The lesson in today’s stack of platters is that there is life after major labels.
Elizabeth Cook, Jeff Bates, Josh Gracin and Jason D. Williams are all here to tell us they’re still standing tall. So is singer-songwriter extraordinaire Lori McKenna, who wins the Disc of the Day with a stunning album that dropped just yesterday.
Give a DisCovery Award to Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real. That lesson is, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
SARAH DARLING/Something To Do With Your Hands
Writer: Sarah Darling/Jason Deere; Producer: Jimmy Nichols; Publisher: Want a Fresh One/Sarah Darling/Songwriters of Platinum Pen/Big Bad Deere, ASCAP/BMI; Black River (track) (www.sarahdarling.com)
—The tune is somewhat simplistic and sing-songy, but the production is so crunchy, crisp and captivating that you hardly notice it. A winner.
JASON D. WILLIAMS/You Look Like I Could Use A Drink
Writer: Jason D. Williams/Todd Snider/Dan Baird/Keith Christopher; Producer: Todd Snider; Publisher: This Name Doesn’t Make Any Sense/Nobody’s Collecting on These Songs/Bug/Where’s the Check/Bag Daddio, BMI; Rockabilly (track) (www.rockinjasondwilliams.com)
—It has been six years since this piano-pumping wild man and Jerry Lee Lewis disciple has issued a new CD. Fear not, his Killer Instincts collection finds his powers undimmed. This baby rawks. Recorded in Music City, the cast includes not only producer Snider, but Bobby Bare Jr., Jim Hoke, Amy LaVere, Dan Baird and Kenny Lovelace, among others.
JENNY & ASHLEY/Indescribable
Writer: Ashley Cooke/Jonathan George/Anthony Mazza; Producer: Darran Smith; Publisher: none listed; Lofton Creek
—Youthful, bopping and pop-ish, with more than a nod toward the Taylor Swift audience.
JEFF BATES/One Day Closer
Writer: Patrick Jason Matthews/Jeff Bates; Producer: Jimmy Nichols & Jeff Bates; Publisher: Steel Wheels/Matthews Millions/Big Loud Bucks/Melrose Nashville/Landa, BMI; Black River (track)
—Jeff’s disc reentry is a six-song EP with a gospel theme. Its title tune is a stirring, soulful ballad wherein he looks forward to the day when the Lord will resolve all his unanswered questions here on earth. Wisely mixed with his gripping voice and the involving lyric right up front.
CARTER’S CHORD/A Little Less Comfortable
Writer: Phillip White/Emily Robertson/Joanna Robertson; Producer: Toby Keith & Mark Wright; Publisher: Songs of Universal/Jorjax/Sing Station/Boomer Sooie/Emily Robertson, BMI; Show Dog Universal
—The verses throb with yearning, and the thing truly comes alive when the trio harmonies kick in on the choruses. The shuddering, twanging, echoey guitar passages are cool, too.
LUKAS NELSON & PROMISE OF THE REAL/Four Letter Word
Writer: Lukas Nelson; Producer: Lukas Nelson, Anthony LoGerfo, John Avila & Tato Melgar; Publisher: none listed; POTR (track) (www.promiseofthereal.com)
—Lukas is Willie’s son, and the two are touring together this year. In this romping, lead-off track to his debut CD, Lukas sings in a tenor twang while the band gallops along behind him. He won’t be tied down, because, “forever is a four-letter word.” Highly enjoyable. Also check out the chiming ballad “The Sound of Your Memory” and the electrified, political, Willie-penned “Peaceful Solution.”
ELIZABETH COOK/All The Time
Writer: Elizabeth Cook; Producer: Don Was; Publisher: Agent Love, SESAC; 31 Tigers (track) (www.elizabeth-cook.com)
—Elizabeth’s Welder CD came out last summer, but somehow got lost in my ever-expanding pile of things-to-be-reviewed. New producer Was, plus her Nashville instrumental buddies, have finally come up with a sound that perfectly captures her hillbilly-yet-hip personna. This lively lead-off track sort of fuses Appalachia with India, if you can imagine that. This whole record is a masterpiece, from “Heroin Addict Sister” to “Mama’s Funeral” to “El Camino” to “Yes to Booty.” If you haven’t bought this yet, do so at once.
RECKLESS KELLY/I Hold The Bottle, You Hold The Wheel
Writer: Pinto Bennett; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Famous Motel Cowboy, BMI; RK (972-800-0004)
—The song is a dandy. The mix is muddy.
STAR DeAZLAN/A Man Who Can Dance
Writer: James Slater/Tim Nichols; Producer: Doug Johnson; Publisher: Warner-Tamerlane/Green Ivy/Bug, BMI; Curb
—Pert and perky, with just a splash of Latina spice.
JOSH GRACIN/Only When It Rains
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Average Joe/Full Scope (track) (www.joshgracin.com)
—Josh has a five-song sampler that includes this atmospheric, drama-packed anthem of lost love. The choruses give him plenty of room to show off his range. How did Lonestar let this one get away?
LORI McKENNA/Buy This Town
Writer: Lori McKenna; Producer: Barry Dean; Publisher: Universal, no performance rights listed; LM (track) (www/lorimckenna.com)
—This brilliant song crafter is self-releasing her newest collection. I was immediately drawn to this stately, poetic, yearning ballad of need and longing. Half the songwriters in this city surely wish they could come up with something as shining as this polished little gem. The title tune, “Lorraine” paints motherhood with a series of vivid, scintillating everyday details. “The Luxury of Knowing” will floor anyone who has ever been in a difficult relationship. Everywhere you turn, there’s a touch of genius here. I am completely in love with this record.
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