DISClaimer Single Reviews (1/18/12)

Canaan Smith

It’s Ballad Week, with Phil Vassar, Laura Bell Bundy, Georgette Jones and Mark Wayne Glasmire all offering slower tempo numbers.

Rascal Flatts is still on hand to bring a rocker, so that’s a nice change of pace. The mid-tempo winner belongs to the Zac Brown Band. Is it just me, or does Zac sound more and more like James Taylor? The third single good enough to compete for Disc of the Day belongs to our winner, JT Hodges.

As far as this week’s newcomer prize goes, I was all set to present it to Hodges, but it turns out that he had a Show Dog platter last summer (Hunt You Down) that I was also enthusiastic about. So that leaves softly earnest Canaan Smith as our DisCovery Award winner.

JT HODGES/Goodbyes Made You Mine
Writer: JT Hodges/Ross Copperman/Jon Nite; Producer: Don Cook, Mark Wright & Ross Copperman; Publisher: Songs of Universal/Adeline 29/Sings Station/Boomer Sooie/Ross Copperman/EMI Blackwood/Jon Mark Nite/EMI April, BMI/ASCAP; Show Dog Universal
—This has a certain “presence.” He’s not only a solid writer, but his vocal performance is up-close and personal, packed with personality and exuding confidence. The deep-twang guitar and driving production are also pluses. A star is born?

DOTTSY/Meet Me in Texas
Writer: Guyanne McCall; Producer: Justin Trevino; Publisher: Tracy Pitcox, BMI; Heart of Country (track) (www.heartoftexascountry.com)
—Dottsy reprises her ‘70s hits “I’ll Be Your San Antone Rose,” “Storms Never Last,” “Trying to Satisfy You,” and “(After Sweet Memories) Play Born to Lose Again” on her comeback CD. Its title tune is a gentle two-step. Her more mature, somewhat narrower range makes her vocal less than the strongest you’ve ever heard, but she gets the job done with warmth.

PHIL VASSAR/Don’t Miss Your Life
Writer: Phil Vassar/Charlie Black; Producer: Phil Vassar; Publisher: Phylvester/Big Hitmakers/Rainy Graham/Songs of Salt Air, ASCAP/BMI; Rodeowave
—Vassar continues to make music as powerfully as ever. His new ballad is the latest take on the businessman who is too busy to enjoy his children growing up. An older man points him in the right direction. This pushes all the right emotional buttons. I’m in.

TYSON BOWMAN/Thank God for People
Writer: Tyson Bowman/Lance Lambert/Judy Rodman; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Guitar Shark (track) (www.tysonbowman.com)
—The ballad’s lyric about people helping one another is solid. But his voice is a completely generic honky-tonk baritone that is ordinary in the extreme.

RASCAL FLATTS/Banjo
Writer: Tony Martin/Wendell Mobley/Neil Thrasher; Producer: Dann Huff & Rascal Flatts; Publisher: Sony-ATV/Casa Jaco/Warner-Tamerlane/Boatwright Baby/BMG Gold/We Jam Writers/BMG Crysalis/Songs of Peer, BMI/ASCAP; Big Machine
—Are you sitting down? The new Rascal Flatts single has the banjo as a focus instrument. Mind you, the surrounding track rocks with plenty of crunch, electric guitar screams and percussion pounding. Exciting.

GEORGETTE JONES/Strong Enough to Cry
Writer: Max Barnes/Rory Lee; Producer: Justin Trevino; Publisher: none listed, BMI/ASCAP; Heart of Texas (track) (www.georgettejonesmusic.com)
—I’ve always been in this gal’s corner. The Nashville industry can’t seem to get past the fact that she’s Tammy and George’s daughter and listen with open ears. So it’s off to Texas, where this title tune to her new CD shows that she’s a super-fine country vocalist in her own right. The ballad is beautifully produced with perfect steel accents, delicately placed guitar notes, sweet fiddle sighs and a breath-taking harmony vocal by, I think, that Texas wonder Amber Digby.

ZAC BROWN BAND/No Hurry
Writer: Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette/James Otto; Producer: Keith Stegall & Zac Brown; Publisher: Weimerhound/Lil’ Dub/Angelika/Warner-Tamerlane/Eldorotto, BMI; Atlantic (track)
—Single #5 from the ZBB CD You Get What You Give is a lilting ode in praise of kicking back. And what country act would you rather relax with while the harried workaday world rushes by? The richly textured “No Hurry” is following the multi-week chart topper “Keep Me in Mind,” so I look for big things from it.

MARK WAYNE GLASMIRE/Going Home
Writer: Mark Wayne Glasmire; Producer: John Albani & John Wayne Glasmire; Publisher: Traceway, ASCAP; Traceway (track) (www.markwayneglasmire.com)
—Sung at the top of his tenor range, this conveys immense yearning. The buzzy harmonica passages, plus subtle keyboard and fiddle backing are adroitly mixed and very ear catching. A folk-country gem.

LAURA BELL BUNDY/That’s What Angels Do
Writer: Jon Mabe/Jason Sellers/Michael Dulaney; Producer: Nathan Chapman; Publisher: none listed; UMG (track) (www.laurabellbundy.com)
—Formerly noted for her bounce, Bundy returns with a soaring, dramatic ballad of rescue and redemption. She marches confidently forward with every precisely placed vocal note while guitars shudder, pierce and shriek around her head. This lady can sing.

CANAAN SMITH/We Got Us
Writer: Canaan Smith/Tommy Lee James/Stephen Barker Liles; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; UMG (track) (www.canaansmith.com)
—Boyish sounding and likable. The gently shuffling track supports a poor-kids-rich-in-love lyric that’s just sweet enough.

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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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