DISClaimer Single Reviews (10/03/12)

Sweetwater Rain, Taylor Swift

This stack of platters has exactly the mix I like — superstars, unknowns, chart favorites and wanna-be’s.

Among the chart favorites are Chris Young and Steel Magnolia, both of whom have radio-ready new efforts. Among the wanna-be’s are the Josh Abbott Band and Bill Gentry, who have the two best indie singles of the week.

The finest of this week’s unknowns is the band Sweetwater Rain. Give that four-piece a DisCovery Award.

And then there is the superstar. That would be Princess Taylor. Yes, once again supreme writer-artist Taylor Swift has the Disc of the Day. I say this not because she is our sales queen, but because she simply has the best written and performed song.

JOSH ABBOTT BAND/I’ll Sing About Mine
Writer: Keane/Hood; Producer: Erik Herbst; Publisher: Zuzusita/Tiltawhirl, SESAC/BMI; PDT (track) (www.joshabbottband.com)
—I remain an enormous fan of this group. Its celebration of small-town life and culture rises above the rest by virtue of a head-to-the-skies melody, brilliantly pointed lyrics, hearty lead singing and super-tight instrumental work. The stuff that country dreams are made of.

CHRIS YOUNG/I Can Take it From There
Writer: Chris Young/Rhett Akins/Ben Hayslip; Producer: James Stroud; Publisher: Runnin’ Behind/EMI April/Rhettneck/EMI Blackwood/WB/Melissa’s Money/Get a Load of This, ASCAP/BMI; RCA (track)
—There’s nothing particularly memorable about the paint-by-numbers instrumental track, but when you have a vocalist this outstanding, that’s all you need. Besides, the song is cute, and, as always, Chris oozes country baritone charm.

JENNY SIMMS/Girl of a Gun
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; JS
—Much better than its unprofessional packaging would lead you to expect. The song is a decent “outlaw” piece of material, but it’s her ferocious, range-y vocal command of the track that is truly ear opening. Promising.

TAYLOR SWIFT/Begin Again
Writer: Taylor Swift; Producer: Dann Huff, Nathan Chapman & Taylor Swift; Publisher: Sony ATV Tree/Taylor Swift, BMI; Big Machine
—This intimate ballad whispers of the warm, wafting winds that carry a disillusioned heart into the climate of new romance. Marvelously evocative and expressive. Not to mention extraordinarily well written.

ASHLEY FORREST/Pourin’ Over Me
Writer: Kacey Coppola/Kate Coppola/Danny Myrick/Jeff Spence; Producer: Mark Moffatt; Publisher: EMI April/Soulride/BPJ/EMI Blackwood/Sophieopi, ASCAP/BMI; Truro (www.ashleyforrestmusic.com)
—She yearns for the sunny countryside while the happy instrumental track bobs and weaves around her. Innocent sounding.

BILL GENTRY/Hell and Half of Georgia
Writer: Tim James/Doug Johnson; Producer: Chad Carlson; Publisher: none listed; Tenacity (www.billgentrynation.com)
—The lazy, bluesy tune is super dreamy. The heartache, lonely-boy lyric is a model of finely penned details. The singer’s delivery nails every blue-eyed soul note, and the production is a terrific example of less-is-more taste. A total winner from an artist who has long been a fave in this column.

JAMEY JOHNSON & ALISON KRAUSS/Make the World Go Away
Writer: Hank Cochran; Producer: Buddy Cannon; Publisher: none listed; Mercury (track)
—The Nashville Sound lives! This exquisite production recalls the classic work of Chet and Owen, right down to the bell-like guitar notes, rippling piano and sighing steel. The vocalists are both at their pluperfect best, with Jamey harmonizing flawlessly behind Alison’s precise diction. And it goes without saying that the song is a masterpiece.

LIVEWIRE/Lies
Writer: Andrew Eutslre; Producer: Justin Woods; Publisher: Real Man/Parrot Island, BMI; Way Out West (track) (www.livewirecountry.com)
—Punchy country-rock propulsion backs a honky-tonk wailer who seems to simultaneously both demand and plead for the truth. Well worth your spins.

STEEL MAGNOLIA/Maybe I’m Amazed
Writer: Paul McCartney; Producer: Sir Paul McCartney; Publisher: Sony ATV, ASCAP; Revivermusic (CDX) (www.steelmagnoliamusic.com)
—This track first saw the light of day as part of a women’s cancer benefit effort in memory of Linda McCartney. Despite the credit given here, I don’t believe Sir Paul was actually involved in Meghan and Joshua’s recording of his iconic song. Whatever the case, the performance is stellar. That’s because both of these kids can sing their faces off.

SWEETWATER RAIN/Starshine
Writer: Anthony Smith/Robbie Harrington; Producer: Anthony Smith; Publisher: GMG/Rowandale, BMI; Curb (CDX)
—Very cool. It starts simply, with a heartfelt tenor urgently promising romance and destiny with a stark, throbbing, bass-and-guitar accompaniment. A soul-piercing female harmony voice adds to the excitement while the track builds in intensity and volume. This grabbed my attention from the first note and held onto it to the last. So nice I played it twice.

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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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