I mean, the handwriting is clearly on the wall. Fans of this genre are buying records with voices like Taylor Swift, Jennifer Nettles, Miranda Lambert, Hillary Scott and Carrie Underwood by the millions. Wouldn’t it make sense to produce and promote more women? Instead, I direct you to the current country album chart, dominated by 28 non-million-selling CDs by male artists.
That’s all by way of introducing the fact that Carrie Underwood completely rules this week’s column with an undeniable Disc of the Day performance.
I have two DisCovery Awards to present. The first goes to Reggie Shaw, who has wisely enlisted some stellar Music Row songwriting names to pen his well-performed single. Judging by her lyric, I’m thinking that his fellow winner, Debbie Cochran, isn’t a kid of 20. I’m no age-ist. I still think she’s cool.
DEBBIE COCHRAN/It’s Never Too Late
Writer: Debbie Cochran; Producer: Kent Wells; Publisher: DMC Anniston, BMI; GTR (CDX) (870-307-7685)
—The steel-dominated band kicks up some dust, and the song is a hillbilly-feminist manifesto. Her deep alto singing voice has plain-spoken charm and Southern-accented, forthright honesty. I wish her well.
REGGIE SHAW/Someone I Can’t Live Without
Writer: Eric Durrance/Marc Beeson/Don Pfrimmer; Producer: Bobby Hyatt & Reggie Shaw; Publisher: Drive It Home/Words & Music/Songs of Southside Independent/Wounded Sky/Three Village/EGBG/Wixen. BMI/ASCAP; Wynnsong (CDX) (www.reggieshaw.com)
—This pulsing country rocker boasts a tight arrangement, a clear production and straightforward drive. His vocal about facing a complicated romance rings with conviction. A winner.
TIM McGRAW/Right Back Atcha Babe
Writer: Joe West/David Pohanish; Producer: Byron Gallimore & Tim McGraw; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree/Songs of My Good Girl/Totally Wrighteous/Big Loud Bucks, BMI; Curb (track)
—Tim’s earnest, romantic vocal lines alternate with cool, “answering” lead-guitar licks by Jerry McPherson for a very involving listening experience. Distinctive and deserving.
SUSAN CATTANEO/Little Big Sky
Writer: Susan Cattaneo/Scarlet Keys; Producer: Jan Stolpe; Publisher: Rockin’ Fairy/Little Jaybird, ASCAP; Jersey Girl (www.susanmusic.com)
—She teaches songwriting at the Berklee College of Music. Doubtless heeding her own advice, she fills this lyric with plenty of true-to-life details. But the production is rather “busy,” and her singing voice isn’t particularly memorable.
KATIE GRACE/Best Bad Girl
Writer: Grace; Producer: Jim Diamond; Publisher: none listed; Inside Outlaws (track)
—The song wanders around aimlessly in search of a hook. Her vocal sounds half asleep. The production is less than demo level.
ANDY GIBSON/Summer Back
Writer: Brian Davis/Andy Gibson/Vicky McGehee; Producer: James Stroud; Publisher: Mike Curb/Godfather Rich/Rich Entertainment/Kobalt/Peermusic II, BMI/ASCAP; Curb
—This former DisCovery Award winner returns with a single that rightly graduates him from indie status to the big leagues. As before, his confident, direct tenor delivery rides atop a super-melodic, uptempo bopper. He has everything it takes to be a star. I remain a fan.
DAVID ST. ROMAIN/Some Things
Writer: none listed; Producer: Shawn Pennington & Steve Pefer; Publisher: Root 49/Cackalacki Twang/Soulride/BPJ/Kristi Mannasongs/Songs of MPR, BMI/ASCAP; DSR (www.davidstromain.com)
—It’s a routine blues vamp. Which is to say, “boring.”
Writer: M. Redmond/R. Perry; Producer: Mike Binder; Publisher: Aspen Top, no performance rights listed; MAK Media (track) (www.meganredmond.com)
—The title tune of this Colorado gal’s six-song EP displays definite promise. She knows how to turn a poetic phrase, her folk-inflected voice is sturdy and sincere, and the band is tastefully supportive. Well done.
CARRIE UNDERWOOD/Blown Away
Writer: Josh Kear/Chris Tompkins; Producer: Mark Bright; Publisher: Global Dog/Lunalight/Words & Music/Big Loud Songs/Angel River/Big Loud Bucks, ASCAP; Arista/19 (track) ()
—This rocker roars through a tale of a tornado that destroys a cruel father and a world of bad memories of “home.” Carrie wails it like an Oklahoma banshee on the loose. The gal can sing, the song is tremendous and the production sizzles. Get on board.
LEWIS COPELAND/She’s Got It Going On
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Nine North/Turnpike Music (www.lewiscopelandmusic.com)
—I’d have mixed his vocal up hotter in the mix, because he sings with passion and commitment. Drums pound and guitars scream, almost burying him. Let the man be heard.