DISClaimer Single Reviews (6/1/11)

When the Americana Music Association announced its 2011 awards contenders recently, it jolted me into awareness of how long it has been since I penned an Americana review column.

How long has it been? Well, let’s just say that in the elapsed time, Todd Snider, David Olney and Those Darlins have issued two albums apiece. Ouch.

There is much to like in this week’s overview. So much, in fact, that I’m dividing the Disc of the Day prize into Female, Male and Group awards. The Female disc belongs to 2011 AMA nominee Elizabeth Cook. The Male award goes to the enduringly great David Olney. And the Group prize belongs to the ultra listenable Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors.

ELIZABETH COOK/El Camino
Writer: Elizabeth Cook; Producer: Don Was; Publisher: Agent Love, SESAC; 31 Tigers (track) (www.elizabeth-cook.com)
—He picks her up in a deadbeat’s vehicle. She has a few snarky words for that while the band clomps along rhythmically. This rollicking little thumper is nominated for this year’s Song of the Year by the AMA, and Elizabeth’s brilliant Welder CD from which it comes is a well-deserved Album of the Year nominee.

DAVID OLNEY/Sunset on Sunset Boulevard
Writer: David Olney; Producer: Jack Irwin; Publisher: David Olney/Bug, BMI; Deadbeet (track) (www.davidolney.com)
—Olney has two current projects—his Dutchman’s Curve CD of last year and a new five-song collection called Film Noir. Both are among the best produced discs of his career. This spooky tune closes the latter set with its dark tales of coldly ambitious Hollywood wanna-be’s, faded liquored-up stars and phonies. By the way, you can watch this gifted troubadour perform live every Tuesday at 6 p.m. at TinyUrl.com/DavidOlneyTV.

JOE ELY/Satisfied at Last
Writer: Joe Ely; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Tornado Temple, BMI; Rack ‘Em (track) (www.ely.com)
—The title tune to this timeless Texas treasure’s latest album finds him singing with vigor over an echoey, chiming guitar track. He’s singing of mortality, but he’s mighty robust and vital about it. Heartily recommended, as always.

TODD SNIDER/Money, Compliments, Publicity
Writer: Todd Snider; Producer: Don Was; Publisher: Nobody’s Collecting on These Songs/Bug, BMI; Aimless/Yep Roc (track) (www,toddsnider.net)
—You really should own every CD this guy’s ever made. The two current ones are a live album and a studio set titled The Excitement Plan. The latter contains this wonderfully sardonic ode from the funniest East Nashville loser’s voice ever. Genius is not too strong a word.

HAYS CARLL & CARY ANN HEARST/Another Like You
Writer: Hayes Carll; Producer: Brad Jones; Publisher: Highway 87/Bug, SESAC; Lost Highway (track) (www.hayescarll.com)
—Speaking of funny, this man tickles folks everywhere he goes. He won last year’s AMA Song of the Year award with “She Left Me for Jesus.” He’s nominated this year for the title tune to his “KMAG YOYO” CD. But for a real treat, check out this mutually insulting—and profane—duet on the collection.

JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT/Go It Alone
Writer: Jason Isbell; Producer: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit; Publisher: Fame, BMI; Lightning Rod (track) (www.jasonisbell.com)
—Jason is Hayes Carll’s sometime touring partner this year. His current Here We Rest collection contains this ominous rocker. His tenor vocal fronts some smart, crunchy chops by the tight 400 Unit.

LUCINDA WILLIAMS/Blessed
Writer: Lucinda Williams; Producer: Don Was, Eric Liljestrand & Thomas Overby; Publisher: none listsed; Lost Highway (track) (www.lucindawilliams.com)
—Lucinda’s Blessed is a contender for AMA Album of the Year in 2011. Its emotional title tune finds truth and beauty in a blind man, a battered wife, a fallen soldier, a neglected child, a homeless man, a prisoner and more who teach us about grace and forgiveness. Heartfelt.

DREW HOLCOMB & THE NEIGHBORS/Live Forever
Writer: none listed; Producer: Andy Hunt; Publisher: none listed; Dualtone (track) (615-320-0620)
—When this aired on the soundtrack of an NBC Parenthood episode last season, a firestorm of downloading reportedly ensued. It’s easy to hear why. This is a majestic, ethereal audio landscape. By the time Drew gets to its inspiring chorus of hope and strength, your heart is in your throat. I have made no secret of my admiration for this artist, and now he’s reached me even more deeply. The album is titled Chasing Someday. Buy it at once.

THOSE DARLINS/Red Light Love
Writer: Those Darlins; Producer: Jeff Curtin & Those Darlins; Publisher: none listed, BMI; Oh Wow Dang (track) (www.thosedarlins.com)
—This bashing, neo-punk trio has a new CD called Screws Get Loose with a video, “Be Your Bro.” The latter is a direct descendent of this thrashy, Ramones-like track from the original Those Darlins album.

GREG TROOPER/They Call Me Hank
Writer: Greg Trooper; Producer: Stewart Lerman, Kevin McKendree & Greg Trooper; Publisher: 52 Shakes, BMI; 52 Shakes (track) (www.gregtrooper.com)
—This track from Greg’s Upside-Down Town collection is being hailed as a Song of the Year contender by many. His raspy, resigned vocal is perfect for this moving portrait of a wino who sells catfish he catches for the bucks to buy his booze. This is what real song writing is, people.

 

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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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