As thrilling a listening experience as “Neon” is, it has to share the spotlight for ballad beauty with “Marry Me” by Martina McBride and Pat Monahan. And completely on the other side of the country spectrum is the frothing new rocker by Toby Keith, “Beers Ago.” Any of these three could easily be crowned a Disc of the Day. But I’m sticking with the man from Murfreesboro. Someday soon, he’s going to be as big a star as Martina and Toby already are.
Capitol Nashville’s Jon Pardi grabs the DisCovery Award.
ERIC PASLAY/If the Fish Don’t Bite
Writer: Eric Paslay/Dylan Altman; Producer: Daniel Hill & Billy Lynn; Publisher: Cal IV/Five Stone/Music of Cal IV, ASCAP/BMI; EMI (CDX)
—Bright and sunshiny, with plenty of verve and upbeat energy. The lovey-dovey lyric isn’t the deepest thing in the world, but it’s perfect for summertime.
JON PARDI/Missin’ You Crazy
Writer: Jon Pardi/Bart Butler/Monty Holmes; Producer: Bart Butler & Jon Pardi; Publisher: Song Factory/Golden Vault/Bill Butler/EMI April/Funky Merle, BMI/ASCAP; Capitol (CDX) ()
—Righteously rocking. The fiddle and steel solos sizzle, and his vocal has real personality. Promising.
BRIAN MILSON/Country Life
Writer: Jim McCormick/Randy Houser; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Alternator/Bug, BMI; Permian/
—We’re poor, but we’re happy making do with what we have. Boring song. Boring production. Colorless singer.
Writer: Shane McAnally/Josh Osborne/Trevor Rosen; Producer: James Stroud; Publisher: Crazy Water/Kobalt/Want a Fresh One Mysuc/Black River/Unfair Entertainment/BIMS, ASCAP; RCA (track) ()
—Drenched with atmosphere and mood. This guy can sell a ballad like nobody’s business. Pair him with something this melodic and add some throbbing production with sensational steel and guitar and it’s hillbilly heaven. An A-plus in every department.
BETH CAYHALL/Boys Eat Your Hearts Out
Writer: Beth Cayhall/Dave Robbins/Lonnie Wilson; Producer: Kent Wells; Publisher: none listed, ASCAP; Go TIme (www.bethcahall.com)
—Tuneless. It might as well be a spoken-word performance.
THE BAND PERRY/Postcard From Paris
Writer: Kimberly Perry/Neil Perry/Reid Perry/Kara DioGuardi/Jeff Cohen; Producer: Nathan Chapman; Publisher: Pearlleather/Famdamily/When I Go to the Moon/Rio Bravo/As You Wish/Art Is the Fodder/Sunshine Terrace/Bug/Arthouse Entertainment, BMI; Republic ()
—It’s a little difficult to follow, but I think the gist of it is that he sweeps her off her feet and wrecks her life. As always, the voices carry the day.
TODD FRITSCH/Calls I Haven’t Made
Writer: Fred Wilhelm/Mike Post; Producer: Butch Baker; Publisher: none listed; Saddle Up (www.toddfritsch.com)
—I’ve liked this guy in the past, and this is his strongest effort yet. In this extremely well constructed story song, he looks back at his life and starts making the phone calls that make up for his shortcomings. Essential listening.
MARTINA McBRIDE & PAT MONAHAN/Marry Me
Writer: Pat Monahan; Producer: Martina McBride & Byron Gallimore; Publisher: EMI April/Blue Lamp/EMI Blackwood/Reptilian/Mayday Malone, ASCAP/BMI; Republic (track)
—Monahan is the lead singer of Train, with whom Martina did a CMT Crossroads episode. He is also one of pop’s coolest vocalists, as this ballad performance abundantly demonstrates. Previously a Train single, this is a gorgeous song that works splendidly as a country duet. Play the heck out of this.
THE WASHERS/Two Left Feet
Writer: Todd Janik; Producer: Billy Jo High & Adam Odon; Publisher: none listed, BMI; W (www.thewashersmusic.com)
—I would have brought the lead vocalist up more in the mix and turned down the band some. But this still has a rambling, rumbling, rumpled, rollicking charm. I bet these guys are a gas in performance.
TOBY KEITH/Beers Ago
Writer: Toby Keith/Bobby Pinson; Producer: Toby Keith; Publisher: Tokeco Tunes/Bobby’s Lyrics Land & Livestock/Do Write, BMI; Show Dog Universal (track)
—Turn it up! This rawks. Toby wails it with drawling bravado and plenty of characteristic wit. Guaranteed grins. Ya gotta love this guy.
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