DISClaimer Single Reviews (7/6/11)

Superstars Taylor Swift and Shania Twain are in the mix this week, but both were trumped by lesser lights.

Challenging the two divas for supremacy were excellent new sounds from Craig Morgan, Robin Meade, Royal Wade Kimes and Jody Jenkins. Kasey Chambers and Billy Ray Cyrus were so good that they finished in a dead heat for Disc of the Day.

Atlantic/Warner newcomer Ty Stone sings in a soulfully strangulated tenor voice. But his real reason for earning a DisCovery Award is his remarkable, truth-telling song, “American Style.”

TY STONE/American Style
Writer: Ty Stone/Marlon Young; Producer: Marlon Young; Publisher: Ty Stone/Jo Ray Dean/Sony-ATV, BMI; Top Dog/Atlantic/Warner
—This solid little blue-collar rocker echoes the classic work done by folks like John Mellencamp, Bob Seger and Bruce Springsteen. Stone chronicles the hard times faced by working-class Americans, yet concludes that we’re still all standing together. Sing it, brother.

MARTY McINTOSH/The American Night
Writer: Dennis Knutson/Roger Alan Wade; Producer: David Frizzell; Publisher: Major Bob/Rio Bravo/Castle Bound, BMI/SESAC; Nashville America (CDX) (615-654-4909)
—The well-produced track packs plenty of punch, and the song is very well written. The vocalist has a two-note range.

CRAIG MORGAN/This Ole Boy
Writer: Ben Hayslip/Dallas Davidson/Rhett Akins; Producer: Phil O’Donnell; Publisher: WB/Melissa’s Money/Get a Load of This/EMI Blackwood/Song Stretcher/Rhettneck, ASCAP/BMI; Black River (CDX)
—This Grand Ole Opry star remains one of the finest pure-country singers of ‘em all. This toe tapper celebrates hillbilly love with joy poured into every note. Absolutely radio ready.

ROYAL WADE KIMES/500 Miles Away From Home
Writer: Bobby Bare/Charlie Williams/Hedy West; Producer: George Bradfute & Mike Noble; Publisher: EMI/Warner-Unichappell/Central Songs, BMI; Wonderment (CDX) (www.royalwadekimes.com)
—This 1963 Bobby Bare pop-crossover smash now serves as Royal’s finest single in recent memory. Like Bare, he lets the song’s inherent sadness carry the day rather than engaging in any vocal histrionics. His hang-dog delivery, the note-perfect instrumental support and the sweetly retro backing vocalists are all audio delights.

SHANIA TWAIN/Today Is Your Day
Writer: Shania Twain; Producer: Nathan Chapman & Shania Twain; Publisher: Loon Echo/Songs of Universal, BMI; Mercury (CDX)
—The lyrics of this ballad sound cribbed from the self-help-book cliche encyclopedia. But the memorable melody, crystalline production and vocal performance are all sterling.

ROBIN MEADE/Dirty Laundry
Writer: Don Henley/Danny Kortchmar; Producer: Victoria Shaw; Publisher: Woody Creek/Warner Tamerlane/WB, BMI/ASCAP; Robin Meade/Somerset Entertainment (track)
—How deliciously ironic that this HLN TV newswoman’s country single debut is Don Henley’s famed 1982 screed against TV journalism. Bo Bice, Kix Brooks, Gary Burr, Sarah Buxton and Victoria Shaw join her on the choruses, but this is Robin’s feisty vocal showcase all the way. This gal has moxie.

BILLY RAY CYRUS/Runway Lights
Writer: Josh Kear/Mark Irwin/Jameson Clark; Producer: Buddy Cannon; Publisher: Sony-ATV Cross Keys/Big Purple Dog/Universal/MGB, ASCAP; Buena Vista (track) (www.billyraycyrus.com)
—Billy Ray’s new I’m American CD is dedicated to our men and women in uniform. Its lead-off single is the stirring saga of a Navy flier overseas who yearns for the sights, sounds and sensations of home. Brilliantly written and performed with sincerity and passion.

JODY JENKINS/Brings Back Amarillo
Writer: Bart Butler/Frank Solesbee; Producer: Bart Butler; Publisher: Bill Butler, BMI; Zone 7 (210-497-7908)
—Very dusty and western sounding. The track has a wide-open-spaces vibe, but the song is almost claustrophobic in its yearning misery of lost love. Very echoey and evocative.

TAYLOR SWIFT/Sparks Fly
Writer: Taylor Swift; Producer: Nathan Chapman & Taylor Swift; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree/Taylor Swift, BMI; Big Machine (track)
—Delirious pop romance. As usual with this artist, the hooks are impossibly catchy.

KASEY CHAMBERS/Little Bird
Writer: Kasey Chambers; Producer: Kasey Chambers & The Millionaires; Publisher: Essence/Mushroom, no performance rights listed; Essence/Sugar Hill (track) (www.kaseychambers.com)
—This gifted Aussie seems to grow more creative with each release. The title tune to her latest offers a birdie’s lilting advice about how to win him back. She retorts in a sweetly snarky soprano that she doesn’t want him that badly anyhow. The twinkling production, her layered vocals and the swirling mood are all ear tickling in the extreme. Play it again.

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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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