There were only two of them in this listening session, but they bested the fellows to take our top two awards. Meaghan Blanchard hails from Canada. This talented singer-songwriter with a songbird’s voice wins the DisCovery Award.
Probably to no one’s surprise, Miranda Lambert has the Disc of the Day. But she was not without serious competition. The Randy Rogers Band, Trace Atkins, David Ball and Steve Holy also have excellent new sounds.
DAVID BALL/Hot Water Pipe
Writer: David Ball; Producer: David Ball & Dan Frizell; Publisher: Cedar Popping, BMI; Red Dirt (CDX) (615-347-9686)
—As country as grits. He sings with plenty of twang, and the chicken-pickin’ guitar work is splendid. And since this little toe tapper is about a cold, cold night, it couldn’t be more timely.
RICKY SKAGGS/Someday Soon
Writer: Gordon Kennedy/Ben Cooper; Producer: Ricky Skaggs & Gordon Kennedy; Publisher: GlennJoy/Alrighty Den, ASCAP/BMI; Skaggs Family (CDX) (www.skaggsfamilyrecords.com)
—Set to a steady, marching beat, this somber slowie is an end-of-life meditation. What a drag.
LARRY CHANCE/God Gave Me The Talent
Writer: Fred Imus/P. DiFranco; Producer: Dennis Money; Publisher: Imus, BMI; Laser (CDX) (www.larrychanceandhearts.com)
—There are two Larry Chance tracks on the current CDX. The first is a countrified remake of Jerry Butler’s classic “For Your Precious Love.” The second is this weepy lament. On both of them, you could drive a truck through his vibrato.
STEVE H0LY/Love Don’t Run
Writer: Joe Leathers/Ben Glover/Rachel Thibodeau; Producer: Lee Miller; Publisher: Mike Curb/Ghermkyle/9T One/Ariose/Little Champion/Dream Rock, BMI/ASCAP; Curb
—Beautifully produced. His plaintive, heartfelt tenor is initially supported by simple keyboard work. As the song builds, so does the instrumentation. The well-written power ballad is about keeping romance alive amid adversity and should resonate well with listeners.
JOHN CONNOLLY/The Wind
Writer: John Connolly; Producer: John Connolly & Donivan Cowart; Publisher: none listed, SOCAN; Sandbar (track) (www.johnconnolly.ca)
—The title tune to this Canadian’s six-song EP is a gentle, jaunty acoustic tune. His voice is breathy and soft, so the fiddle-and-guitar track is just the right sound. He wrote all six songs and definitely shows promise in that department.
MIRANDA LAMBERT/Heart Like Mine
Writer: Miranda Lambert/Travis Howard/Ashley Monroe; Producer: Frank Liddell & Mike Wrucke; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree/Pink Dog/Watsky/Reynsong, BMI/ASCAP; Columbia (track)
—The fourth single from Revolution is a cool, crunchy number with loads of tension and pent-up power. As usual, she sings like a fallen angel. The lyric paints her as a sinner with a heart of gold whom she thinks Jesus would understand. Performances like this are why this is the CMA Album of the Year.
GUY PENROD/Pray About Everything
Writer: Bob Regan/Jeff Stevens; Producer: Brent Rowan; Publisher: Green Hills/Big Loud Bucks/Travelers Ridge/House of Full Circle, ASCAP/BMI; Servant/Gaither (www.guypenrod.com)
—This Gaither Vocal Band mainstay has been testing the country waters for a few months now. This steel-embellished, uptempo outing is his strongest effort to date. The title phrase is his mom’s advice about life.
TRACE ADKINS/Brown Chicken Brown Cow
Writer: Kenny Beard/Rivers Rutherford/Casey Beathard; Producer: Michael Knox; Publisher: Melrose South/Universal/Macirhyoo/Sony-ATV Acuff-Rose/Six Ring Circus, ASCAP/BMI; Show Dog/Universal
—The farming couple takes a time out from laboring to strip and make love in the barn. It’s okay. The only ones watching are the title animals. This rocks in all the right ways.
MEAGHAN BLANCHARD/Chasin’ Lonely Again
Writer: Meaghan Blanchard; Producer: Meaghan Blanchard & Remi Arsenault; Publisher: none listed, SOCAN; Sandbar (track) (www.sandbarmusic.com)
—The title tune to this singer-songwriter’s collection is a lilting swing thing. Her floating soprano is backed by some very nifty, old-school, Les Paul style guitar picking. This is a delightful listening experience.
RANDY ROGERS BAND/Steal You Away
Writer: Jeff Middleton/Mark Mulch/Nick Mulch; Producer: Paul Worley; Publisher: Music of Stage Three/Stage Three/Mulch, BMI; MCA Nashville (CDX)
—I still dig his little vocal rasp. On this throbbing ballad of hot, yearning lust, the band creates a swirl of sexy, trembling sound while the singer falls into a fevered dream. Sheer sonic excellence.