DISClaimer: The Other Sides of Music City

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Paramore

Not one song mentions pickup trucks or beer this week. That’s because I took a break from country music and concentrated on the other side of Music City. Or should I say “sides?” In this stack of platters we find the rock of Paramore and The Features, the r&b of Lo Carter and Jonathan Winstead and the pop of Amy Grant and Courtney Jaye, among other styles.

The aforementioned Jonathan Winstead walks off with this week’s DisCovery Award. Who knew there was a quiet-storm crooner this soulful in our midst?

Because of the musical diversity, it’s apples and oranges I’m trying to compare. So there are two Disc of the Day winners. From the pop-rock column, it’s Paramore. From the gospel tradition come The McCrary Sisters, who also won with their previous disc.

MARY GAUTHIER/You Don’t Know Me
Writers: Eddy Arnold/Cindy Walker; Producer: Cheetah Chrome; Publisher: Sony-ATV/Mijac, BMI; Plowboy (track)
-Alt-folkie Gauthier has the title tune of the new Eddy Arnold tribute CD. Her drawled, behind-the-beat phrasing is accompanied by slow, shuffled drumming and a jazz clarinet solo. It has a vaguely New Orleans funeral vibe. Other participants on the eclectic collection include such non-country Nashvillians as The Bluefields, Jason Ringenberg, Melinda Doolittle, Lambchop, Bobby Bare Jr. and co-producer Cheetah Chrome, in addition to the solidly country Chuck Mead, Mandy Barnett and Chris Scruggs. Imported to Music City for the project are such rockers as Sylvain Sylvain, Drivin’ n’ Cryin’ and Frank Black. Whether you like the resulting re-imaginings that this motley crew bring to Arnold’s classics or not, I promise you’ll listen, fascinated.

Jonathan Winstead

Jonathan Winstead

COURTNEY JAYE/One Way Conversation
Writers: none listed; Producer: Mike Wrucke; Publisher: none listed; CJ (track)
-This new Nashville pop princess has been showcasing the tunes from her debut CD in clubs around town during the past few weeks. Titled Love and Forgiveness, the album’s emphasis track is this stylish lament featuring her soaring, double-tracked soprano riding atop a groovy, tempo-shifting track. Tuneful and catchy.

THE FEATURES/This Disorder
Writers: Matthew Pelham; Producer: The Features; Publisher: Bug/Bughouse/Silent But Violent/This Is Daiglenetics/Ghost Riding, BMI/ASCAP; Serpents and Snakes
-This durable Nashville institution spotlights this steadily driving pop rocker on its self-titled new album. Characterized by bleating tenor singing, stomping rhythm and bright guitar bursts, it commands you to get out on the floor and shake your money maker. Hard to believe that these always-entertaining psych-rockers first appeared on our radar screens 16 years ago.

AMY GRANT/Don’t Try So Hard
Writers: Ben Glover/Amy Grant; Producer: Marshall Altman; Publisher:none listed; Capitol/Sparrow
How Mercy Looks From Here, Grant’s first studio album in 10 years, contains a number of collaborations. Stellar guests include Carole King, Sheryl Crow, Eric Paslay, Will Hoge and Vince Gill. On this gentle, breathy, graceful pop performance, she is joined by James Taylor on a soft harmony vocal. Airy, whispered magic.

PARAMORE/Still Into You
Writers: Hayley Williams/Taylor York; Producer: Justin Meldal-Johnsen; Publisher: WB/But Father I Just Want to Sing/FBR/Hunterboro, ASCAP; Atlantic/Fueled By Ramen (track)
-The reconfigured, new edition of Paramore rocks as righteously as the old one did. Lead vocalist Hayley Williams adopts an ‘80s punk-rocking, new-wave attitude on this frothing rocker, the collection’s second single. Also check out the first one, the wildly slamming “Now.” The band remains one of Music City’s finest pop/rock ambassadors.

MARSHALL CHAPMAN/Blaze of Glory
Writers: Marshall Chapman; Producer: Michael Utley and Marshall Chapman; Publisher: none listed; TallGirl (track)
-Chapman concludes her new album with its title tune. “I never intended to make it this far….I always thought I’d go in a blaze of glory….playing rock ‘n’ roll music with my hair on fire,” she meditates over the simmering track. Don’t let her kid you with this slow-burn number, she’s still a rockin’ blueswoman at heart. In addition to her own fine tunes, the CD includes covers of “Blues Stay Away from Me” and “The Nearness of You.”

KEB MO & B.J. THOMAS/Most of All
Writers: Buddy Bule/James B. Cobb, Jr.; Producer: Kyle Lehning; Publisher: Sony-ATV, BMI; Wrinkled (track)
-Nashville’s most prominent bluesman doesn’t have a CD of his own this year. But you can hear him loud and clear on B.J. Thomas’s new collection of duets, The Living Room Sessions. The two men are soul brothers harmonizing on this lightly bopping classic. Keb Mo is especially riveting when he ad libs asides during B.J.’s vocal lines.

The McCrary Sisters

The McCrary Sisters

THE McCRARY SISTERS/Train
Writers: Ann McCrary/Tommy Sims/Calvin Smith; Producer: Tommy Sims; Publisher: none listed; BMI/ASCAP; MS (track)
-Since their last album together in 2011, the McCrarys have weathered health issues and personal woes. Their new All the Way collection contains spiritually uplifting songs like this chugging rocker that triumphs over all adversity. It practically begs you to clap hands and shout, “Hallelujah.” So do the Gary Nicholson/Tom Hambridage tune “Skin Deep,” the Bonnie Bishop/Jimmy Wallace rocker “Right Where You Are” and the sisters’ own “Hum and Moan,” “Let It Go” and “Victory.” Once again, Regina, Alfreda, Ann and Deborah prove they are Music City’s glorified, bona fide, riding-high soul sisters supreme. They’ve been hired to back everyone from Bob Dylan and Buddy Miller to Stevie Wonder and Solomon Burke. You’ll hear why on every track of this extraordinary set.

JONATHAN WINSTEAD/SexyLadyLove
Writers: none listed; Producer: Jonathan Winstead; Publisher: Winstead, SESAC; One Staj (track)
-Winstead was a winner at the last Nashville Independent Music Awards as our top male r&b vocalist. He has also developed a fan base in the U.K. His Lovestry CD includes this sensuous slow jam featuring his supple tenor riding atop a track with wah-wah guitar, throbbing bass, heartbeat drumming and “answering,” harmonizing background vocalists. Hang with him to the finale where he scat sings up into his high register. Cool in the extreme.

LO CARTER/Let Go
Writers: L. Carter/D.L. Anderson/J. Richey; Producer: Joey Richey; Publisher: Loc Over Time/Darnell Levine/Daddy’s Boy, ASCAP/BMI; Loc Over Time
-This Nashville chanteuse is a retro-soul stylist with a delectable CD titled Seasons. This lilting, jazz-inflected track has become a music video. She weaves through its melody with a feathery wafting soprano supported by a spare rhythm section and some synth work. Carter co-wrote all 10 of the collection’s tracks, including the rhythmic fan favorite, “Bill Collector.” Call her Music City’s answer to Sade.

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About the Author

Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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