They don’t call it “Country Music City,” just Music City.
And there’s a heck of a lot more going on here than honky-tonk tunes. In addition to hosting the pop-crossover success of Jason Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem,” the Hot 100 features Ke$ha’s “Blow” as well as the runaway top-10 smash “Tonight Tonight” by our own Hot Chelle Rae.
Let’s see—Paramore has a single called “Monster” on the Transformers soundtrack, and lead singer Hayley Williams is teaming up with Weezer on a Muppets tribute CD. Jack White’s Third Man imprint is promoting a single by Stephen Colbert (!). Jeff the Brotherhood has scored a Warners deal. Kings of Leon, Ben Folds and The Black Keys continue to be beacons of excellence.
In this pop-rock DisClaimer roundup, the aforementioned Hot Chelle Rae wins our Disc of the Day prize. I’m a little late getting to him, since his album dropped early this year, but Sharif Iman is most assuredly the DisCovery Award winner in this stack of platters.
JONELL MOSSER /When He Gets Home
Writer: Tom Britt/Jonell Mosser; Producer: Kevin McKendree, Tom Britt, Jonell Mosser & The Nico Teen Idols; Publisher: Slugfish/Brothers Mothers, no performance rights listed; City Hall (track) (www.cityhallrecords.com)
—Widely regarded as one of the 10 best female singers in Music City, regardless of genre, this blue-eyed soul diva co-wrote most of her new Fortunes Lost, Fortunes Told album with Nashville rock guitarist and co-producer Tom Britt. The set kicks off with this backbeat romper that marries New Orleans with new-wave soul. Elsewhere, she covers Taj Mahal’s “Giant Step,” Nick Lowe’s “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day,” and Craig Fuller’s “Fool for You.” This vet still sounds great.
WILL HOGE/When I Get My Wings
Writer: none listed; Producer: Will Hoge; Publisher: none listed; Ryko (track)
—This guy is a true Music City treasure. We nearly lost him four years ago when a truck crashed into his scooter, crushing his lungs and breaking multiple bones. His superb 2007 CD Draw the Curtains contained the thrillingly soulful “Washed By the Water.” He performed it, unforgettably, as the finale song of the Ryman telethon to benefit the victims of the May 2010 Nashville flood. This fitting successor is the lead single to his forthcoming, fall-release, seventh solo album titled Number Seven. Complete with blasting horns, it’s a simmering, stately Memphis/Stax slow-burn religious revival. Awesome.
HOT CHELLE RAE/Tonight Tonight
Writer: R.K. Follese/N. Overstreet/E. Kiriakou/E. Kidd Bogart/L. Robbins; Producer: Emanuel Kiriakou; Publisher: Midas/Sleep When I’m Rich/Scarlet Moon/Nash O/Roditis/Here’s Lookin’ at You Kidd/Beluga Heights/Sony-AATV/Hey Kiddo/Kobalt, BMI/ASCAP; Jive (track)
—Chord Overstreet is gone from from the cast of Glee, but brother Nash Overstreet has a big, fat pop hit with his band Hot Chelle Rae. Both are the sons of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Paul Overstreet. In addition to Nash, HCR also contains Jamie and R.K. Follese, the sons of country hit writer Keith Follese, plus Ian Keaggy, the son of Christian-music guitar wonder and multiple Dove awardee Phil Keaggy. “Tonight Tonight” has entered the pop top-10 with its cheerfully bright choruses, spoken passages and thumping party beats. It is the centerpiece of the group’s EP featuring three videos and four equally catchy audio tracks. Irresistible.
