DISClaimer Single Reviews (6/8/11)

We have a mixed bag of sounds on tap today.

The listening session was dominated by indies. Some of them were quite listenable (Stephanie Urbina Jones, Aaron Einhouse), others not so much. The one who stood out as a DisCovery Award winner was Drake Jensen. Other than the fact that he is managed out of Ottawa, I know next to nothing about him.

Lady Antebellum was, as always, a luscious listening experience. But the Disc of the Day belongs to Kellie Pickler. “Tough” is the perfect song for this personality-packed performer.

I don’t have an awards category for this, but maybe I should honor someone each week who reminds us all what hardcore country music really sounds like. If I did, I would certainly polish a statuette for the supremely soulful stylings of Gene Watson & Rhonda Vincent. Their album is called Your Money and My Good Looks. It dropped this week. Get it.

JIMMY LEHOUX/Twenty Toes In The Sand
Writer: Liz Miller/Tom Stipe; Producer: Tom McBee; Publisher: Check to Rex/Pen, ASCAP; Ruby (www.jimmylehoux.net)
—Half of this town has been ripping off Jimmy Buffett for years.

DRAKE JENSEN/Wash Me Away
Writer: M. Narmore/M. McGuire; Producer: Kim Copeland; Publisher: Oven/Avalon Avenue, BMI/ASCAP; Soaring Eagle (track)
—Very dramatic. Unmistakably country, but with a certain sonic majesty and terrific, multi-layered production finesse. Not only is the song finely crafted, he sings with open throated confidence and clear conviction. A winner.

KELLIE PICKLER/Tough
Writer: Leslie Satcher; Producer: Frank Liddell & Luke Wooten; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree/Leslie Satcher, BMI; BNA
—At last! The giant hit that Pickler has always deserved is finally here. This rumbling, romping rhythm number has a lyric with real moxie, and she delivers it with just the right amount of sass.

T.J. BROSCOFF/Pillow
Writer: T.J. Broscoff; Producer: Bill Green; Publisher: Bill Green, BMI; BGM (www.tjbroscoff.com)
—Take vocal lessons to learn how to hold a note longer than a nanosecond.

CLAUDIA NYGAARD/His Left Side
Writer: Claudia Nygaard; Producer: Claudia Nygaard; Publisher: Cattlelog, BMI; Bet the Ranch (track) (www.claudianygaard.com)
—This one’s a story song on the folkie side of things. His wife has passed away, and he wants to come back to work the land as soon as he recovers from a stroke. Instead, he comes home to die, holding the reins of his old horse standing by his bedside on the front porch.

GENE WATSON & RHONDA VINCENT/Gone For Good
Writer: Jimmy Melton; Producer: Herb Sandker; Publisher: Castle Street/Bughouse/Bug, ASCAP; Upper Management (track) (www.geneandrhonda.net)
—The first duet album by these two superb country vocalists features chestnuts like “My Sweet Love Ain’t Around,” “Sweet Thang,” “Til the End,” “Out of Hand” and “You Could Know as Much About a Stranger,” plus three Rhonda originals. Among the new tunes by others, this lost-love weeper is the awesome single/video. If you yearn for a real honky-tonk ballad with emotion-soaked harmony and moaning steel, this will smack you right between the eyes. A match made in hillbilly heaven.

LADY ANTEBELLUM/Just A Kiss
Writer: Dave Haywood/Charles Kelley/Hillary Scott/Dallas Davidson; Producer: Paul Worley & Lady Antebellum; Publisher: Warner-Tamerlane/DWHaywood/Radiobulletspublishing/EMI Foray/Hillary Dawn/EMI Blackwood/String Stretcher, BMI/SESAC; Capitol Nashville (CDX)
—A delirious dream of harmony vocalizing. It is, indeed, the audio equivalent of a romantic kiss.

AARON EINHOUSE/The Cougar Song
Writer: Aaron Einhouse; Producer: Walt Wilkins; Publisher: none listed, BMI; AE  (www.aaroneinhouse.com)
—Three husbands down, the lady at the bar is waiting for you to light her cigarette, if you catch my drift. Bouncy, and sung with drawling good humor.

CONNIE KIS ANDERSEN/Steamy Dreams
Writer: Connie Kis Andersen; Producer: Doug Wayne; Publisher: Kismana, APRA; Kismana (track) (www.conniekisandersen.com.au)
—This has reportedly already been a top-5 country hit in Australia. She sings capably in a slightly bluesy way, and the swampy guitar work is exemplary. But the whole thing is just too “white” for my taste.

STEPHANIE URBINA JONES/I’m Not A Pinata
Writer: Stepahnie Urbina Jones/Mark Marchetti; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Casa Del Rio/Baby Z, SESAC/BMI; Texican Entertainment (www.stephanieurbinajones.com)
—The instrumental single is a snappy country rocker with a whiplash beat. The vocal version has a husky alto intro before the smoking track catches fire. I have long been a fan of this performer, and this time around she’s really kicking tail.

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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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