DISClaimer Single Reviews (11/03/10)

There is nothing particularly earth shattering to report this week.

The column is very much a mixed bag, everything from rocking Elvis to bluegrass Rhonda. Steven Dale Jones is holding down the singer-songwriter slot. Katie Armiger is here with youth appeal. Rosehill, Lathan Moore and Bill Rice have returned and confirmed themselves as promising.

Our two contenders for Disc of the Day are both relative newcomers on major labels, Josh Thompson and our winner, Easton Corbin. He just sings so darn well.

By virtue of the fact that she’s the only complete unknown in this stack of platters, North Carolina’s Madonna Nash takes home a DisCovery Award.

KATIE ARMIGER/Best Song Ever
Writer: Katie Armiger/Amanda Flynn/Bruce Wallace; Producer: Chad Carlson; Publisher: Purple Monkeys/Miss Tomasina/Miss Shaw/Purple Cape/Ole, SESAC/BMI; Cold River ()
—Very pop, like a ‘60s “girl-group” ditty. It is a deceptively bouncy revenge fantasy, complete with cheery “Woah-Oh’s.”

STEVEN DALE JONES/Grandmother’s Song
Writer: Jones; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; SDJ (track) ([email protected])
—On his 10 Favorites CD, hit songwriter Jones offers his own takes on the Diamond Rio popularized “One More Day” and “I Know How the River Feels” plus a clutch of others just as well crafted. His singing is so fine throughout the set that you’ll wonder why he doesn’t record more. This track movingly describes an elderly musician in a nursing home, struggling to hold onto her dignity and her spirit. The sound of truth. It will touch you. I promise.

EASTON CORBIN/I Can’t Love You Back
Writer: Carson Chamberlain/Clint Daniels/Jeff Hyde; Producer: Carson Chamberlain; Publisher: FSMGI/WCCR/State One Music America/Sony-ATV/Mammaw’s Cornbread, IMRO/BMI; Mercury Nashville (track) ()
—CMA New Artist of the Year nominee Corbin is back with a broken-hearted ballad. It showcases what a richly textured singing voice he possesses in that the verses are hushed meditations and the choruses are high-tenor shouts to the heavens. Very effective indeed.

ROSEHILL/Midnight America
Writer: Michael Dulaney/Steven Dale Jones; Producer: Radney Foster & Jay Clementi; Publisher: Michael Dulaney/Steven Dale Jones/Mojave Rain/Full Circle/WB/, ASCAP; Cypress Creek (track) (www.rosehill-live.com)
—I like these guys. Rosehill is comprised of Blake Myers and Mitch McBain, and back in June they won a DisCovery Award in this column. They sing with gumption and drive. And get a load of the production and songwriting credits. This super-melodic and hooky thing rocks splendidly. I’m in.

BILL RICE/Friday Night
Writer: none listed; Producer: Bill Rice & Roger Blevins Jr.; Publisher: none listed; Aaron Ave (830-253-8813)
—He has his buddies, his jalopy and his poor-folks fun. A nicely drawn portrait of small-town America. His vocal is appropriately dusty and yearning.

JOSH THOMPSON/Won’t Be Lonely Long
Writer: Josh Thompson/Arlis Albritton/George Ducas; Producer: Michael Knox; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree/Songs of Better Angels/Blank Sheet/Warner-Tamerlane/Salt Life/Big Hits of Amylase/Pure Blue, BMI; Columbia (track) ()
—Do not be deceived by the downbeat opening phrases. In no time, this transforms into a lively, chugging, honky-tonk, “kiss-off” number. He figures he’s lucky that she broke up with him at 7:00 on a Friday night, ‘cause that gives him plenty of time to get loaded, dance and pick up girls. Rowdy fun.

LATHAN MOORE/Love in Your Life
Writer: Matt McClure/John Paul Williams/Stan Swinarski; Producer: Rick Holt & Norro Wilson; Publisher: Bow to Stern/Blonde Leading Blind/Flatlanders, BMI; Blue Steel (track) (www.lathanmoore.com)
—This former DisCovery Award winner is back with a second single. I still like his robust singing voice, but this lyric is a little preachy for my taste.

RHONDA VINCENT/Sweet Summertime
Writer: Donna Webster; Producer: Rhonda Vincent & The Rage; Publisher: Sally Mountain, BMI; Upper Management (track) (www.rhondavincent.com)
—The Queen of Bluegrass is making a couple of gutsy moves in forming her own record label and producing herself. This single from her new Taken CD features rippling banjo and guitar work from Rage members Aaron McDaris and Ben Helson, respectively, not to mention a brilliant mandolin break from the lady, herself. The lilting, wistful tune also features sterling vocal harmonies from the guys. (Could it be that this song is the single because it name-checks Martha White, which just so happens to be her tour sponsor?) Guests elsewhere on the album include Dolly Parton, Rhonda’s daughters Tensel and Sally, Little Roy Lewis and Richard Marx (!).

MADONNA NASH/Dirty Little Secret
Writer: Madonna Nash; Producer: Dave Demay & Charles Fulp; Publisher: Madonna Nash/Mad Charm, ASCAP; Mad Charm (www.madonnanash.com)
—It says here that Ms. Nash won the 2010 Female Country Artist of the Year at the Carolina Music Awards. Her roaring, rocking single doesn’t have much of a melody, but there’s plenty of space in it for her to sell it on sheer attitude.

ELVIS PRESLEY/Suspicious Minds
Writer: Mark James; Producer: Erich Von Tourneau; Publisher: Sony-ATV, BMI; RCA (track) ()
—This song has charted country twice, once for Dwight Yoakam and even bigger as a Waylon Jennings & Jessi Colter duet. But unlike many of The King’s other singles, his original 1969 version of this didn’t chart country at all. And this pounding new production of it certainly won’t. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fascinating listening. Elvis’s and the female backup singers’ vocals are retained, but the surrounding track is a crashing, bashing re-imagining of the song (although I can still hear The Memphis Horns in the mix). It is from Viva Elvis, the companion CD to the Las Vegas extravaganza by Cirque du Soleil.

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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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