JIOSA/On The Edge
Writer: Denny Jiosa/John Toomey/Jon Von Boehm; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Jazzdaddy, SESAC; Sonic Canvas (track) (www.jiosa.com)
—Veteran Nashville guitarist Denny Jiosa now has a trio containing bassist Jon Von Boehm and drummer John Toomey. The title tune to the group’s new album is a rocking affair with improvised metallic axe screaming and steady rhythm undertow. Fling your hair around to this one. Also check out the groovy, echoey instrumental cover of George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
JEFF THE BROTHERHOOD/Bummer
Writer: Jake Orrall/Jamin Orrall; Producer: Jeff the Brotherhood; Publisher: Infinity Cat, ASCAP; Infinity Cat (track) (www.infinitycat.com)
—Brothers Jamin and Jake Orrall are beloved graduates of Be Your Own Pet. Their second CD as Jeff the Brotherhood seems to address their reputation as being better live than on disc, for it is quite the production. Audaciously titled We Are the Champions, the stoner-punk collection is full of wit as well as bashing and crashing. This single gets under your skin with its deep, dark instrumental bed and droning vocal. The boys’ father is Robert Ellis Orrall, of “Al Gore” notoriety, and the only Nashville songwriter to have written for both Shenandoah and Lindsay Lohan, not to mention “Look it Up” for Ashton Shepherd. By the way, this is the last chance you’ll have to buy Jeff as an indie (on vinyl, if you wish), because Warners is about to give Infinity Cat a shot at world domination.
ROYAL TAILOR/Hold Me Together
Writer: none listed; Producer: Chuck Butler; Publisher: none listed; Provident (track) (www.royaltailoronline.com)
—This bi-racial foursome is scaling the Christian charts with this track from its debut album Black & White. The plaintive tenor lead vocal arches skyward with shadowing backup singing and gently electrified, spacey instrumental work. The lyric could be romantic or religious, depending on the listener, so I sense definite pop-crossover potential.
Writer: Billy Falcon; Producer: Billy Falcon & Nick Pellegrino; Publisher: none listed, BMI; BF (track) (www.billyfalcon.com)
—Billy moved to Music City some 20 years ago following the loss of his wife to breast cancer. He raised daughter Rose on his own in Nashville, and she is now a pop record maker, herself. The two spent a good part of this year on the road opening for Bon Jovi, and Jon Bon Jovi and Richie Sambora are his co-writers on the album track “When We Were Beautiful.” “When,” the CD’s title tune, addresses Billy’s grief. It is a starkly arranged ballad with his cracked delivery fronting a sighing string section. The moving lyric wishes mom could only see her daughter now, as a blossoming adult. Essential listening that is loaded with soul.
BURLAP TO CASHMERE/Build A Wall
Writer: Steven Delopoulos; Producer: Mitchell Froom; Publisher: SD Songs, SESAC; Jive/Essential (track) (www.burlaptocashmere.com)
—Although based in Brooklyn, this five-man folk-rock band is marketed out of Music City. Its hair-raising back story involves guitarist John Philippidis being nearly beaten to death by two now-imprisoned male assailants because of a road-rage incident in 2005. His cousin, Steve Delopoulos, is the band’s songwriter and lead singer. The group’s long comeback has led to a self-titled CD that includes this very cool, crunchy, compelling thumper. Burlap to Cashmere deserves to stand alongside Mumford & Sons, The Avett Brothers and other stellar practitioners of heart-pumping alternative, acoustic pop.
MATTHEW WEST/Strong Enough
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Sparrow (track)
—In addition to being an award-winning CCM artist, West writes songs for folks like Rascal Flatts, Billy Ray Cyrus, Point of Grace, Mallary Hope (”Love Lives On”) and Diamond Rio (”This Is My Life”). His current hit has a shuddering, hard-rock track that contrasts somewhat disturbingly with his light, tenor vocal delivery. Pass.
Writer: Sharif Iman; Producer: Dave Wilson; Publisher: Fox/Chocolate Soul Child, SESAC; Foxy/CSC (track) (www.sharifiman.com)
—This Nashville singer-songwriter was so determined to make it in music that he endured periods of homelessness. The handsome, self-proclaimed “Chocolate Soul Child” has made solid strides forward with his indie single, which is also the title tune to his CD. It is a shimmering, soaring outing that showcases his impressive vocal range and inspirational songwriting. I believe in this guy.
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