Let’s hear it for the little people.
Our three contenders for this edition’s DisCovery Award can all be found on independent labels. Jason Cassidy sounds totally authentic on “Honky Tonk Heaven.” LiveWire has a stirring backwoods rocker with “Tater Fed.” I have reviewed the Oz trio The McClymonts once before, but a change of producers has led to an entirely new and improved sound for this group. Give those gals and their “Wrapped Up Good” single the nod.
The Disc of the Day goes to the combo of Rascal Flatts with New Zealand born and Britain-created pop warbler Natasha Bedingfield. Their “Easy” is an easy choice.
Returning to indie artists for a moment: Can I get a witness for Keith Bryant? Here is a guy who has been toiling in the indie trenches since at least 2001, and who has shown awesomely consistent taste in finding great songs and performing them with immense country soul. The fact that this man is not a regular fixture on the charts is an enormous injustice.
THE McCLYMONTS/Wrapped Up Good
Writer: Brooke McClymont/Samantha McClymont/Mollie McClymont/Nathan Chapman; Producer: Nathan Chapman; Publisher: EMI/Sony-ATV, no performance rights listed; BSM ([email protected])
—Attractively minor key, with cool dobro backing and a punchy rhythmic thump. The trio’s vocal arrangements are quite imaginative, alternating between straightforward harmonizing and Greek-chorus “answering” passages. Smartly bopping, maddeningly catchy and insanely listenable.
BRAD PAISLEY & CARRIE UNDERWOOD/Remind Me
Writer: Brad Paisley/Chris DuBois/Kelley Lovelace; Producer: Frank Rogers; Publisher: none listed; Arista (track)
—They recall how passionate they used to be with one another and yearn for the return of romance. Both Brad and Carrie sing splendidly on this slightly over-produced, busy-sounding ballad.
LACY GREEN/For The Summertime
Writer: Heather Lynn Morgan/David Thomson; Producer: Ronnie Bowman; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree/Sony-ATV Tunes, no performance rights listed; Swangate (www.lacygreen.com)
—As sweet as cotton candy, and just about as nourishing. Pleasant and lilting, if ultimately lightweight.
KEITH URBAN/Long Hot Summer
Writer: Richard Marx/Keith Urban; Producer: Dann Huff & Keith Urban; Publisher: Richard Marx/Mary Rose/Songs of Universal, ASCAP/BMI; Capitol Nashville (track)
—Warmly romantic. Back to his rollicking, upbeat, relentlessly rhythmic style following the lovely side road that the marvelous “Without You” was.
JASON CASSIDY/Honky Tonk Heaven
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; A-Blake (www.jasoncassidymusic.com)
—Darkly bluesy, with superlative, grassy vocal harmonies. Talk about a bolt out of the blue, I have no idea who sent this to me, but for a total unknown it is a jaw-dropping performance. According to his website, he is a Texan, and this is his second single.
RASCAL FLATTS & NATASHA BEDINGFIELD/Easy
Writer: Katrina Elam/Mike Mobley; Producer: Dan Huff, Brian Kennedy & Rascal Flatts; Publisher: Songs of Universal/Kreative/Final Final Songs of Elevation/Wapakonetta, BMI/ASCAP; Big Machine (track)
—Brit pop gal Natasha holds her own amid the crashing-guitars production and Gary’s powerhouse singing. It may be titled “Easy,” but the thundering sound of this is anything but. Unmistakably hit bound.
Writer: Andy Eutsler; Producer: Bart Pursley, Bobby DeGonia & Justin Woods; Publisher: Bellhouse, BMI; LiveWire (615-319-1863)
—He grows up on homegrown vegetables. The other kids called him “husky.” To the accompaniment of shuddering electric guitar and pounding drums, he becomes a man who is afraid of no one. Tough sounding.
DONNA ULISSE/Hand Me Down Home
Writer: Donna Ulisse/Rick Stanley; Producer: Keith Sewell; Publisher: Uncle Hadley/Pop ‘N Paw, ASCAP; Hadley Music Group (track) (www.donnaulisse.com)
—Former country starlet Ulisse continues on her bluegrass odyssey with a new CD titled An Easy Climb. This gentle, acoustic ode to country living has the stellar backing of folks like Scott Vestal, Viktor Krauss and, especially, fiddler and mandolinist Andy Leftwich. The picking is dazzling and the sentiments are genuine.
CJAYE LEROSE/The Porch
Writer: CJaye LeRose/Dwight A. Baker; Producer: Dwight A. Baker; Publisher: Tattooed Pinkies/Matchbox Studios/Sony-ATV, BMI; Tattooed Pinkies Entertainment (track) (www.cjayelerose.com)
—What are you, 12? Is that really your grown-up singing voice?
KEITH BRYANT/Can’t Tell Somebody Who To Love
Writer: Wendell Mobley/Mike Mobley/Shane Minor; Producer: Chris Utley; Publisher: EMI Blackwood/Shane Minor/Universal/Warner-Tamerlane/Boatwright Baby, BMI; Jordash (www.jordashrecords.com)
—This guy is a stand-up country singer, and I’ve always liked him. This time around, he has a dandy tale of a strict daddy who tries to stand in the way of True Love. So the kids sneak around behind papa’s back to that stretch of road, “Where the moon is willing, and the river don’t mind.” The song soars like an eagle, and so does its vocalist. Absolutely and definitely a winner.
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