DISClaimer: Kings of Rock

Robby Hecht

Robby Hecht

Nashville’s pop-rock landscape is looking brighter than ever. Four of our major-label rock bands have new sounds this week. So be sure and check out the latest from Cage the Elephant, Mona, The Wild Feathers and Kings of Leon.

There’s a little jazz in this week’s stack of platters, too. Both the Gail Davies/Benny Golson CD and the latest from The Nashville Jazz Orchestra are well worth your attention. New artists make our non-country scene continually vibrant. In addition to Mona, we have Gareth and Robby Hecht for your listening pleasure this week.

It’s good to be Kings. So Kings of Leon are crowned with a Disc of the Day prize. And to newcomer Robby Hecht, we happily bestow a DisCovery Award.

ROBBY HECHT/New York City
Writers: Robby Hecht; Producer: Lex Price; Publisher: Old Man Henry; SESAC; Old Man Henry
-This Nashville folk-pop tunesmith is a wistful, heartsick charmer on this gorgeously melodic track from his self-titled debut album. His softly winsome vocal delivery rides atop an insistent, almost nervous, rhythm track that propels him along to a hushed finale. If you’re ready for the Next Big Singer-Songwriter, give this man’s beautifully produced disc a spin. You won’t be sorry.

THE WILD FEATHERS/Hard Wind
Writers: Joel King/Ricky Young/Taylor Burns; Producer: Jay Joyce; Publishers: Effecter/Young Town Mountain/Evan Taylor Burns, ASCAP/BMI; Warner Bros.
-This spectacular band of Nashville rockers introduced itself recently with the outstanding “The Ceiling.” Now The Wild Feathers have followed up with this stormy, frothing track from their self-titled debut CD. There’s more: Next month the band issues a vinyl single of the album’s chiming, harmony-drenched country-rocker “Got It Wrong” to celebrate Record Store Day. One way or another, they’re gonna catch your ears. And once they do, you’ll be hooked.

GAIL DAVIES & BENNY GOLSON/Since I Don’t Have You
Writers: Ron Davies; Producer: Gail Davies; Publisher: none listed; Little Chickadee
-Singer-songwriter Davies is generally associated with country music, but her latest outing is jazz, jazz, jazz, all the way. This breezy title tune finds her floating and flitting through loads of groovy chord changes. Her tenor saxophone accompanist is Jazz Hall of Fame member Benny Golson. His phrasing is just as cool as hers. The repertoire ranges from standards like “Am I Blue,” “Good Morning Heartache” and “Here’s That Rainy Day” to newer tunes by the chanteuse, her late brother Ron Davies and her son Chris Scruggs. Heartily recommended.

THE NASHVILLE JAZZ ORCHESTRA/It Ain’t Necessarily So
Writers: Gershwin; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Jazz Music City
Jim Williamson’s imaginative arrangement of this Porgy & Bess standard takes it in entirely unexpected directions. Very cool indeed. This is the title tune of the orchestra’s current album of Gershwin tunes, and the whole thing is essential listening. This band swings, and how.

MONA/Goons
Writers: Nick Brown/Mona; Producer: Nick Brown; Publisher: EMI, no performance rights listed; Mercury (track)
-This Nashville rock band has been signed by Island/Def Jam and has delivered Torches & Pitchforks as its debut major-label collection. The kick-off single features strangulated, shrieking, Plant-like lead singing; loads of dark percussion and echoed, shouted gang vocals. You are powerless to escape.

kings of leon111KINGS OF LEON/Temple
Writers: Caleb Followill/Nathan Followill/Jared Followill/Matthew Followill; Producer: Angelo Petragilla; Publishers: Pistola/Sinderella’s Grass Slipper/McFearless/Coffee, Tea or Me/Bug/Silent But Violent, ASCAP/BMI; RCA (track)
-Music City’s rock Kings released this track from the Mechanical Bull CD. It truly kicks butt. I love how Kings of Leon mix dynamic guitar pyrotechnics with soulful singing and melodies that you can’t get out of your head. Did you see them burning it up recently on Saturday Night Live? They are mighty, mighty men.

GARETH/Spirit Horse
Writer: G. Laffely; Producer: Robert White Johnson; Publisher: none listed; Roaring Brook
-This Nashville youngster expertly plays Native American flutes and sings in a pure pop tenor on his CD The Journey. It’s a little bit folk, a little bit Jethro Tull-ish, a little bit new age. He definitely caught my ear for braving to be different and innovative.

DOWNTOWN MYSTIC/Way to Know
Writer: Robert Allen; Producers: Robert Allen/Ben Elliott; Publisher: Sha-La; BMI; Sha-La (track)
-Supported by E-Streeters Garry Tallent and Max Weinberg, singer-songwriter Robert Allen and his DownTown Mystic pals pull off this retro rocker with urgent energy. His vocal sounds shaky and forced at times, but he’s always earnest.

MARK KNOPFLER/Privateering
Writers: Mark Knopfler; Producer: Mark Knopfler; Publishers: Hornall Bros./Will D. Side, no performance rights listed; Verve (track)
-Knopfler recruited a who’s-who of Nashville musicians (Tim O’Brien, Richard Bennett, Glenn Worf, Paul Franklin, etc.) to craft his first double CD. Its title tune reflects the resulting Americana vibe of the whole project. Strummy, thumpy, acoustic folk rock.

CAGE THE ELEPHANT/Come A Little Closer
Writers: Cage the Elephant; Producer: Jay Joyce; Publishers: 4U2ASKY/Sony-ATV/R&R Nomad, BMI; RCA (track)
-I understand that these guys have relocated from Bowling Green to Nashville. In any case, they’re still being produced by the brilliant Jay Joyce in Music City. This single from the Melophobia CD is a densely-packed sonic slab with cascading guitars, throbbing rhythm and cool, compressed vocals. Look for Cage the Elephant to showcase it on this afternoon’s Ellen DeGeneres TV show (Wednesday, March 5). I hope it makes her dance.

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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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