DISClaimer: The “Unstoppable” Hunter Hayes

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Hunter Hayes

The trend in today’s column is female singer-songwriters on self-made, indie discs. Cyndi Harvell, Nora Collins, Michael-Ann and Maddie Deneault are all promising in various ways. But it’s Michael-Ann who waltzes off with this week’s DisCovery Award.

The Disc of the Day prize unquestionably belongs to Hunter Hayes. The boy is unstoppable.

CYNDI HARVELL/Flood
Writers: Cyndi Harvell; Producer: Jim Greer; Publishers: Yellow Door, ASCAP; CH (track)
-Artfully done, with darkly chiming piano chords, Everly-sisters harmonies, a drama-infused string section, nervous percussion and poetic lyrics. Americana programmers, take special note.

JIM LAUDERDALE/I’m A Song
Writers: Jim Lauderdale; Producer: Jim Lauderdale; Publishers: Wudang Mountain/Bug, SESAC; Say Crunch (track)
-Next up for this oh-so-country hit songsmith is a 20-track showcase of his talents that includes his own version of his Strait smash “The King of Broken Hearts.” Guest harmonizers include Patty Loveless, Lee Ann Womack and Buddy Miller, and his songwriting collaborators include Bobby Bare, Elvis Costello and John Oates. The set’s title tune is a gently swaying, super-melodic sing-along that will have you nodding in time with a smile on your face. To know him is to love him.

HUNTER HAYES/Tattoo
Writers: Hunter Hayes/Barry Dean/Troy Verges; Producers: Hunter Hayes/Dann Huff; Publishers: Songs of Universal/Ogden Avenue/Magnolia Beach/Creative Nation/Country Paper/Pulse Nation, BMI; Atlantic (track)
-Jaunty and endearing, this bubbly romance tune is as bright as summer sunshine. “Your name would be a good tattoo,” he croons to his honey.

BYRON HILL/Red Leather Couch
Writers: Byron Hill; Producer: Byron Hill; Publishers: Byron Hill, ASCAP; BHP (track)
-The title tune of hit songwriter Hill’s new, 15-track showcase has an easy-going, loping tempo with a “beach-y” vibe. It’s a charming ode to loafing, creating, thinking, sleeping, relaxing and having fun on a well-worn item of living-room furniture. Listening to this record might make you fall in love with Music Row song craftsmanship all over again.

TRENT TOMLINSON/Come Back to Bed
Writers: Trent Tomlinson/Ashe Underwood/Terri Jo Box; Producers: none listed; Publishers: Big Spaces/Big Mosquito/Geormac/Songs of Merf, no performance rights listed; Gluseppe
-Tomlinson’s comeback single is a moody, feverish outing that finds him beckoning for S-E-X. The throbbing beat, swirling melody and suggestive lyrics all work together spectacularly. Play it.

NORA COLLINS/Only The Beginning
Writers: Nora Collins/Willy Porter; Producers: Kenn Fox; Publishers: Don’t Slow Down/Terra Perfuma; SESAC/ASCAP; NC (track)
-Collins is a Wisconsin teen who has won numerous “rising star” awards in her home state. Her debut CD is an acoustic effort (guitar and fiddle only) that showcases six of her original compositions, plus four covers. On its title tune, her lyrics are solid, if a mite wordy. Her soprano vocal delivery is very, very young sounding. You’re on the right path: Keep at it.

TIM MENZIES/His Way of Loving Me
Writers: Tim Menzies; Producer: Ben Isaacs; Publishers: House of Sea Gayle/Wind in My Sails, ASCAP; By Grace (track)
-Tim Mensy has reverted to the original spelling of his name for his billing on his first country-gospel collection. Its title ballad is a terrific message song about the different ways that love reveals itself. As always, he is a spectacular country baritone with immense reservoirs of feeling. Apart from the standards “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “I’m Working on a Building” and “I Surrender All,” he wrote or co-wrote all of these moving tunes. I remain an enormous fan.

Screen shot 2014-06-04 at 10.25.46 AM111MICHAEL-ANN/Heavy Load
Writers: Michael-Ann; Producer: Randy Ray Mitchell; Publisher: November Phoenix, ASCAP; MA (track)
-This L.A. singer-songwriter emotes beautifully on the title tune of her CD. Her moaning alto breaks in all the right places while dobro, fiddle and her own acoustic guitar drawl along in a bluesy river of sound. The rest of the album proves this track isn’t a fluke: These are all first-rate songs. Extremely promising.

RASCAL FLATTS/Payback
Writers: Aaron Eshuis/Neil Mason/Ryan Hurd; Producer: Howard Benson; Publishers: WB/Nevada House/Revelry/Nettwerk One/Universal, ASCAP/BMI; Big Machine (track)
-The beefy rock guitars are perfect for this thumper about a lady who’s out on the town trying to get over a broken heart. He’s offering to be her payback to get even with the old boyfriend. Rousing and inescapably catchy.

MADDIE DENEAULT/She Don’t Play Guitar
Writers: Mason Douglas/Courtney Cole; Producer: Kim Copeland; Publishers: Wild Cataclysm/Chobe/Little Biscuit/Words & Music/Songs of Black River, BMI/ASCAP; MD (track)
-This teenage Texan displays plenty of moxie on her sassy single. She dishes a rival by admitting her good looks, but telling the boyfriend, “She can’t carry a tune in a bucket.” Yes, she has a “pretty good chest,” knows how dance, wears tight jeans and is blonde. But that gal, “don’t play guitar.” Sprightly and lotsa fun.

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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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