We call them superstars for a reason.
Longtime country titan Tim McGraw swats away all challengers to easily claim this week’s Disc of the Day prize. With Taylor Swift and Keith Urban in his corner on “Highway Don’t Care,” not to mention the great song, itself, who could possibly beat him?
Singer-songwriter Drake White rides high this week as the DisCovery Award winner. But in addition pay heed to Canadian newcomer Ashley Robertson. Also: This is the second single from Jared Ashley, and both of them have been superb. Lend him your ears as well.
ASHLEY ROBERTSON/Finished With You
Writer: Ashley Robertson; Producer: John Nicholson & Ashley Robertson; Publisher: none listed, SOCAN; AR
—It’s an acoustic gem, with rippling dobro notes, weaving fiddle lines and plucked guitars. Her fragile-rose vocal is beautifully wistful as she longs for the return of her country boy who has gone to the city. “Please come back home, when the world is finished with you,” is her plea.
CASEY JAMES/The Good Life
Writer: Casey James/Scooter Caruso; Producer: Chris Lindsey & Casey James; Publisher: Long As I Live/Scrambler/Carnival/Abbot’s Creek, BMI/ASCAP; 19/BNA (track)
—This pulse-quickening country rocker is super infectious, utterly upbeat and fabulously sunny. Get up and twirl your body around the room. If you’re in the car, roll down the windows, turn it up and hit the gas.
ROSEHILL/Did You Ever Turn Around
Writer: Jay Clementi/Jedd Hughes; Producer: Jay Clementi; Publisher: WB/Mountain Morning/Warner-Tamerlane/Pichi Pichi, ASCAP/BMI; Cypress Creek/Tenacity (track)
—I remain a big fan of this duo. In this well-written, relentless, oomphy power ballad, he reunites with her after many years. She hasn’t changed, and neither has he. But he can’t help wondering if she ever thought about him after she left.
Writer: Taylor Swift/Max Martin/Shellback; Producer: Max Martin & Shellback; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree/Taylor Swift/MXM/Kobalt, BMI/ASCAP; Big Machine (track)
—With “Begin Again” still climbing the country charts, I assume this crunchy bopper is intended to be her next assault on the pop hit parade. It’s about hooking up, forgetting the world outside and just being young. A multi-tracked, layered and superbly produced audio delight.
BOBBY DEAN/Kiss My Doublewide
Writer: McGee/Schnyder; Producer: Dave Moody; Publisher: Rolf/Max, BMI; Lamon (track)
—The title says it all. Intelligence is not the hallmark here.
POCO/All Fired Up
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Drifter’s Church (track)
—The title tune of this veteran band’s new CD is a harmonized hand clapper with nostalgic lyrics along the lines of “Let’s do it again like we did back then.” By the way, Poco remains Rusty Young, Jack Sundrud, Michael Webb and George Lawrence. Guests include George Grantham and Bobby Keys.
KALEY CAPERTON/Red, White and Beautiful
Writer: Billy Austin/Kaley Caperton/Dave Robbins; Producer: Billy Austin & Dave Robbins; Publisher: Songs of Platinum Pen/French Hawaii/Pianted River/Slickhead, ASCAP; RWB Ventures
—It’s meant to be an inspirational ballad, and she’s donating the proceeds to the National Guard Youth Foundation. Alas, I can’t imagine anybody programming a vocalist this puny sounding.
TIM McGRAW & TAYLOR SWIFT/Highway Don’t Care
Writer: Brad Warren/Brett Warren/Mark Irwin/Josh Kear; Producer: Byron Gallimore & Tim McGraw; Publisher: EMI Blackwood/StyleSonic/Green Vinyl/Global Dog/Big Yellow Dog/Lunalight, BMI/ASCAP; Big Machine (track)
—She is on the road, getting further and further away, while he plaintively yearns for her. A song on the radio haunts her. Love tugs at him. And things get more and more layered and swirling as the conflicting feelings in their voices spin around one another. Adding to the audio ecstasy is the dreamy guitar playing of Keith Urban. I love this record.
JARED ASHLEY/Last Train to Memphis
Writer: Jared Ashley/Nick Sturms/Jeremy McComb; Producer: Bobby Terry & Jared Ashley; Publisher: Jared Ashley/620 Music Group/Sweet Renegade/Shaler Global/BMG, ASCAP/SESAC/BMI; Blaster
—A terrific production—full of throbbing energy, a deep bass bottom and ringing, minor-key guitar work— underscores a moody, emotionally tense vocal performance. The gripping lyric and cool melody get bonus points. Since Ashley is behind all three—the production, the performance and the song—I believe we’re listening to a major, major new talent. Play and believe.
DRAKE WHITE/The Simple Life
Writer: Drake White/Jeremy Stover/Brian Dean Maher; Producer: Jeremy Stover; Publisher: EMI April/Reverend Jack/Songs of Countrywood/Tunes of Bigger Picture, ASCAP; MCA Nashville (CDX)
—This backwoods blue-eyed soul stylist simmers on this ode to country living. The guy has intensity to spare. Send more music soon.
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