DISClaimer Single Reviews (9/14/11)

Country music has returned.

With Sunny Sweeney, Merle Haggard and newcomer Glenn Kearney leading the charge, this listening session was packed with hard-core sounds. There’s not a pop platter in the stack.

A lot of this week’s tunes are ballads, but some of these sounds can really rock your world.  Definitely turn it up when you put on Sunny, Kyle Park or our Disc of the Day winner, MCA’s Kip Moore. I was a huge fan of Kip’s “Mary Was the Marrying Kind,” and “Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck” delivers on that initial promise in spades.

Honky-tonk balladeer Kearney competes with Canada’s Ashley Robertson, New Orleans newcomer Josh Charles and Sea Gayle/Arista’s Brent Anderson for this week’s DisCovery Award. Inventive songsmith Brent gets the nod.

KYLE PARK/Make Or Break Me
Writer: Kyle Park/Ryan Beaver; Producer: Kyle Park; Publisher: Walk in the Park/St. Beaver, BMI; Winning Road (track) (www.kylepark.com)
—Produced with plenty of oomph—crashing guitars, thudding percussion, slippery steel and admirable energy. The driving, melodic country rocker has a splendid undertow beneath his boyish tenor delivery. Listenable in the extreme.

SUNNY SWEENEY/Drink Myself Single
Writer: Monty Holmes/Sunny Sweeney; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Funky Merle/EMI April/Ash Street/Richardson Zuleger/Bluewater/Big Music Machine/Three Minute Movie/Super 98, ASCAP/BMI; Republic Nashville (track)
—It’s a gutsy, gal honky-tonker loaded with drawling attitude. The steel-soaked track stirs up a ruckus while she serves notice that she’s going on a tear. It’s enough to make you believe in real country music all over again. Grade: A-plus.

GLENN KEARNEY/Broken Heart
Writer: Tommy Barnes; Producer: Steve Tveit; Publisher: Glenn Kearney, BMI; GK (www.glennkearneymusic.com)
—His aching baritone is as warm as a campfire on this weeper ballad. Classic sounding.

BRENT ANDERSON/Amy’s Song
Writer: none listed; Producer: Frank Rogers; Publisher: none listed; Sea Gayle/Arista (track)
—I like his soft, lightly rasping vocal delivery on this yearning salute to the Pure Prairie League 1975 hit “Amie.” The group’s alumni Craig Fuller and Vince Gill provide the vocal harmonies.

JOSH CHARLES/Life Ain’t Fair
Writer: Josh Charles/Milton L. Brown; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Downhome (www.joshcharlesmusic.com)
—This downbeat, hard-luck-in-hard-times lament is performed at a languid, resigned pace that underscores its message of defeat. Definitely a song for today.

JOSH THOMPSON/Change
Writer: Josh Thompson/Phil O’Donnell/Chris Wallin; Producer: Phil O’Donnell; Publisher: none listed, BMI/ASCAP; Columbia (CDX)
—The lyric’s message is the more things change, the more they stay the same. Josh’s plain-spoken delivery is set to a deliberate, shuffling tempo underscored by sighing, keening electric guitar work. At first listen, it seems a mite dull, but I have a feeling it could grow on me.

KIP MOORE/Somethin’ ‘Bout a Truck
Writer: Kip Moore/Dan Couch; Producer: Brett James; Publisher: Music of Stage Three/Songs of Comman/Roll Through/BMG Chrysalis/Songs From the Couch, BMI; MCA Nashville (CDX)
—This former DisCovery Award winner has a cool, blue-collar-rocker vibe that gets more and more intense as this thumper progresses. I dig everything about this—the way it’s written, the way he wails it, the insistent percussion, the instrumental fade, everything.

FREDDY POWERS & MERLE HAGGARD/Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn
Writer: Freddy Powers; Producer: Merle Haggard, Freddy Powers & Lou Bradley; Publisher: Air Fred, BMI; Hag (CDX) (www.freddypowers.com)
—Powers is a veteran country-jazz fusion man who has always been cooler than the breeze. He and Hag swap lines with warmth, camaraderie and gentle swingability here, while his guitar filligrees embellish the the track beautifully. The sound of two masters at work.

ASHLEY ROBERTSON/Return to Me
Writer: Ashley Robertson; Producer: Ashley Robertson; Publisher: none listed, SOCAN; AR (Canada) (www.ashleyrobertson.com)
—Minor key, melodically repetitive and faintly Celtic sounding. Utterly unprogramable.

SEAN PATRICK McGRAW/What I’d Do
Writer: Sean Patrick McGraw/Ann Chappell/Jason Jones; Producer: Sean Patrick McGraw; Publisher: none listed, ASCAP; Little Engine (track) (www.seanpatrickmcgraw.com)
—This longtime Music Row fave is back with a shuddering ballad of heartbreak and regret. The song is so tuneful and ultra hooky that if his version doesn’t strike paydirt, somebody else should cover it pronto. A super effort.

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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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