan & Mark Oliverius; Publisher: Lorrie Morgan/Kelly Lang/Oliverius, BMI/ASCAP; Lorrie (CDX) (www.lorrie.com)
—Lorrie is still one of my favorite female country stylists. This empowerment lyric is a dandy, the mid-tempo melody has all the hooks it needs, and the punchy production propels the whole thing forward relentlessly. A winner.

LOCASH COWBOYS/Keep In Mind
Writer: Jeffrey Steele/Shane Minor; Producer: Jeffrey Steele; Publisher: Jeffrey Steele/BPJ/Sony-ATV Tree/Code Six Charles, BMI; Stroudavarious (www.locashcowboys.com)
—Sweet and heartfelt. Every parent can relate to this lyric of wishing the best for a child heading out into the world. Every music lover should fall for these lustrous vocal harmonies. Easily this group’s strongest effort to date.

JOHN MELLENCAMP/Save Some Time To Dream
Writer: John Mellencamp; Producer: T Bone Burnett; Publisher: Belmont Mall/EMI April, ASCAP; Rounder (track)
—Mellencamp’s new No Better Than This CD was recorded in mono in the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis, the First Baptist Church in Savannah and in the same San Antonio hotel room where Robert Johnson made blues history. This Sun track features spare guitar, bass and percussion, and it is absolutely mesmerizing. The performer’s trademark vocal rasp makes every word sound urgent. His Rock n Roll Hall of Fame caliber songwriting gift remains utterly intact, too. Essential.

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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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