DISClaimer Single Reviews (10/19/11)

Look beyond our famous stars like Kings of Leon, Paramore, Sheryl Crow, Ke$ha, Ben Folds, Kim Carnes, Michael McDonald, Steve Cropper, Leon Russell, Donna Summer, Keb’ Mo’ and The Black Keys, and you’ll find that they are just the tip of a very, very large pop/rock iceberg in Music City.

The community is incredibly diverse, so that made choosing award winners especially tough this week. There are two DisCovery Award artists. One, Shane Dwight, comes from the R&B column. The other, Nashville newcomer Parachute, is a straight-ahead rock band.

Similarly, the two Disc of the Day winners come from different genres. Legendary singer-songwriter John Hiatt is a rocker at heart. The McCrary Sisters have a disc that showcases their gospel roots.

TONY BENNETT & FAITH HILL/The Way You Look Tonight
Writer: Jerome Kern/Dorothy Fields; Producer: Phil Ramone & Dae Bennett; Publisher: Universal PolyGram/Shapiro Bernstein/Aldi, ASCAP; Columbia (track)
—I am told that Faith is finally finishing a new album (her last was a Christmas album three years ago). Meanwhile, fans needing a Faith fix will have to make do with her Sunday football tunes and this track from Tony’s Duets II collection. Performed with a light jazz combo and sighing strings, this has a lushly romantic vibe. Tony sounds terrific at 85, and Faith proves to be a solid saloon stylist and harmony vocalist. Other Nashville-oriented folks on this justly celebrated set include Carrie Underwood, Sheryl Crow and Willie Nelson.

J.D. SOUTHER/I’ll Be Here At Closing Time
Writer: John David Souther; Producer: Fred Mollin; Publisher: none listed; Entertainment One (track)
—The last outing by this former country-rocker was a surprisingly jazzy affair. On his new Natural History CD, he revisits his distinguished catalog, reworking “Faithless Love,” “New Kid in Town,” “You’re Only Lonely,” “Prisoner of Love,” “Best of My Love” and the like. And, let’s face it, song writing doesn’t come much better than those classics. This finale ballad is a sweet, wistful pledge of devotion sung in an intimate whisper with a gentle, simple piano/guitar accompanying track. It’s as lovely a ballad as he’s ever done, and he reportedly killed with it at a recent showcase at The Basement.

THE FEATURES /Rambo
Writer: Matthew Pelham/The Features; Producer: Brian Carter & The Features; Publisher: Bug/Bughouse/Silent But Violent/This Is Daiglenetics/Ghost Riding, BMI/ASCAP; Bug Music (track) (www.thefeatures.com)
—This durable Nashville rock institution is back with a collection titled Wilderness. Its calling-card single is a rattling, jangling stomper with a passionate, sky-high, lead vocal that rides above super guitar work and a ferocious rhythm track. These four guys can still deliver a mighty big sound.

JACK WHITE/You Know That I Know
Writer: Hank Williams/Jack White; Producer: Jack White III; Publisher: Sony-ATV Acuff-Rose/Third String, BMI; Columbia (track)
—The Lost Notebooks
CD has today’s stars writing melodies and/or finishing lyrics left behind nearly 60 years ago by the late Hank Williams. The restlessly creative Jack White seems to always have a Raconteurs, Third Man or other project in the works. Here, he channels Hank both vocally and instrumentally. I’m serious: He sounds surprisingly like the country icon, and Donnie Heron’s steel guitar tingles just like a Drifting Cowboy should. Other participants on this extraordinary record include Sheryl Crow, Merle Haggard, Lucinda Williams,  Vince Gill & Rodney Crowell, Alan Jackson, Patty Loveless and granddaughter Holly Williams, not to mention Bob Dylan.

PARACHUTE /Something To Believe In
Writer: Will Anderson; Producer: John Fields; Publisher: How It Should Be/Warner Chappell, BMI; Mercury (track)
—This five-piece band has recently moved to Music City from Charlottsville, VA. You say you’re sick of dance-pop, hip-hop, emo and “alternative” anything? Step right up, because these guys are old-school pop-rock with real melodies, throbbing electric guitars and pumping rhythm. This track from its The Way It Was CD has a big, U2-ish sound, multi-voiced choral singing on the choruses and a honking sax to top it off. Catchy and uplifting, to say the least.

DAVID MEAD /Twenty Girls Ago
Writer: Bill DeMain/David Mead; Producer: Brad Jones; Publisher: Tin Panda/Bug/Da Wei Phonetic, ASCAP/BMI; Cheap Lullaby (track)
—Mike Grimes at Grimey’s says this is his very favorite pop song today. That’s a good enough endorsement for me, so I spun it. As a long-time David Mead fan, I expected to be delighted and was. It’s a sweetly melodic ballad sung in his trademark tenor with rippling acoustic guitar, fluttering mandolin, sighing clarinet and tinkling piano backing. Romantic regret is set to a deliciously quirky and complex tune. The description that comes to mind is “chamber pop.” It is on last year’s Almost and Always CD, but it’s never too late to buy any Mead music. I remain a completely smitten fan.

THE McCRARY SISTERS/Give Him My All
Writer: Bob Dylan/Regina McCrary; Producer: Tommy Sims; Publisher: none listed; McC (track)
—Regina McCrary has sung on three Dylan CDs and toured with him as well, hence the unusual songwriting credit. The four sisters front a funk track with stately horn blasts and a bass line that pulses righteously. Alfreda, Ann, Deborah and Regina are arguably Nashville’s greatest soul sisters. Just ask Stevie Wonder, Bobby Jones, Wynonna, Ray Stevens (that’s them on “Everything Is Beautiful”), Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin, Mike Farris or the late Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley, all of whom have recorded with them. The new McCrary CD is titled Our Journey. Buy it the moment it drops next Tuesday.

JOHN HIATT/Damn This Town
Writer: John Hiatt; Producer: Kevin Shirley; Publisher: Warner-Tamerlane/Oral Track Tunes, BMI; New West (track) (www.johnhiatt.com)
—This enduring Music City treasure kicks off his Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns CD with this doom-soaked, bluesy rocker. The track rumbles and cries in deep mystery while he wails to the heavens of trials and tribulations. Absolutely addictive and undeniably great.

TOM HAMBRIDGE/I Keep Things
Writer: Tom Hambridge; Producer: Tom Hambridge; Publisher: Tom Hambridge, ASCAP; Superstar (track) (www.tomhambridge.com)
—Tom produced Buddy Guy’s 2010 Grammy winning blues CD and co-wrote Gretchen Wilson’s “I Got Your Country Right Here” his version of which is included on his new Boom! album. The disc begins with this rollicking rocker, sung with a gutsy, drawling rasp and featuring stinging guitar. Tom is a drummer, so you know the “bottom” of the sound is solid.

SHANE DWIGHT/A Hundred White Lies
Writer: Shane Dwight; Producer: Kevin McKendree & Shane Dwight; Publisher: Robert Vincent Zolezzi, ASCAP; R-Tist (track) (www.shanedwight.com)
—This R&B guitar slinger and songwriter has been a Nashvillian since 2008. The title track of his new CD is a bluesy meditation with a serious stomp attack. The McCrarys moan mournfully in the background while Dwight’s guitar underscores every line of broken-home misery. Cool in the extreme.

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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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