DISClaimer Single Reviews (2/9/11)

This week, we have two superstars at the peak of their powers and two newcomers vying to rock your world.

The superstars in question are Ronnie Dunn and Keith Urban. The understated, restrained performance by the latter won my heart as the Disc of the Day.

The two rocking first timers are Bridgette Tatum and actor-singer Christian Kane. Despite my reservations about his using a rock producer, Christian Kane’s songwriting ability and undeniable vocal talent led me to crown him with a DisCovery Award.

For less thunderous experiences, check out the gently lovely work being done this week by Billy Dean, Due West and Justin Moore.

TOMMY GOBEL/If You Can’t Do the Time
Writer: Lisa Gobel/Tommie Gobel; Producer: Leo J. Eiffert, Jr.; Publisher: Boodle O/Three Labs/Young Country, BMI; Boodle O
—Your tipsy uncle and his friends are camped out in your garage. The neighbors are complaining about the racket they’re making.

KEITH URBAN/Without You
Writer: Dave Pahanish/Joe West; Producer: Dann Huff & Keith Urban; Publisher: Wrighteous/Big Loud Bucks/Sony ATV Tree/Songs for My Good Girl, BMI; Capitol Nashville (track)
—He’s such a hotshot guitarist and such a top flight songwriter, that we tend to forget what a dynamite vocalist he is. This lilting, simply arranged love song is a showcase for some wonderfully expressive singing.

JONI RAE JACK/Western Bling
Writer: Joni Rae Jack/Robby Turner; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Michelle Rose/Robby Turner, BMI; JRJ (www.joniraejack.com)
—Tuneless noise.

JUSTIN MOORE/If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away
Writer: Dallas Davidson/Rob Hatch/Brett Jones; Producer: Jeremy Stover; Publisher: Big Borassa/Universal-Careers/Down the Hatch/Jonesbone, BMI/ASCAP; Valory Music
—I confess that I’ve never been overly impressed with this artist’s seemingly endless string of redneck-rocker releases. This time out he’s found a first-class piece of material. The song has loads of heart, the production is solid and his emotional performance is right on the money.

BRIDGETTE TATUM/Hillbilly Rockstar
Writer: Bridgette Tatum/Danny Myrick; Producer: Danny Myrick; Publisher: Root 49/Cackalacki Twang/Danny Myrick, BMI; Root 49 (www.bridgettetatum.com)
—The title pretty much sums it up. The surprise is her husky, throaty alto delivery that is positively “macho” in its impact. It is such a striking vocal sound that it even manages to dominate the screaming-guitars production.

RONNIE DUNN/Bleed Red
Writer: Andrew Dorff/Tommy Lee James; Producer: Ronnie Dunn; Publisher: Songs of Universal/Super Phonic/Pretty Woman/EverGreen, BMI; Arista
—The message is peace. The ballad is powerful. The performance is thrilling. This veteran voice can still send chills all over your body.

SABASTIAN ROBERTS/It’s Still Country to Me
Writer: Gary Nicholson; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Gary Nicholson/Sony ATV Cross Keys, ASCAP; Homage/Spinville (www.sabastianroberts.com)
—Yes, I know that’s not how most people spell “Sabastian.” This is, however, how most people in contemporary Nashville music seem to think: If you fuse Hank and Van Halen, you’re still “country.”

BILLY DEAN/The Greatest Man I Never Knew
Writer: none listed; Producer: Ray Barnett; Publisher: EMI April/Lion-Hearted/Layng Martine Jr., no performance rights listed; BDMG (track) ()
—Billy’s latest CD, released on his own imprint, is a tribute to songwriter Richard Leigh.  It does not include such Leigh-penned Billy Dean hits as “Somewhere in My Broken Heart” or “Only Here for a Little While.” It does feature covers of Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” and this 1992 Reba classic. Billy’s delivery is enormously touching, as always. A very worthy remake of an extraordinary song.

DUE WEST/When the Smoke Clears
Writer: Matt Lopez/Don Rollins; Producer: Jason Deere & Jimmy Nichols; Publisher: Deere Lights/Recognizant/Warner Tamerlane/Songs of BDAS, BMI; Black River (track) (615-353-2778)
—This trio’s sophomore single is a textbook example of harmony vocalizing. The ballad has a dreamy, almost jazzy tone, like smoke curling up to the ceiling at midnight. Very classy stuff.

CHRISTIAN KANE/The House Rules
Writer: none listed; Producer: Bob Ezrin &  Jimmie Lee Sloas; Publisher: none listed; Outlaw Saints/Bigger Picture (track) (www.christiankane.com)
—This fellow stars on the TNT television series Leverage as a Harley-riding justice seeker. His style of country is of the amped-up, sweat-stained, guitar-screaming variety. The title tune and first single from his CD is pretty cool, saying that at the end of a week, you owe yourself a rowdy good time. He sings it quite well. Get rid of the rock production, and you might have yourself something.

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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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