DISClaimer: Enduring Stars and Charming Newcomers

back at mamas111With the CMA Music Fest right around the corner, it’s no surprise that this week’s stack of country releases is packed with star power.

Despite the presence of so many marquee names, there are really only two selections here that make headlines. One of them belongs to the enduringly fine Tim McGraw, with a vocal assist from his better half, Faith Hill. The other is more of a surprise, a maybe-smash charmer from left field by up-and-comer Jana Kramer. These two share the Disc of the Day award.

There’s only one newcomer here, so by default, Sarah Davidson takes home a DisCovery Award.

SARAH DAVIDSON/Drink You Up
Writers: Caitlyn Smith/Gordie Sampson/Steve McEwan; Producer: Brian Kolb/Dino Paredes; Publisher: none listed; Suretone
-Since she was on the Private Lives of Nashville Wives reality TV show, I was prepared to loathe this. But the mid-tempo outing is actually pretty well done. Catchy and romantic.

THOMPSON SQUARE/Testing The Water
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Broken Bow (ERG)
-Funk rhythm, wah-wah guitar and spoken-word passages are not things we generally associate with these two. So this definitely perks up the ears. A nice and nifty change of pace.

sarah davidson1111

Sarah Davidson

TIM McGRAW & FAITH HILL/Meanwhile Back at Mama’s
Writers: Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston, Jeffrey Steele; Producer: Tim McGraw and Byron Gallimore; Publishers: none listed; Big Machine (ERG)
-Rippling acoustic guitars set the stage, then Tim comes in with a beautifully nuanced delivery of this lovely paean to passing pastoral pleasures. Faith’s harmony vocals on the choruses shadow him note for note. A gorgeous little single.

ZAC BROWN BAND/All Alright
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Southern Ground
-Stately and majestic. It’s a heartache song, but the heavenly chorale harmonies make it sound almost celebratory. Blue-eyed soul is the overall vibe here. Still in this fan club.

BREELAN ANGEL/Double Standards
Writers: Breelan Angel/Lacy Green; Producer: Ray Barnette; Publishers: Breelan Angel/Lacy Green, BMI; MisBhavin’
-Her pert, girlish voice hardly sounds old enough to drink, fight and cuss, never mind complain about double standards for women that tell them not to. Still, it sounds sprightly and is well written.

BRANTLEY GILBERT/Small Town Throwdown
Writers: Brantley Gilbert/Ben Hayslip/Rhett Akins/Dallas Davidson; Producer: Dann Huff; Publishers: Warner-Tamerlane/Indiana Angel/WB/Get a Load of This/EMI Blackwood, BMI/ASCAP; Valory Music
-Featuring vocal contributions from Justin Moore and Thomas Rhett, this rocker is otherwise a routine bro-country thang. You know the drill: keg of beer, babes in cutoffs, tailgates, party in the country, blah blah blah.

jana kramer111

Jana Kramer

JANA KRAMER/Love
Writers: Catt Gravitt/Jimmy Robbins; Producer: Scott Hendricks; Publishers: Ink Pen Mama/Tunes of R and T Direct/Extraordinary Alien, SESAC/ASCAP; Elektra
-This superbly written single has “hit” engraved on it. In fact, this could be her career record. Beautifully constructed, perfectly produced and sung with intense, sunny believability.

KEITH URBAN/Somewhere In My Car
Writers: J.T. Harding/Keith Urban; Producers: Dann Huff/Keith Urban; Publishers: SONGS/Mighty Seven/Songs of SMP/Heavy Metal Disco/Songs of Universal/Mary Rose, ASCAP/BMI; Capitol (CDX)
-It’s a pulse-quickening, toe-tapping, upbeat sound. But all of his singles sorta sound the same, don’t they?

LADY ANTEBELLUM/Bartender
Writers: Dave Haywood/Charles Kelley/Hillary Scott/Rodney Clawson; Producers: Nathan Chapman/Lady Antebellum; Publishers: Beards and Bullets/3OA Getaway/Hobbs Hill/Kobalt/Big Red Toe/Big Loud Bucks, ASCAP/BMI; Capitol (CDX)
-She wants to get lost in the booze and the noise and the lights so she can get over him. But don’t get any ideas, boys, ‘cause this is a night to dance with the gal pals. Rousing, if not quite up to the standards of their greatest works.

J.T. Hodges/Already High
Writers: J.T. Hodges/Kevin Griffin; Producer: Kevin Griffin; Publishers: Songs of Universal/Adeline 29/Sing Station/Boomer Sooie, BMI; Show Dog-Universal
-Cool and thumping, with plenty of beats and boom. He name-drops brands of drinks and smokes to get to the point: He doesn’t need any outside stimulation, because he’s already stoned on love. Very, very listenable. I remain a big fan.

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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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