DISClaimer: The Dueling Divas

carlene carter111It’s Dueling Divas Day!

Unquestionably the two best records in this stack of platters belong to Martina McBride and Carlene Carter. Ironically, both are produced by Don Was and both are due for release next Tuesday, April 8.

Carter’s comeback finds her touching home with her family’s distinguished musical roots. It earns her a Disc of the Day prize. Honorable Mention nods go to Ray Price and the Brian Lavender Band, as well as the divine Martina.

I have no earthly idea who Cody Jinks is. His single doesn’t contain any clues. But he is still the DisCovery Award winner today.

BRIAN LAVENDER BAND/Good Ole Country Boy
Writer: Joe Vulpis; Producer: Steve Pope; Publisher: none listed; Lavender (track)
-The song is strictly generic, but his cool, raspy vocal and the kickin’ band elevate it well beyond what it deserves. There’s a cool, processed-vocal interlude that perks it up, too. Very listenable.

LONESTAR/Just The Rain
Writers: Richie McDonald/Jeremy Bussey; Producer: Lonestar; Publisher: NuState/Buzzcutt; BMI/SESAC; 4Star (track)
-It’s a power ballad of emotional loss. Richie’s vocal is, as usual, a thing of wonder. The song could use a chorus melody with more hooks.

ALLISON VELTZ/Bright Side
Writers: Allison Veltz/Jess Cates/Dan Muckala; Producers: Mark Bright & Dan Muckala; Publishers: Sony ATV Cross Keys/My Good Girl/EMI April/Very High/Wintergone/Kobalt, ASCAP; Blaster
-The poppy production is crunchy and catchy. Her youthful-sounding singing voice needs some seasoning and experience.

GARTH BROOKS/Tonight The Bottle Let Me Down
Writer: Merle Haggard; Producer: Mark Miller; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree; BMI; BBR (track)
Working Man’s Poet is a tribute to the titanic Merle Haggard that includes contributions from Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Toby Keith, Joe Nichols, Jake Owen and more. Garth drops by to offer a steel-soaked two-step rendition of this classic honky-tonk tune. Country, country, country.

RICK DROIT & SARA HICKMAN/Wild Mustangs
Writers: none listed; Producer: Rick Droit; Publisher: none listed; MoonGarden
-Perplexing. It has a certain throwback, hippie vibe with its quasi-poetic lyrics. The track is kinda bouncy. Their voices are ultra-white and bland-ish. But it is oddly listenable.

CARLENE CARTER/Me and the Wildwood Rose
Writers: Carlene Carter; Producer: Don Was; Publisher: none listed; Rounder (track)
– Carlene’s Carter Girl CD features seven Carter Family classics, modernized, plus tunes from Helen, June and Maybelle. Her own songwriting contribution is this lilting piece of nostalgia for her lost girlhood and her sister who died too young. The album, which is lovely, drops next week. Be there or be square.

CODY JINKS/Alone
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Codyjinks
-He definitely has vocal “presence.” This resonant, baritone performance arrives backed by equally ringing steel and electric-guitar riffs. The lonesome song is pretty cool, too. Who is this guy?

everlasting11RAY PRICE/Beauty Lies in the Eyes
Writers: Rich Grissom/Jon P. Gray; Producer: Fred Foster; Publishers: Life’s a Pitch/Pitch Pitch/It’s a Matter of Music, ASCAP/BMI; AmeriMonte (track)
-How many of us get to leave this world doing what we love the most? Ray Price knew he was dying when he came back to Nashville to record his final album. This lovely ballad leads off a collection that showcases one of the music world’s most iconic and legendary voices. Vince Gill provides the harmony singing, but it’s Ray who tugs at your heartstrings all the way. Essential.

JEFF MADDOX/Running
Writers: Jeff Maddox; Producer: Robert Metzgar; Publishers: Bobby & Billy/Sony-ATV, BMI; Platinum (CDX)
-This guy has definitely listened to his fair share of Haggard and Jennings. The peppy, hillbilly track keeps him on his toes, pushing him forward even though he doesn’t have a rockin’ bone in his body.

MARTINA MCBRIDE/Suspicious Minds
Writers: Mark James; Producer: Don Was; Publisher: Sony-ATV, BMI; Vinyl (track)
-The mark of a great interpreter is the ability to own a song, even a familiar one. McBride’s Everlasting CD showcases this peerless stylist reviving hits from the ‘60s and ‘70s, making you hear them afresh. Tackling this Elvis classic, she brings out the essentially “female” nature of the lyric, what with its references to crying and male jealousy. The honking baritone sax is the perfect underscore. The album drops next Tuesday, when you can catch her and her blue-eyed soul band performing this on the Today show. Actually, she’ll be pretty much inescapable next week, since she’s also appearing on VH-1, GAC, Arsenio Hall and on the cover of Country Weekly.

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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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