DISClaimer: Finding Songs of Substance

All the stars are twinkling, but only a few are burning brightly. By and large, this is a stack of perfectly acceptable country singles. They’re all professionally crafted and designed for radio playlists. They are also mostly lightweight. The exceptions belong to Dierks Bentley and Kellie Pickler, both of whom are performing songs of substance. They battled for Disc of the Day, with Bentley’s relentless sonic production giving him the edge. The other exceptional platter belongs to our DisCovery Award winner, Elizabeth Lyons. Her self-titled EP came out last year and has reportedly sold well as an iTunes phenomenon. With zero press, publicity or promotion, Lyons has already sold more than 30,000 songs. Now the recent Vanderbilt University graduate is releasing her first single and video from the project. Get ready to have your country-pop ears pinned back.

Elizabeth Lyons

Elizabeth Lyons

ELIZABETH LYONS/Everything Tonight
Writers: Elizabeth Lyons/Matt Nolen/Ryan Tyndell; Producer: Matt Nolen; Publishers: Elizabeth Lyons/Ole Purple Cape, BMI; Roar (Track)
-Deliriously rhythmic, this will make you feel like twirling around the room until you fall down dizzy. She sings with plenty of fizz and confidence. The lyric has loads of neat little turns of phrase that make it quite distinctive. “God is a DJ/Mixing us His way.” “Baby you’re my sky/And heaven is where you are.” “I am the rhythm/And you are the rhyme.” “I can hear your heart sing…This is the beginning of a brand new song.” I am totally into this.

SAMMY KERSHAW/The Route That I Took
Writer: Sammy Kershaw; Producers: Sammy Kershaw and Billy Lawson; Publisher: Kershaw, BMI, Big Hit (CDX)
-It is billed as his tribute to the late George Jones, to whom he bears more than a passing vocal resemblance. As usual, Kershaw sings superbly. But the production is non-existent. It’s just him and an acoustic guitar.

AARON WATSON/Summertime Girl
Writers: Aaron Watson/Jon Wolfe/Roger Springer/Tony Ramey; Producers: Sam Seifter & Wes Hightower; Publishers: Sonnet/Aaron Watson/Roger Springer/T&D/Fool Hearted, BMI/SESAC; HTK (CDX)
-I have liked just about everything he’s released so far, and he continues his winning ways with this uptempo, sunshine-y romp.

DAVID NAIL/Whatever She’s Got
Writers: Jimmy Robbins/Jon Nite; Producers: Chuck Ainlay, Frank Liddell & Glenn Worf; Publishers: Universal/Extraordinary Alien/EMI April/Jon Mark Nite, ASCAP; MCA Nashville
-Tuneful and easy on the ears. I like it when the production breaks down toward the end and he sings in a semi-vacuum. Unmistakably radio ready.

KEITH URBAN/Little Bit of Everything
Writers: Brad Warren/Brett Warren/Kevin Rudolf; Producers: Nathan Chapman & Keith Urban; Publishers: EMI Blackwood/Sagequinnjude/Farmlove/Lion Aire, BMI; Capitol Nashville
-A bopping, feel-good ditty for summertime listening. Approximately as deep as a rain puddle.

dierks bentley11DIERKS BENTLEY/Bourbon In Kentucky
Writers: Ryan Tyndell/Hillary Lindsey/Gordie Sampson; Producer: Ross Copperman; Publishers: Purple Cape/Ole/BMG Gold/Bughouse/Dash8/Bug/BMG Chrysalis, BMI/ASCAP; Capitol Nashville
-Somebody call the fire department. Throbbing and fevered, this burns with a smoldering ember of lingering desire and aching memory. A superb sounding single.

KELLIE PICKLER/Someone Somewhere Tonight
Writers: Walt Wilkins/Davis Raines; Producer: Frank Liddell & Luke Wooten; Publishers: Curb Congregation/Dennis Morgan, SESAC/BMI; Black River
-This is the finest ballad performance of Pickler’s career to date, loaded with heart and meaning and truth and beauty. Play the fire outta this, and make her the radio star she deserves to be. Can you tell I’m completely in love with her?

Writers: Kenny Chesney/Keith Gattis; Producer: Buddy Cannon & Kenny Chesney; Publishers: Sony-ATV Acuff Rose/Basuare/Sony-ATV Tree/Pioneer Town, BMI; Blue
-Laid-back nostalgia with a distinct island vibe. The production starts out simple, spare and stark, but gradually builds into a fuller sonic experience.

AARON LEWIS/Granddaddy’s Gun
Writers: Rhett Akins/Dallas Davidson/Bobby Pinson; Producers: James Stroud & Aaron Lewis; Publishers: Rhettneck/EMI Blackwood/Music of Stage Three/Bobby’s Songs and Salvage/BMG Chrysalis, BMI; Blaster
-Well written and produced with panache. I particularly liked the dobro work.

Writers: Rodney Clawson/Chris Tompkins/Thomas Rhett; Producer: Joey Moi; Publishers: Big Loud Mountain/Big Red Toe/Amarillo Sky/Big Loud Bucks/Angel River, BMI/ASCAP; Republic Nashville
-It’s official: The entire country music format is now songs about dirt-road partying. Now that that’s settled, this is fantastically well-sung, irresistibly catchy, bodaciously rhythmic and dazzlingly produced.


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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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