DisClaimer: Stars Light Up The Marquee

frankie ballard

Frankie Ballard

The remedy for flat country sales this week is apparently to release tracks by real stars. I don’t know if it will cure the industry’s ills, but there is certainly no shortage of marquee names in this stack of platters. George Strait, Darius Rucker, Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean are all here. Despite that glittering lineup, upstart Frankie Ballard snatches away the Disc of the Day award with his delightful “Helluva Life.” Fully half of the singles here are specifically summer songs, and his is by far the best.

The runners-up as the week’s best new items would be the superb “Mine Would Be You” by Blake Shelton and “Sunshine” by the Court Yard Hounds. We only have one newcomer in this column, but she’s not strong enough to win a DisCovery Award. So there isn’t one.

RONNIE DUNN/Kiss You There
Writers: Don Schlitz/Josh Kear; Producer: Ronnie Dunn & Jeff Balding; Publishers: Global Dog/House of Sea Gayle, ASCAP; Little Willie (CDX)
-It’s not as naughty as the title might suggest. He wants to kiss her wherever they are, whether it’s in Paris, Dallas, Vegas, New York, Tijuana, Atlanta or Music City. An echoey production frames this star’s intense, electrifying vocal performance of the mid-tempo steamer.

GEORGE STRAIT/I Believe
Writers: George Strait/Bubba Strait/Dean Dillon; Producers: Tony Brown & George Strait; Publishers: Day Money/Hori Pro/Living for the Night/Sixteen Stars/Tenorado, ASCAP/BMI; MCA Nashville
-The gospel ballad is cushioned by ethereal strings, sighing organ and sympathetic piano work. The lyric mentions “twenty-six angels,” apparently referencing the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims in Newtown, Connecticut last December. Strait’s tender vocal is, of course, perfection.

DARIUS RUCKER/Radio
Writers: Darius Rucker/Luke Laird/Ashley Gorley; Producer: Frank Rogers; Publishers: Universal/Cadaja/Twangin and Slangin/Creative Nation/External Combustion/Out of the Taperoom/Songs of Southside Independent, ASCAP/BMI; Capitol Nashville
-Thumpy and funky. At age 17, he drove a broken-down junker, had no money and was cruising aimlessly. It didn’t matter, as long as the car’s radio was turned up loud and accompanied a good time. Lively, romping and impossible to resist.

RACHELLE LAMB/Real Men Wear Boots
Writers: Zach Richardson/Jason Plummer; Producer: Jason Plummer; Publisher: 80 Proof Poetry and Truths, BMI; 80 Proof (CDX)
-Bluesy sass. She’s kicking aside the guy with the “preppy attitude” for a fella with a “farmer tan.” Her vocal would be more effective if it didn’t sound so forced. And double-tracking it didn’t help.

FRANKIE BALLARD/Helluva Life
Writers: Rodney Clawson/Chris Tompkins/Josh Kear; Producers: Marshall Altman and Scott Hendricks; Publishers: Big Red Toe/Amarillo Sky/Big Loud Songs/Play Animal/Big Loud Bucks/Global Dog/Lunalight, BMI/ASCAP; Warner Bros.
-Completely enchanting. The ingredients are heavenly romance, a six-pack, a night sky, a tune on the radio and a swaying dance together. It is, indeed, a helluva life. A single to get lost in. This is THE song of the summer of 2013.

UNCLE KRACKER/Blue Skies
Writers: M. Shafer/Scooter Carusoe; Producer: Keith Stegall; Publishers: Warner-Tamerlane/Gaje/Scrambler/Abbotts Creek, BMI/ASCAP; Sugar Hill
-I have always liked this guy’s slightly pinched, squally, boyish and earnest vocal style. He retains his young-pup appeal on this lightweight, summery bopper. Innocent and endearing.

BLAKE SHELTON/Mine Would Be You
Writers: Deric Ruttan/Connie Harrington/Jessi Alexander; Producer: Scott Hendicks; Publishers: WB/Doc and Maggie/Get a Load of This/EMI Blackwood/Watch This Girl/Great Day at This/Vistaville/Happy Tears, ASCAP/BMI; Warner Bros.
-Ultra romantic, saying the things that any young guy would like to say to his honey. In addition to being a very well written song, it’s one of Blake’s finest vocal performances in recent memory.

LONESTAR/Party All Day
Writers: Michael Britt/Richie McDonald/Frank Myers/Jerry Williams; Producer: Lonestar; Publishers: Bull Chip Ditties/NuState/Melawa/Rite Tune, BMI; 4Star
-The reunited Lonestar boys rock out on this celebration of summer play-time fun. Get up and dance.

COURT YARD HOUNDS/Sunshine
Writers: Martin Strayer/Emily Robison/Martie McGuire/Jonatha Brooke/Alex Dezen; Producers: Jim Scott, Emily Robison & Martie McGuire; Publishers: FUFF/Bingowings/MLSIV/Naughty Puppy/Warner Tamerlane/Pasa, BMI/ASCAP; Columbia (track)
-The second Court Yard Hounds album by Dixie Chick sisters Emily and Martie kicks off with this jaunty tune. The guy is such a downer that she calls him “Sunshine” and goes her own way, with her positivity intact. Bottom line: “Don’t rain on my parade.” The album is titled Amelita, and it is a sonic delight throughout. Buy it.

COLT FORD & JASON ALDEAN
Writers: C. Wiseman/R. Clawson/C. Tompkins; Producer: Dan Huff; Publishers: Big Loud Shirt/Big Loud Bucks/Big Red Toe/Amarillo Sky/Big Loud Songs/Angel River, ASCAP/BMI; Average Joes
-Synth bubbles and sound-effect wooshes and burbles plunk the good-timey track along its way. Colt drawls the rap part, and Jason sings the chorus in an electronically compressed vocal. Pleasant, if not exactly country.

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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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