I am loving this format today.
I love its diversity. I love the quality of its song craftsmanship. I love its mix of youth and maturity. Country music rules.
In celebration, I am crowning three Disc of the Day winners. The Group prize goes to Rascal Flatts for its chesty vow of steadfastness. The Male winner is Randy Montana, who has a sonic masterpiece to offer. The Female prize, and the surprise of the day, is Ashton Shepherd. Every other gal in town is going to kick herself for not finding “Look It Up” first.
That’s not all. Be sure and lend your ears, also, to Reba McEntire, Joanna Smith, The Dirt Drifters and the new duo Curtis & Luckey. They add to this week’s tasty country goulash of musical diversity.
JEFF TALMADGE/Sometimes You Choose Love
Writer: Talmadge; Producer: Thomm Jutz; Publisher: Tot Ziens, BMI; Berkalin (track) (www.jefftalmadge.com)
—Recorded in Nashville, this folk-country stylist from Texas has a gentle, acoustic sound that goes down easy in this swaying, mid-tempo meditation. The album, titled Kind of Everything, is his seventh.
REBA/If I Were A Boy
Writer: Brittany Jean Carlson/Toby Gad; Producer: Dann Huff; Publisher: Songs of Universal/BC Jean/Cherry Lane/Liedela/Gad, BMI/ASCAP; Valory Music/Starstruck(track)
—This country take on the Beyonce hit is a pulsing power ballad with exactly the right dynamics in the production to put the spotlight on Reba’s delivery of the extraordinary lyric. Her best single in ages.
CURTIS & LUCKEY/Eye Candy
Writer: Brian Curtis/Luckey Moore/Shawn Rhem; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; KMG Music Group (515-269-0474)
—Sprightly and good humored, with creamy harmonies and shiny-bright production.
RASCAL FLATTS/I Won’t Let Go
Writer: Steve Robson/Jason Sellers; Producer: Dann Huff & Rascal Flatts; Publisher: Stage Three/Sony-ATV Cross Keys/Becky’s Boy, ASCAP; Big Machine
—Stately and inspirational. A ballad where you relish every step along the way. An exemplary piece of work. My only quibble is that the Joe Don and Jay harmony vocals are too far down in the mix.
CAMILLE ALVEY & DICKEY LEE/She Thinks I Still Care
Writer: Dickey Lee; Producer: Don Sullivan; Publisher: Universal, BMI; Calisse (track) (www.camillealvey.com)
—Camille takes this classic at a confident, crisp pace. Dickey takes over in the second verse, sounding remarkably youthful, I might add. She harmonizes to his lead in the bridge and in the final verse. It’s all quite listenable.
RANDY MONTANA/1,000 Faces
Writer: Randy Montana/Tom Douglas; Producer: Jay Joyce; Publisher: Sony-ATV/tomdouglasmusic, BMI; Mercury Nashville (CDX)
—I am a big fan of this guy, and this ultra-melodic outing is the kind of single that makes a star. It starts off quietly, but when the second verse kicks in, the production and his funky-raspy vocal take off like a stallion bolting from the barn. Hang on for the finale where his various vocal phrases are layered dazzlingly on top of one another. Go, boy, go.
JOANNA SMITH/Georgia Mud
Writer: Joanna Smith/Jim McCormick/Aaron Scherz; Producer: Philip White; Publisher: none listed, BMI; Columbia (CDX)
—Like Randy, Joanna is an artist who ably showcased her material in our office. So I can tell you for a fact that these kids are both real singers. She was so charming on her rollicking debut single, “Gettin’ Married.” This one is more sweetly romantic, with a cool, crunchy backbeat and a vocal performance with a built-in smile.
ASHTON SHEPHERD/Look It Up
Writer: Angaleena Presley/Robert Ellis Orrall; Producer: Buddy Cannon; Publisher: Ten Ten/Orrall Fixation, ASCAP; MCA Nashville (CDX)
—Ashton struts with plenty of moxie on this attitude number. “The word is ‘faithful.’ Look it up,” she snaps. Plenty of other bon mots ensue, until you get to, “The word is ‘over.’ Look it up.” The rumbling “outlaw” thump in the rhythm section matches her vocal flair lick for lick. I would LOVE to hear this on the radio.
AARON LEWIS/Country Boy
Writer: Aaron Lewis; Producer: James Stroud & Aaron Lewis; Publisher: Greenfund, ASCAP; Stroudavarious (www.stroudavarious.com)
—How many times are we going to write various versions of this same song. Dirt road? Check. Blue jeans and t-shirt wardrobe? Check. Guns? Check. Tractor, diesel truck? Check and check. American flag? You bet. Also: It is four, dirge-like, minutes long. The version with cameos by George Jones and Charlie Daniels drags it out, endlessly, to 4:49.
THE DIRT DRIFTERS/Something Better
Writer: Jeff Middleton/Matt Fleener/Nick Diamond; Producer: Justin Niebank; Publisher: Music of Stage Three/Jersey South/Stage Three/EMI Blackwood/Steeltoe Dreamer/Sony-ATV Tree/Buddy Lloyd/nickfakenamemusic, BMI/ASCAP; Warner Bros.
—It’s a blue-collar rocker about a worker waiting for some improvement in his dead-end life. Heck, he even thinks his girlfriend is waiting for something better than him to come along.
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