DISClaimer Single Reviews (12/1/10)

This week the newsmakers come not from the ranks of our country stars, but from the members of Nashville’s ever expanding pop/rock community.

A slew of Music City’s biggest headliners from this world have buzz-worthy current releases. Kings of Leon, Sheryl Crow, Paramore, Michael W. Smith and Leon Russell head a parade of record makers you need to support.

We have a tie for Disc of the Day. I simply could not choose between Sheryl Crow and Leon Russell, so I won’t. Buy them both at once. By the way, both Elton & Leon and Kings of Leon are available on vinyl LPs.

I don’t give out a Song of the Day award, but if I did it would be for “How We Love.” By the time Beth Nielsen Chapman finished singing it, tears were rolling down my cheeks.

Our DisCovery Award goes to the John Jorgenson Quintet. Its twirling gypsy sound will make you delirious.

PARAMORE/Playing God
Writer: Hayley Williams/Josh Farro; Producer: Rob Cavallo & Paramore; Publisher: WB/But Father I Just Want to Sing/Josh’s/FBR, ASCAP; Atlantic/Fueled By Ramen (track)
—The new single from the Brand New Eyes CD is a jangly rumbler with a hard rocking chorus. Hayley’s snarly soprano is especially effective in this diatribe against a judgmental partner. Rocking, literate and melodic, all at the same time.

MARSHALL CHAPMAN/Big Lonesome
Writer: Chapman/Krekel; Producer: Michael Utley & Marshall Chapman; Publisher: none listed; TallGirl (track) (www.tallgirl.com)
—The title tune to Marshall’s new CD is surprisingly countrified. Particularly since the harmony vocalist and guitarist is the late, rocking Tim Krekel, to whom the CD is dedicated. But there you have it, complete with twanging electric, steel and dobro. Fear not fans, on the rest of the album, she’s as eclectic as ever, serving up everything from blues (”Mississippi Man in Mexico”) to pop (”Falling Through the Trees”) to swing (”Sick of Myself”) to rock (”I Love Everybody”) and even a cover of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” In fact, this is her best collection in years.

JARS OF CLAY/Out Of My Hands
Writer: Jars of Clay/Gabe Ruschival/Jeremy Lutito; Producer: Jars of Clay; Publisher: Bridge Building/Pogostick/Chigostick/Dudie, BMI; Gray Matters/Sony/
Essential (track)
—This million-selling Christian alt-rock band’s current The Shelter CD is comprised of collaborative tracks with other like-minded music makers (Brandon Heath, David Crowder, Amy Grant, etc.). This shuffled, meditative, melodic tune features Mike Donehey. Definitely pop-crossover material.

KINGS OF LEON/Radioactive
Writer: Caleb Followill/Nathan Followill/Jared Followill/Matthew Followill; Producer: Angelo Petraglia & Jackquire King; Publisher: Pistola/Sinderella’s Grass Slipper/McFearless/Coffee Tea or Me/Bug/Silent But Violent, ASCAP/BMI; RCA (vinyl 45)
—Anthemic, in a U2-ish kinda way. The guitars are a stuttering, twittering swirl of sound, and the lead vocal soars. The B-side of the 45 features the West Angeles Mass Choir, which underscores the song’s seriousness of purpose. The New York Times has called its Come Around Sundown parent album, “the rock blockbuster of the new season.” Ain’t that nice? Be looking for it somewhere in tomorrow’s list of announced Grammy Award nominees.

SHERYL CROW/Sign Your Name
Writer: Maitreya Sananda; Producer: Doyle Bramhall & Justin Stanley; Publisher: none listed; A&M (track)
—Sheryl’s current CD is called 100 Miles from Memphis because her hometown of Kennett, MO is, indeed, 100 miles to the north. The collection is informed by the soul music that Memphis is noted for, perhaps nowhere more so than on this cover of the sensuous Terence Trent D’Arby smash of 1988. Sheryl’s version is appropriately slinky, funky and groove soaked. The harmony singing comes courtesy of guest star Justin Timberlake, who is famously a Memphis native. (Elsewhere on the album, Keith Richards makes an appearance.) Essential listening.

JOHN JORGENSON/One Stolen Night
Writer: Jorgenson; Producer: John Jorgenson; Publisher: Jorgensongs/Bug, BMI; J2 (track) (www.johnjorgenson,com)
—This Middle Tennessee guitar slinger—formerly of The Desert Rose Band (1986-1994)and Elton John’s touring troupe (1994-2000)—has two current albums on the market. This is the swoon-y title tune to a gypsy/flamenco/jazz collection by The John Jorgenson Quintet (which also includes violinist Jason Anick, bassist Simon Planting, percussionist Rick Reed and rhythm guitarist Kevin Nolan). On this gorgeous CD, John plays guitar, bouzouki, clarinet and soprano sax. The other album is Istiqbal Gathering, a pop-classical collaboration with Orchstra Nashville and The Turtle Island Quartet. Recorded live, it is a rich sonic marvel with Jorgenson’s acoustic guitar surrounded by strings and things. Both albums are superb listening experiences.

ELTON JOHN & LEON RUSSELL/If It Wasn’t For Bad
Writer: Leon Russell; Producer: T Bone Burnett; Publisher: Young Carney, ASCAP; Decca (track)
—I am a huge, huge Leon Russell fan. So is Elton John, which is the reason for their new collaboration, The Union. Appropriately, the set’s first single belongs to the senior member of the team. Nashvillian Russell is just as soulful as ever, and John slips easily into his swampy, steamy vocal groove. Leon’s gin-house/gospel piano leads the way. Listening to these two masters together is beyond heavenly. This is easily one of the greatest albums of 2010, regardless of genre.

KIM RICHEY/Wreck Your Wheels
Writer: Kim Richey/Mando Saenz; Producer: Nielson Hubbard; Publisher: Chrysalis Songs/Red Equals Luck/Scramblemusic/Carnival, BMI/ASCAP; Thirty Tigers (track) (www.kimrichey.com)
—The title tune to Kim’s new CD is a steady-thumping romantic dreamscape that is sparely arranged to spotlight her languid vocal phrasing. Get a load of this supporting cast on the disc—Jeremy Lister, Will Kimbrough, Matthew Ryan and David Henry, plus producer Hubbard contributing bass, piano, glock, organ and overall haunting atmosphere. Delicious-sounding pop nirvana.

BETH NIELSEN CHAPMAN/How We Love
Writer: Beth Nielsen Chapman; Producer: Beth Nielsen Chapman; Publisher: Prismlight, SESAC/PRS; BNC (track) (www.bethnielsenchapman.com)
—As usual, she is gloriously melodic and ultra heartfelt on this stunning ballad from her new, self-produced Back to Love collection. Her yearning vocal and Gary Malkins’s elegant piano playing are joined by a magnificently supportive mass of violas, cellos and violins. If this doesn’t bring a lump to your throat, you are made of stone, my friend.

MICHAEL W. SMITH/Save Me From Myself
Writer: Lau Hojen/Soren Balsner/Morten Thorhauge; Producer: Michael W. Smith & Bryan Lenox; Publisher: Bert’s Songs/Universal, ASCAP; Sony/Reunion/
Provident (track)
—This CCM star hasn’t had a big pop crossover hit since 1991 (”Place in This World”). But his brilliantly produced new Wonder CD could definitely change that. This sonically dense lead off track/single piles electronics, keyboards and his tenor vocal on top of blustering beats in a way that is stirring, to say the least. The album also includes two secular love songs, “You Belong to Me” and “Forever Yours.”

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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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