DISClaimer Single Reviews (11/23/11)

Hillbilly humor, philosophy in song, classic country, bopping pop and ballads with heart, this stack of platters had it all.

Two of our three contenders for the DisCovery Award got there via the humor route. Kris Gordon is jaunty and easy-going, but both Zach Paxson and The Cleverlys are chuckling and grinning all the way. The Cleverlys are funnier. They get the prize.

The philosophical song is the excellent new effort by Ty Herndon. Willie Nelson provides the classic country tune.

I don’t give a Comeback of the Day award, but if I did, it would most assuredly go to Sherrie Austin. Her Circus Girl is a wonderful winner.

In a surprise development, Josh Thompson wins his first Disc of the Day award from this column.

KRIS GORDON/The Up Side Of Down
Writer: Tony Ramey/Michael White; Producer: Dean Miller; Publisher: Songs of Cherry Lane Ventures/Fast Horse/Big Picture/Cherry River, BMI/ASCAP; Frio (track) (www.krisgordon.net)
—It has a very cool, loping groove and some charming guitar and steel licks. His jaunty, relaxed vocal performance matches the song’s upbeat mood perfectly. Playable in the extreme.

JOSH THOMPSON/Comin’ Around
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; RCA
—Easily his strongest effort to date. He delivers the lyric of personal evolution in a warm, honest drawl while a banjo ripples notes and a Telecaster twangs in support. It’s ultra melodic and made even more so by some highly effective harmony vocals.

SHERRY LYNN/Breakin’ Up Song
Writer: Steve Dean/Blake Gray/Will Nance; Producer: Ted Hewitt; Publisher: Brentwood Benson/Blue Guitar/Smokin’ Grapes/Bilangray/Lil’ Geezer, BMI; Quarterback (www.sherrylynnmusic.com)
—It is exactly what the title says it is, and well-written at that. Her singing of it is adequate, if unexceptional.

TY HERNDON/Stones
Writer: Hinson/Michaels/Tribble; Producer: none listed; Publisher: American Romance/Beechtree/Check Please/Jumping Cholla/WB, no performance rights listed; Flying Island/Funl
—From a birth stone to a childhood pebble to a wedding ring to a grave marker “our lives are paved with stones.” It’s a powerful ballad, and this guy has the vocal chops to nail its every emotion. A-plus.

SHAWNA RUSSELL/Waitin’ On Sunrise
Writer: Shawna Russell/Keith Russell/Tim Russell; Producer: Julian King, Clif Doyal & Tim Russell; Publisher: Blue Buckaroo, BMI; Way Out West (615-319-1863)
—Previously noted for rocking out, this time the lady is moody and contemplative. The mid-tempo, echoey arrangement frames her performance with a solid, steady groove highlighted by a dandy electric guitar solo and some sighing organ notes.

SHERRIE AUSTIN/Circus Girl
Writer: Sherrie Austin/Charity Daw/Will Rambeaux; Producer: Will Rambeaux & Sherrie Austin; Publisher: Magic Mustang/Write ‘Em Cowgirl/Ram Writers Group/Bayou Boy/Charity Daw, BMI; Circus Girl (track) (www.sherrieaustinmusic.com)
—It has been way too long since we’ve heard from “the saucy Aussie.” She wrote or co-wrote all 13 songs on her comeback CD. This title tune has delightfully quirky metaphors, a dynamite and pop-inflected production, a thumping backbeat, an enchanting melody and a throaty vocal performance that is positively enthralling. I remain a totally devoted fan.

BRYAN FONTENOT/Who I Ain’t
Writer: Jamie Paulin/Justin Lantz; Producer: Bryan Fontenot; Publisher: none listed, BMI; BF (www.bryanfontenot.com)
—It’s a way-serious ballad that’s a tad on the preachy side. The upward modulation on the last chorus only rubs it in.

THE CLEVERLYS/I Gotta Feelin’
Writer: none listed; Producer: Paul Harris, Chris Connor & Matthew Dyer; Publisher: none listed; Stabbin Cabin (track) (www.thecleverlys.com)
—If you caught these spoofing yokels at CMA Music Fest last summer, you’re probably already grinning. Yes, it’s the Black Eyed Peas song done with hillbilly drawl and bluegrass instrumentation. On their eponymous debut CD, The Cleverlys do the same with The Bangles’ “Walk Like an Egyptian,” Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and, unforgettably, Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” Plus, you get originals like “Girl with No Pantyline.” The rube spoken-word passages are as riotous as the ditties are. Essential.

ZACH PAXSON/Good Luck With That
Writer: Zachary J. Paxson; Producer: Larry Beaird & Zach Paxson; Publisher: none listed; ZP (track) (www.zachpaxson.com)
—Paxson solo wrote all 12 tracks on his album, so hats off for that. The twinkling, witty, up-tempo title tune shows off some hearty hillbilly humor that would sound simply splendid on country radio. If he doesn’t have a hit with this, somebody should.

WILLIE NELSON/Remember Me
Writer: Stuart Hamblen; Producer: James Stroud; Publisher: Chappell, ASCAP; R & J (track) (www.willienelson.com)
—Willie’s new CD is a stroll through 14 of his favorite country oldies. Its title tune is lilting, hopeful song of steadfast love. “Remember Me (I’m the One Who Loves You)” was initially a 1950 hit for its composer as well as for Ernest Tubb. Dean Martin picked it up in 1965; Jerry Lee Lewis recorded in 1975 and Willie, himself, previously had a hit with it in 1976. The difference here is the twin-fiddle production by Stroud. In addition to sparkling tracks, he has the 78-year-old superstar sounding simply spectacular vocally throughout the collection.

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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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