DISClaimer: Country Embraces Some Unusual Names

ashley monroe1You’ll find a few unusual names in this week’s country reviews, namely The Lumineers, Sheryl Crow and Mumford & Sons.

That’s because I think that the format should expand to include people like this. Just look at the good that embracing folks such as Darius Rucker and Aaron Lewis has done. Besides, they are a lot more “country” than half of what is passed off on the public from the Music Row factory system. So that’s my speech for the week.

The Disc of the Day is the triumphant outing by Ashley Monroe. I have been in this lady’s corner for years and it warms my soul to hear her arrive with something so beautiful as “Like a Rose.”

Give a DisCovery Award prize to JB & The Moonshine Band. I think they’re onto something.

jb-and-the-moonshine-band111

JB And The Moonshine Band

AMBER DIGBY/It’s A Long Way From Heaven
Writers: Jimmie Helms/Sharon Higgins, Producer: Amber Digby, Randy Lindley and Justin Trevino. Publisher: none listed, BMI
–Amber’s new CD opens with this steel-soaked, twin fiddled two step, and I was instantly in heaven. For my money, she remains the finest female country vocalist in the entire state of Texas. The World You’re Living In is, I believe, her fifth studio album, and word is steadily spreading about this gifted singer-songwriter. Her cowriters on the collection include such Nashville heavyweights as Vince Gill, Dale Dodson and Bill Anderson, and Pete Wade, Hargus “Pig” Robbins and Lloyd Green are in the backing band. If you aren’t already, get on board, people. Her versions of the classics “We Loved it Away,” “How Can I Unlove You” and “If It Ain’t Love,” alone, are worth the price of admission.

SHERYL CROW/Easy
Writers: Sheryl Crow/Chris DuBois/Jeff Trott; Producer: Sheryl Crow and Justin Niebank; Publisher: Old Green Barn/House of Sea Gayle/Cyrkllikc Soup/Wixen;
BMI/ASCAP

–Pop princess Sheryl goes country with this lilting, sweet ode to making a romantic vacation right in your own backyard. Very pretty and very enjoyable.

JB AND THE MOONSHINE BAND/The Only Drug
Writers: JB Patterson; Producer: JB Patterson; Publisher: JBMB, BMI
–He sings in a robust, warm baritone that instantly communicates, “buddy.” In the song, he’s giving up all his bad habits by embracing her love. Promising.

THE BAND PERRY/Done
Writers: Reid Perry/Neil Perry/John Davidson/Jacob Bryant; Producer: Dan Huff; Publisher: When I Go To The Moon/Famdamily/Rio Bravo/Castle Bound, BMI/SESAC
–He’s done her wrong one too many times. This hit-bound, ultra-rhythmic, tongue-tripping, punchy outing has just one word in its chorus kiss-off finale. Done.

JJ LAWHORN/Stomping Grounds
Writers: JJ Lawhorn/Jamie Paulin/Brian Maher; Producer: Jeremy Stover; Publisher: EMI April/Songs of Hanover Holler/Tunes of Bigger Picture/EMI Blackwood/Pawpaw Paulin, ASCAP/BMI
–He has a vocal drawl you can cut with a knife. And since the focus is almost entirely on his voice, its a good thing that the down-home, back-roads lyric is as strong as it is. Even so, a little more creativity and finesse in the production would have been welcome.

BILLY DEAN/I Can’t Leave A Good Thing
Writers: Billy Dean/Tommy Cecil; Producer: Ray Barnette and Billy Dean; Publisher: Billy Dean/Lost River/Mow Money Lawn, BMI/ASCAP
–I dig the deep thump in the backbeat and the sizzling fiddle work. His chesty vocal is sexy-hillbilly in an outlaw kinda way. Recommended listening.

THE LUMINEERS/Stubborn Love
Writers: none listed; Producer: Ryan Hadlock; Publisher: none listed
–With the inescapably catchy “Ho Hey” still on everyone’s lips, these hearty folkies are following it up with this equally upbeat ditty of a love that won’t give up. Nominated as Best New Artist at the Grammys, this rollicking acoustic band definitely deserves some country attention.

THOMPSON SQUARE/If I Didn’t Have You
Writers: Keifer Thompson/Shawna Thompson/Jason Sellers/Paul Jenkins; Producer: NV; Publisher: none listed
–Chosen as Vocal Duo of the Year by both the CMA and the ACM, this married couple returns with a new album titled Just Feels Good later this month. In the meantime, here’s a rousing, catchy, power-ballad ode to fidelity sung with immense energy by both Keifer and Shawna.

ASHLEY MONROE/Like A Rose
Writers: Ashley Monroe/Jon Randall/Guy Clark; Producer: Vince Gill & Justin Niebank; Publisher: Reynsong/Ayden/Wha Ya Say/EMI April, BMI/ASCAP
–Openly autobiographical and honestly heartfelt, this title tune to Ashley’s album is like having a comforting blanket wrapped around your shoulders. Her clear-as-country-rain voice and the rippling production are both simply awesome. Right now, she’s best known as “Hippie Annie” in The Pistol Annies. With songs like this mini masterpiece, that is all about to change, my friends.

MUMFORD & SONS/I Will Wait
Writers: Mumford & Sons; Producer: Marcus Dravs; Publisher: none listed
–I find it amusing that the leading “Americana” act is British. Country radio could do itself a big favor by programming this banjo-bubbling bundle of energy with its wildly catchy harmonized choruses and plea for forgiveness. It belongs right alongside Darius’s “Wagon Wheel” and the Zac Brown Band. And it certainly doesn’t hurt that it appears on the Grammy Album of the Year.

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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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