DISClaimer Single Reviews (2/01/12)

Every now and then I am reminded of why I do this job.

This week, that reminder came after listening to the thrilling new collection by Gretchen Peters. Her Hello Cruel World album is so great it is practically terrifying. She tore me apart with every song. There is going to be a star in Frank Liddell’s crown for bringing this songwriter into the Carnival family. Needless to say, Gretchen has the Disc of the Day.

I’ll spread the love around. This week, Alan Jackson reminded me of why I cherish Real Country Music as much as I do. His new EMI single gets the male Disc Award.

The Dirt Drifters reminded me how much joy it brings me to see a young act on its way up the ladder of success. Give those country-rocking chaps the group Disc Prize.

KELLY PARKES/Don’t Make Me
Writer: Keith Follese/Adrienne Follese/Nicole Johnson/Vencent Hickerson; Producer: Darren Smith & Mark Lambert; Publisher: The Family Business/Overall Attraction/3 in Key/Denham Jeans, BMI/SESAC; Edge (CDX)
—It’s a big-production pop ballad. Her soprano delivery is sure footed and true, but there’s not much memorable “character” in her style.

TRACY LAWRENCE/Pills
Writer: none listed; Producer: Flip Anderson & Tracy Lawrence; Publisher: none listed; LMG (track) (www.tracylawrence.com)
—Tracy’s album The Singer is an audio delight of crisp simplicity. The song selections are superb, and nowhere more so than with this bopping, witty, swinging, sideways look at our pharmaceutical dependence and over indulgence. Essential listening.

GRETCHEN PETERS/The Matador
Writer: Gretchen Peters; Producer: Doug Lancio, Gretchen Peters & Barry Walsh; Publisher: Circus Girl/Carnival, ASCAP; Scarlet Letter (track) (www.gretchenpeters.com)
—You think you’re a songwriter? One listen to Gretchen’s new Hello Cruel World CD will have you thinking again. She has the uncanny ability to not only create commercial hooks, but also to pen lyrics with something to say (witness her prior “The Secret of Life,” “Independence Day,” “If Heaven,” “Let That Pony Run,” “My Baby Loves Me,” “The Chill of an Early Fall,” or “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am”). This stunning first single/video is a hushed ballad of love, violence and artistic striving. If you care about real song craftsmanship, it will bring you to your knees. Buy This Record Now.

JASON ALDEAN/Fly Over States
Writer: Neil Thrasher/Michael Dulaney; Producer: Michael Knox; Publisher: Sweet Summer/BMG Gold/Major Bob/Circle C/Mojave Rain/Full Circle, ASCAP; Broken Bow (track)
—The lyric is simply sensational, a first-class ode to the American heartland. My only quibble is that the title phrase isn’t married to a super melodic hook. As usual, Jason’s performance and Michael’s production are dynamite.

ERNIE HAASE & SIGNATURE SOUND/Here We Are Again
Writer: Ernie Haase/Wayne Haun/Joel Lindsey; Producer: Wayne Haun; Publisher: ErnieSigSound/Blackberry Town/Bridge Building/Hefton Hill, BMI; Stowtown (www.erniehaase.com)
—The tradition of country-gospel harmony singing exemplified by The Oak Ridge Boys and The Statler Brothers is being admirably upheld by this outfit. Its new CD mixes traditional material (”Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “I Believe,” “Stand By Me”) with newly composed tunes, often by the group’s members. This title tune showcases all four voices in turn, from the sub-cellar bass to the attic-rafter tenor.

THE DIRT DRIFTERS/There She Goes
Writer: none listed; Producer: Justin Niebank; Publisher: none listed; Warner Bros. (track)
—I like these guys, and this is their best yet. This time around, the ultra-cool lead vocal is answered by a ghostly “Greek chorus” commenting on his heartbreak while the country-rock track canters along with chiming guitars and dusty percussion. Delicious sounding.

CHANCE CODY & SPUR 503/You Can’t Argue with That
Writer: Chuck Allen Floyd/Jenn Schott; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Spur 503 (www.spur503.com)
—They have talent, but the mix is mighty muddy. Go for a cleaner sound next time.

DOLLY PARTON & QUEEN LATIFAH/Not Enough
Writer: Dolly Parton; Producer: Mervyn Warren; Publisher: Velvet Apple, BMI; WaterTower (track)
—I haven’t seen the movie Joyful Noise, but I can tell you that the soundtrack is a delight. In addition to gospel-ized versions of “Maybe I’m Amazed,” “Man in the Mirror,” “I Want to Take You Higher,” “That’s the Way God Planned It,” and the like, you get three new Dolly tunes. This hand clapper kicks things off with a full soul choir backing the film’s two stars. Latifah holds her own opposite the always-exuberant Dolly.

ALAN JACKSON/So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore
Writer: Adam Wright/Jay Knowles; Producer: Keith Stegall; Publisher: Alrighty Den/Dean-Parnell/Acme Nashville, BMI; EMI (CDX)
—Alan begins a new recording chapter with a plain-spoken heartache ballad that packs a massive emotional wallop, thanks to its terrific songwriting and his devastating vocal. This man is a country-music master, through and through.

THE McCLYMONTS/I Could Be a Cowboy
Writer: Brooke McClymont/Samantha McClymont/Mollie McClymont/Nathan Chapman; Producer: Nathan Chapman; Publisher: EMI Australia/Copy Control/Sony-ATV, no performance rights listed; BSM (track) (www.themcclymonts.net)
—Their creamy harmonies remain audio perfection. Brooke’s throat-catching lead vocal grabs your attention immediately, while Nathan’s production finesse continues to amaze. I particularly liked the mandolin bubbling in and out of the mix.

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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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