DISClaimer Single Reviews (1/5/11)

Happy New Year.

What a great way to start 2011: There’s not a stinker in this stack of platters.

You’ll find two DisCovery Award contenders here, The Don Ray Band and our winners, Brother Slade. Both of them are Nashvillians, by the way.

Similarly, we have two pop veterans in attendance, Johnny Mathis and Johnny Rivers.

But the Disc of the Day has no companions. The Zac Brown Band stands alone in its greatness.

BROTHER SLADE/Tom Petty Song
Writer: Marc Christian; Producer: Marc Christian; Publisher: Brother Slade, SESAC; Sully Boy (traqck) (www.brotherslade.com)
—This winsome four-piece band is based south of Music City in Franklin. On its debut single, the group sports a jangling, jaunty sound that’s mighty fine. The rootsy, drawling, conversational vocals are just right for the down-home lyric. The album is called No Relation, and it’s recommended.

THE BAND PERRY/You Lie
Writer: Brian Henningsen/Chris Henningsen/Aaron Henningsen; Producer: Paul Worley; Publisher: EMI Blackwood/How Bout That Skyline/Cactus Moser, BMI; Republic Nashville
—This trio of siblings broke through with a tender ballad in 2010. The follow-up is a slab of sass. Don’t be misled by the acoustic mandolin intro—this little doggie bites with sharp teeth. Attitude with a capital A.

MIKE DEKLE/Ode To Bob Dylan
Writer: Mike Dekle; Producer: Byron Hill; Publisher: Square D, ASCAP; Parlay (track) (www.mikedekle.com)
—Dekle is a Georgia songwriter noted for “Scarlet Fever” (Kenny Rogers), “Don’t Love Make a Diamond Shine” (Tracy Byrd), “Size Matters” (Joe Nichols) and “A Day in the Life of a Fool” (George Jones, Keith Whitley, Mark Chesnutt). His new Nashville-produced album is called Tributes. He sings with great country “heart.” Despite his hillbilly grit, he says in this song that he was inspired to become a songwriter by Dylan, rather than Haggard. It’s totally cool that he “wanted to be Mr. Tambourine Man.”

ZAC BROWN BAND/Colder Weather
Writer: Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette/Levi Lowrey/Coy Bowles; Producer: Keith Stegall & Zac Brown; Publisher: Weimerhound/Lil’ Dub/Angelika/Southern Ground/Poppsolotamus, BMI; Atlantic (track)
—Zac sounds like a hillbilly James Taylor on this highly-melodic, folkie ballad. And, man, can his bandmates harmonize. Hang on to your hat when they get to the soaring midsection. I can’t get over how fantastic this group is. We are not worthy.

DON RAY BAND/On Top Of The Heap
Writer: Don Ray/Curt Ryle; Producer: Don Ray; Publisher: Margdon/Big Matador, BMI; Margdon (track) (www.donrayband.com)
—This Nashvillian has a growling, bluesy, bruiser delivery. On the title tune to his current CD, he is a working-class moaner with more than a little Southern-rock punch. For some grins, spin “Perfect Ten,” wherein he digs a fat chick to a rocking backbeat. “So Wicked” is voodoo swamper. “Boom Chika Wah Wah” and “Good Bad Boy” are irresistibly sexy. Heck, this whole album rawks. I bet these guys are great live.

JOHNNY RIVERS/New Home
Writer: Eric C. Bibb; Producer: Johnny Rivers & Oren Waters; Publisher: Bug, no performance rights listed; Soul City (www.johnnyrivers.com)
—This pop legend’s second country-leaning single is written by nouveau blues practitioner Eric Bibb (the son of folk star Leon Bibb), and that gives the lyric tremendous believability. Johnny has always enacted the poor boy effectively, and he continues that tradition here.

DANIELLE CAR/Walk Of Shame
Writer: Danielle Car; Producer: Chuck Alkazian & Danielle Car; Publisher: none listed; DC (track) (www.daniellecarmusic.com)
—I first encountered this Detroit country gal in last year’s Christmas column. It turns out that she also has a five-song EP that kicks off with this blistering, breakneck country rocker. Promising in the extreme.

JOHNNY MATHIS & ALISON KRAUSS/Let It Be Me
Writer: Gilbert Becaud/Mann Curtis; Producer: Fred Mollin; Publisher: France/Universal, ASCAP/SDRM; Columbia (track)
—This legendary crooner came to Nashville last year to make his latest CD. But despite the Music Row players and Music City repertoire (”Make the World Go Away,” “Crazy,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” “Please Help Me, I’m Falling,” “You Don’t Know Me” etc.), this is not an attempt at a “country” record. However, it is—as this string-embellished Everly Brothers remake perfectly illustrates—very, very pretty.

D.J. MILLER/A Little Naughty Is Nice
Writer: Charlie Black/Don Goodman/Robert Resnick; Producer: Morris, Goodman & Resnick; Publisher: none listed; Evegreen (615-327-3213)
—With its merry tempo and insistent guitar groove, it has the feel of a fun-ride Tilt-a-Whirl. Miller sings with verve and gusto while the track spins along.

PETE ANDERSON/Even Things Up
Writer: Pete Anderson; Producer: Pete Anderson, Michael Murphy & Tony Rambo; Publisher: Jessee Lee, BMI; Little Dog (track) (www.peteanderson.com)
—Guitar wonder and Dwight Yoakam hit producer Pete Anderson sings with a cool, sandpapery whisper on his current Even Things Up CD. The bluesy title tune has rumbling percussion and plenty of Pete-played harmonica and electric guitar. Music City’s Becca Bramlett is the esteemed guest lead vocalist on “Still in Love,” but otherwise this is Mr. Anderson’s showcase from top to bottom.

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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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