DISClaimer: Does Nashville Listen To Its Own Music?

Zac Brown Band. Photo: Cole Cassell/Southern Reel

Zac Brown Band. Photo: Cole Cassell/Southern Reel

There are just not a whole lot of truly interesting sounds in country music these days. I recently took a long road trip, listening to radio stations all the way. And I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times a record excited me enough to make me turn up the volume. I have long suspected that the people in Nashville who make country records don’t even listen to their own creations. Now I’m just about certain of it.

That said, there are some bright highlights in this week’s stack of platters. Jimmy Buffett & Toby Keith, The Band Perry and Randy Travis all have excellent new music. So does the Zac Brown Band, which takes home the Disc of the Day award.

The newcomers today are Cole Swindell, Angie Johnson, Maggie Sajak and our DisCovery Award winners, American Young.

LUKE BRYAN/That’s My Kind of Night
Writers: Ashley Gorley/Dallas Davidson/Chris DeStefano; Producer: Jeff Stevens; Publishers: Songs of Southside Independent/Out of the Taperoom/External Combustion/EMI Blackwood/Two Chord Georgia/EMI April/Sugar Glider, ASCAP/BMI; Capitol Nashville
-Typical contemporary “country,” which is to say banjo slapped on top of a rock-music track with lyrics about partying and a vague hip-hop vibe.

RANDY TRAVIS/Tonight I’m Playin’ Possum
Writers: Keith Gattis; Producer: Kyle Lehning; Publishers: Sony/ATV Tree/Pioneer Town/BMI; Warner Bros.
-Randy is facing a long recovery right now. While we await his comeback, here is an excellent tribute to the late, great George Jones to warm our country hearts. Needless to say, it is country to the core.

JIMMY BUFFETT & TOBY KEITH/Too Drunk To Karaoke
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: International Dog/Big Yellow Dog/Scamporee/Hammer Arm/Coral Reefer/All About the Music, BMI; Mailboat
-He signs up to sing in the bar, but by the time they call his name, he’s blotto. These two sound like they’re having a ball with this hilarious, super bouncy, sing-along ditty. A single with a built-in smile. Essential.

ANGIE JOHNSON/Swagger
Writers: Angie Johnson/Josh Leo/Phoenix Mendoza; Producer: Josh Leo; Publishers: Sony-ATV Tree/I Can’t Stand Your Music/Keeping Music Alive/Cool Vibe, BMI; Sony (track)
-It’s a shouted rocker with quasi-metal electric guitar and programmed electronic effects. Catchy, rhythmic and pleasing, but not exactly drawing on any country musical tradition that I am aware of.

THE BAND PERRY/Don’t Let Me Be Lonely
Writers: Sarah Buxton/Rodney Clawson/Chris Tompkins; Producer: Dann Huff; Publishers: Big Red Toe/Box Tone/Amarillo Sky/Big Loud Songs/Play Animal/Big Loud Bucks, BMI/ASCAP; Republic Nashville
-Marvelously melodic. It begins softly, then adopts a steadily rocking groove and nice vocal interplay among the three siblings. The audio dynamics ebb and crest throughout the production, which keeps you fully involved. One of this group’s finest efforts to date.

American Young

American Young

AMERICAN YOUNG/Love Is War
Writers: Billy Montana/Kyle Sackley/Jonathan Singleton; Producers: Jon Stone, Justin Niebank & Lee Brice; Publishers: Mike Curb/Dandon Ranch/BMG Platinum/Jam Writers/Sheila Be Right/BMG Gold/We Jam Writers/Glassbean, BMI/ASCAP; Curb
-This male-female duo has a distinctive folky style that features unusual vocal harmony work and spare, striking instrumental accompaniment. The song is a dandy, too. Highly inventive and very, very good.

ZAC BROWN BAND/Sweet Annie
Writers: Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette/Coy Bowles/Sonia Leigh/John Pierce; Producers: Keith Stegall & Zac Brown; Publishers: Weimerhound/Lil’ Dub/Angelika/Southern Ground/Maudlow, BMI/ASCAP; Southern Ground/Atlantic (track)
-It seems like whenever I get so bored with this format that I could scream, these guys come along to refresh my faith. This lilting ode to a wronged sweetheart is drenched with the group’s matchless vocal harmony and laced with delicious dobro notes. Heavenly.

MAGGIE SAJAK/Wild Boy
Writers: Aimee Mayo/Chris Lindsey/Caitlyn Smith/Troy Verges; Producer: Josh Leo; Publishers: Little Blue Typewriter/BPJ Administration/BMG Gold/Little Vampire/Music of Stage Three/Songs of Cornman/BMG Chrysalis/Songs of Universal/Songs From the Engine Room, ASCAP/BMI; MS
-She has a coy, sexy vocal style. The track has a nice thump. The upbeat song describes a heartbreaker boyfriend imaginatively. I like the whole audio package.

KELLIE PICKLER/Little Bit Gypsy
Writers: Kyle Jacobs/Tammy Kidd Hutton/Fred Wilhelm; Producers: Frank Liddell & Luke Wooten; Publishers: Curb/Jacobsong/Mike Curb/Float/Meaux Mercy/Capitol CMG, ASCAP/BMI; Black River
-I am such a major fan of this gal. This time around, she’s bopping along merrily as a wandering free spirit. Frothy and light and buoyant and oh-so listenable.

COLE SWINDELL/Chillin’ It
Writers: Cole Swindell/Shane Minor; Producer: Jody Stevens; Publishers: Sony-ATV Tree/Code Six Charles, BMI; Warner Bros.
-Same old, same old. They’re cruising on a backwoods road, listening to country radio and lolling around romantically.

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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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