One of the more frustrating parts of this job is getting an indie record from an unknown that contains almost no information about them on it. I refer to this week’s DisCovery Award winners The English Project. No songwriter, publisher or production info on the disc whatsoever. Don’t you want someone to find you? I know next to nothing about these people, but “614” is the area code for Columbus, Ohio, so you might start your search there
The top award this week is a toughie. Both Taylor Swift and Sugarland are absolutely at the tops of their games, and Darius Rucker isn’t far behind. For sheer sonic creativity, I’m giving Disc of the Day to Sugarland. But by all means, program all three at once.
RACHEL TIMBERLAKE/Honky Tonk Queen
Writer: Rachel Timberlake/Dany White/Brett Stilwell; Producer: Danny White; Publisher: none listed; RT (track) (www.racheltimberlake.com)
—As its title suggests, it’s a hell-raising, beer-drinkin,’ redneck stomper. Unfortunately, the track raises much more of ruckus than her vocal performance.
Writer: Jennifer Nettles/Kristian Bush; Producer: Byron Gallimore, Kristian Bush & Jennifer Nettles; Publisher: Jennifer Nettles/Dirkpit, ASCAP/BMI; Mercury Nashville (track)
—Very cool. The production is a whirling, swirling delight with its multiple layers of percussion, keyboards and acoustic guitar. Their voices intertwine beautifully on the choruses, which, by the way, do not contain the title phrase. In a reversal of the ordinary, you’ll find “Little Miss” sprinkled throughout the verses. Wonderfully creative.
LONNIE SPIKER/The Gospel According to Hank
Writer: Lonnie Spiker; Producer: Justin Trevino; Publisher: Den N Dust, ASCAP; Heart of Texas (track) (www.lonniespiker.com)
—The steel-and-fiddle drenched track is country with a capital “C.” And any lyric that drops Hank Williams song titles left and right is okay by me. For all the unreconstructed hillbillies among us.
Writer: Darius Rucker/Frank Rogers/Kara DioGuardi; Producer: Frank Rogers; Publisher: Universal/Cadaja/House of Sea Gayle/Sunshine Terrace/Bug, ASCAP/BMI; Capitol Nashville (track)
—I thought “Come Back Song” was a perfect little record. This returns Darius to his more familiar domestic-bliss mode. I dig the rapid-fire lyric delivery amid the beefy beats.
Writer: Jason Matthews/Lisa Carver/Gwen Sebastian; Producer: Darran Smith, Mike Borchetta & Judy Rodman; Publisher: Steel Wheels/Big Loud Bucks/Matthews Millions/Big Red Tractor/Chugwa Mountain/Midnight Ride, BMI/ASCAP; Lofton Creek/Edge (615-288-4234)
—Her heartbreak delivery is strong and true. The song’s sturdy choruses tremble with pent-up power. She’s gonna dust herself off and move on somehow, because “the only thing wrong to do is Nothing.” A promising debut.
TAYLOR SWIFT/Back to December
Writer: Taylor Swift; Producer: Nathan Chapman & Taylor Swift; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree/Taylor Swift, BMI; Big Machine (track)
—She runs into an old flame and finds herself swallowing her pride and apologizing while strings soar and an electric guitar shudders. The orchestral arrangement is simply sensational, and her delivery aches with believability. All in all, a stunning piece of work.
Writer: Sylkie Monoff; Producer: Sylkie Monoff; Publisher: none listed, GEMA/SESAC; Genuine (track) (www.sylkiemonoff.com)
—She’s a tad pitch-y, on the sharp side. But her production touch and songwriting are both adequate.
CHUCK WICKS/Old School
Writer: Chuck Wicks/Chris Tompkins/Rodney Clawson; Producer: Michael Knox; Publisher: Universal-MGB/CEW/Big Loud Songs/Angel River/Big Loud Bucks/Big Red Toe/Amarillo Sky, ASCAP/BMI; RCA
—Languid, in a hot summertime kinda way. Is November the right month for something like this? One thing I thought was cute was that he sent it out to reviewers on a cassette tape.
THE ENGLISH PROJECT/Here I Am
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; The English Project (614-348-3044)
—This is an Ohio duo consisting of Lindsey English and Dan O’Connor. Both of them sing quite capably. On this power ballad, she takes a verse, then he does. When they harmonize together, the track swells and crashes around them. Nicely done. Lend this your ears.
FOREST WAYNE ALLEN/Seven Day Bender
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed, BMI; Cabin Creek (www.forestwayneallen.com**)
—He can just barely sing, and the track sounds like a cheap demo.
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