DISClaimer Single Reviews (5/16/12)

All stars, no waiting.

Music Row brings out the big guns this week with new entries by George Strait, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town, Randy Travis, Keith Urban and The Mavericks. And here’s the kicker: Everybody sounds good.

So much so, that we’re dividing up the DisClaimer awards this week. Little Big Town wins the Disc of the Day for group performance. The female Disc of the Day belongs to rising star Gwen Sebastian. And in an extremely tight race, Randy Travis edges out Strait and Urban to take home the Disc of the Day in the male division. But absolutely program all three.

The DisCovery Award goes the newcomers Florida Georgia Line. They’re saying, “Here comes summer” in a big way.

RASCAL FLATTS/Come Wake Me Up
Writer: Sean McConnell/Johan Fransson/Tim Larsson/Tobias Lundgren; Producer: Dann Huff & Rascal Flatts; Publisher: none listed; Big Machine (track)
—This lustrous ballad has it all — a gorgeous melody, terrific audio dynamics, emotional lyrics, towering vocals, pop-crossover potential. In short, the second single from the group’s new Changed CD is a home run.

THE MAVERICKS/Born to Be Blue
Writer: Raul Malo/James House; Producer: Raul Malo & Niko Bolas; Publisher: Big Machine/Raul Malo/Super 98/Notorious Women/Songs of Kobalt, BMI; Valory Music
—It’s in Raul’s nouveau-Orbison mode, full of throb and drama. Irresistibly hooky, if somewhat muffled sounding.

GWEN SEBASTIAN/Met Him in a Motel Room
Writer: Rory Feek/Jamie Teachenor; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Flying Island (www.gwensebastian.com)
—Longtime MusicRow indie fave Sebastian gained a much higher profile this year as a contestant on TV’s The Voice and as Blake Shelton’s opening act on the road. To capitalize, she’s chosen a superb story song. Her spirited vocal is matched by a brightly bopping track and a lyric about finding God in the strangest places. Thank the Gideons for this one.

GEORGE STRAIT/Drinkin’ Man
Writer: George Strait/Bubba Strait/Dean Dillon; Producer: Tony Brown & George Strait; Publisher: Day Money/Hori Pro/Living for the Night/Sixteen Stars/Sony-ATV, ASCAP/BMI; MCA Nashville (track)
—There’s no happy ending here: He is trapped in the vice of alcohol and finds no way out. Steel licks swirl, fiddles sigh, guitars ripple and a piano adds grace notes as Strait’s weary, sad vocal leads us through a minor masterpiece. You young people take note: This is real country music.

MARTY RAYBON/Dirt Road Heartache
Writer: Melissa Ann Peirce/Jerry Dean Salley; Producer: Marty Raybon; Publisher: Chatawa/Songs of Peer, LTD; Rural Rhythm (track)
—Marty’s hillbilly tenor fits this uptempo bluegrass romp like the proverbial glove. The fleet-fingered instrumental support is dazzling.

JESSIE JAMES/Military Man
Writer: Clint Lagerberg/Cary Barlowe/Jessie James/Nicky Chinn; Producer: Mark Wright; Publisher: Big Loud Songs/Big Loud Bucks/Extreme Freedom/Castle Bound/Bummerman/In La La Land/Nicky Chinn/Ten Ten, ASCAP/SESAC; Show Dog Universal
—She’s the daughter of a man in uniform. She sings well, but the melody just lays there, and the lyric is way too wordy.

KEITH URBAN/For You
Writer: Monty Powell/Keith Urban; Producer: Dann Huff & Keith Urban; Publisher: Crane Song/Toreador/ole/Songs of Universal/Mary Rose, SESAC/BMI; Capitol (CDX)
—The intriguing, involving, minor-key melody draws you in. The lyric of a soldier willing to lay down his life speaks directly to thousands of contemporary Americans. Stirring.

RANDY TRAVIS /More Life
Writer: Mike Reid/Rory Bourke; Producer: Kyle Lehning; Publisher: Rivers and Roads/Rory Bourke, ASCAP/BMI; Warner Bros. (CDX)
—Two of the great voices of our time are together on this disc, with Don Henley adding high harmonies to Randy’s lead vocal. The icing on the cake is that the song is simply awesome and breathtaking. Facing the end, a man wishes only for “More Life,” to “love stronger, stay in the moment one moment longer.” This moved me to my core.

LITTLE BIG TOWN/Pontoon
Writer: Natalie Hemby/Luke Laird/Barry Dean; Producer: Jay Joyce; Publisher: EMI Blackwood/Wruckestrike/Universal-Careers/Barrytones, BMI; Capitol (CDX)
—The production magic of Jay Joyce gives the LBT voices renewed style. The crunchy groove and relaxed party atmosphere are right on the money for summertime. It goes without saying that the singing and harmonies are pluperfect bliss.

FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE/Cruise
Writer: Kelley/Rice/Rice/Hubbard/Moi; Producer: Joey Moi; Publisher: none listed; Big Loud Mountain (www.floridageorgialine.com)
—After an a cappella intro, this takes off like a speedboat on a glassy lake. The track is rushing and wooshing, and the voices are sprightly. What more do you want? Get on board.

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About the Author

Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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