We have no superstar product this week, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of fine listening. Doing worthy work in this stack of platters are Thomas Rhett, Royal Wade Kimes, Dakota Bradley, Sleepy LaBeef and Chance Cody & Spur 503. In various ways, all of them perked up my ears. Our Disc of the Day award goes to incoming Country Music Hall of Famer Bobby Bare. His entire Darker Than Light album is essential listening. We turn our gaze toward the Lone Star State to find the identically talented Rankin Twins. They more than earned a DisCovery Award. Their record is the first of what will surely be many albums to come.
Writers: Dan Messe/Steve Curtis; Producer: Gary Maurer/Dan Messe; Publisher: Peep/Steve Curtis/ASCAP; Waveland
-Hem is an eight-person, mainly acoustic band featuring winsome, breathy lead vocals by Sally Ellson. The enchanting, folk-Americana sound with gentle keyboards and strummy guitars is augmented by atmospheric violin on this featured track and by pedal steel, glockenspiel, choirs and/or full orchestra on others. Hem’s entire Departure & Farewell album is lovely listening.
THE RANKIN TWINS AND DREW WOMACK/Holdin’ Pattern
Writers: Django Walker/Amy Rankin/April Rankin/Drew Womack; Producer: Ken Tondre; Publisher: none listed; RT
-The sisters look retro-stylish and beautiful on cover of their Moonshine & Maybes CD. Its single demonstrates that they sing as good as they look. And the sizzling vocal presence of former Sons of the Desert frontman Womack doesn’t hurt one bit. The mid-tempo tune is made even more punchy and addictive by the chopping mandolin and keening steel work. Lend this your ears.
BOBBY BARE/Lookout Mountain
Writers: Dennis Linde; Producer: Don Cusic/Bobby Bare; Publisher: EMI Blackwood, BMI; Plowboy
-Now that Bobby Bare is going into the Country Music Hall of Fame, don’t you think it’s time that you paid attention to his excellent current album Darker Than Light? One highlight of the neo-folk collection is this rhythmic, driving depiction of the Battle of Lookout Mountain. He sings it with dramatic conviction, and the production underscores his every note with drumming and electric guitars simulating cannon blasts.
AMY ROSE/Party Like A Redneck
Writers: Fraser/Coulson/Beecroft; Producer: After Tuesday Productions (Marty Beecroft/Glenn Coulson); Publishers: none listed; SOCAN; Wild Rose
-I have praised her singing in the past. But this song sucks.
ROYAL WADE KIMES/Dixie Burns
Writers: R.W. Kimes; Producer: George Bradfute/Mike Noble/Royal Wade Kimes; Publisher: Blue Whistler, ASCAP, Wonderent
-This is the title tune to a Civil War era movie written and directed by singer-songwriter Kimes. It is an emotional ballad about the burning of Atlanta, told from the point of view a surviving Georgia man. His tremulous, throaty singing has never sounded more authentic or believable. Well done. The album containing it, A Proud Land, is consistently compelling.
DAKOTA BRADLEY/Somethin’ Like Somethin’
Writers: Mark Irwin/Josh Kear/Shane McAnally; Producer: Byron Gallimore/Tim McGraw; Publisher: none listed; Streamsound
-Streamsound is Byron Gallimore’s Sony-distributed imprint. Dakota Bradley’s jaunty tenor on this sunny, summertime bopper is a worthy addition to a catalog that includes the fine Streamsound tunes already issued by Jaida Dreyer. Catchy and lively.
SLEEPY LaBEEF/Honey Hush
Writers: Joe Turner; Producer: Dave Pomeroy; Publisher: Unichappell, BMI; Earwave
-Veteran road warrior LaBeef blew through town a couple of weeks ago to perform one of his typical barn-burner club sets, celebrate the movie about him at the Nashville Film Festival and sit in with The Time Jumpers. His new live CD kicks off with his roaring rockabilly treatment of this jump-blues standard. Recorded at Douglas Corner in January 2012, this record captures his abundant, multi-genre charm perfectly. Hop on board while he romps through a repertoire that spans Hank Williams, Willie Dixon, The Delmore Brothers, Hank Ballard, Merle Kilgore, Fats Domino and more. Producer Pomeroy is on bass and the esteemed Kenny Vaughan provides the hot electric-guitar licks.
JASON CHARLES MILLER/The Way You Still Want Me
Writers: J.C. Miller/Steve Freeman/Jon Nite; Producer: Dan Hodges/Jason Charles Miller; Publisher: Count Mecha/Bike/Songs of Colton Entertainment/Propps House/EMI April/Jon Mark Nite, BMI/ASCAP; Render
-The guitars scream, the drums pound, everyone makes noise and the song has loads of hooks. But his singing voice takes some getting used to.
THOMAS RHETT/It Goes Like This
Writers: Rhett Akins/Ben Hayslip/Jimmy Robins; Producer: Michael Knox; Publisher: EMI Blackwood/Rhettneck/WB/Tar-Cam-Knox/Get A Load Of This/Universal/Extraordinary Allen, BMI/ASCAP; Valory
-Thomas didn’t have to look far to find his new single, since his daddy Rhett Akins co-wrote it. It’s a rumbling thumper about finding new romance that features a super melodic chorus. Rollicking and righteous.
CHANCE CODY & SPUR 503/The Legend Grows
Writers: Chance Cody/Jared Mitchell; Producer: Greg White; Publisher: none listed; Spur 503
-The sound is “outlaw” all the way with echoey atmosphere, doom-laden guitars, slow and deliberate drumming, searing fiddle and the like. And that’s perfect, since the quasi-spoken lyric is about a renegade gunslinger. Cody’s baritone voice conveys the threatening messages as well as he speaks. Aged perfectly. Featured on the CD The Legend Grows.