DISClaimer: Veterans Vs. Youngsters

lucy hale

Lucy Hale

Today’s column pits veterans against youngsters. In the former column are such established talents as Craig Bickhardt, Alabama and Gene Watson. In the latter, we have Rachele Lynae, Lucy Hale, and Mickey & The Motorcars. So I’m giving two Disc of the Day awards. The first goes to the enduringly great Gene Watson. The second goes to today’s red-hot Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood.

The DisCovery Award goes to Lucy Hale. TV stars have had a hit-or-miss history of translating their fan followings into country-singing success. Here’s hoping she’s in the “hit” column.

LUCY HALE/You Sound Good To Me
Writers: Ashley Gorley/Luke Laird/Hillary Lindsey; Producer: Mike Daly; Publishers: External Combustion/Out of the Taperoom/Songs of Southside Independent/Songs of Universal/Creative Nation/Twangin and Slangin/BMG Gold, ASCAP/BMI; DMG Nashville
-The Pretty Little Liars TV star delivers the goods with this ultra-catchy toe tapper. The song is super well crafted, and her vocal is full of verve and confidence. Make room for her on your playlists.

JAY JOLLEY/High and Mighty
Writers: Sarah Majors/Phillip Lammons/Matt King; Producer: Chuck Alkazian; Publishers: Tazmaraz/KadaLaNa/Motochez/Brain Twang, BMI/ASCAP; Double J (CDX)
-I have liked this guy several times in the past. As before, he sings with passion and grit here. The production on this country rocker is a little messy sounding, but there’s definite propulsion.

GENE WATSON/Turn Out the Lights (The Party’s Over)
Writers: Hank Craig/Willie Nelson; Producer: Dirk Johnson; Publishers: Glad/Pappy Daily, BMI; Fourteen Carat
-Gene’s new My Heroes Have Always Been Country CD dropped yesterday. On it, he revives songs associated with Lefty Frizzell, Dottie West, Merle Haggard, George Jones and the like. Mostly, they’re not overly familiar songs, which is cool. This Willie Nelson chestnut, for instance, sounds wonderfully fresh in the throat of this master stylist. Here’s my advice: Put this record on, put your feet up, close your eyes and let this awesome voice roll over you, bathing you in country-music greatness.

DAVID LOVING/Potato in Rio
Writers: David Loving; Producer: David Loving; Publisher: Tender Wolf, BMI; Tall Horse (track)
-He can just barely sing. Accompanying his weak, lung-less vocal attempt is a band that seems incapable of locking into a groove.

Lambert and Underwood debut "Somethin' Bad."

Lambert and Underwood debut “Somethin’ Bad.”

MIRANDA LAMBERT & CARRIE UNDERWOOD/Somethin’ Bad
Writers: Chris DeStefano/Brett James/Priscilla Renea; Producers: Frank Liddell/Chuck Ainlay/Glenn Worf; Publishers: EMI April/Sugar Glider/EMI Blackwood/WB/Songs of Brett/External Combustion, Keep It Simple Stupid, ASCAP; RCA (track)
-Country’s two reigning divas team up on a Thelma-and-Louise stomper that will make you reach for a drink and turn up the jukebox. Attitude with pizzazz. Miranda’s entire Platinum CD is a mini masterpiece. Buy it.

MICKEY & THE MOTORCARS
Writers: Mickey Braun/Willy Braun; Producer: Willy Braun with Mickey & The Motorcars; Publishers: none listed; MB
-This has a wide-open-spaces sonic quality that’s attractive. Mickey’s voice isn’t a powerhouse, but has a pleasing drawl. I would have mixed it up above the band more. The way it is now, the guitar playing and drumming are as prominent as the singing, so he sounds like he’s drowning.

WADE BOWEN & BRANDY CLARK/Love In The First Degree
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Lightning Rod
-This track from last fall’s High Cotton tribute CD to Alabama has become a hit on the Texas charts, and I can hear why. The excellent song has been slowed to a pulsing throbber, and these two voices are perfectly matched. They alternate verses beautifully, and on the choruses Brandy sings lead while Wade provides flawless harmony. Fascinating listening.

gene watson1111

Gene Watson

LUKE BRYAN/Love In The First Degree
Writers: Tim DuBois/Jim Hurt; Producer: Jeff Stevens; Publishers: none listed; Show Dog-Universal
-The High Cotton tribute CD is comprised of Americana artists. Alabama & Friends is its mainstream-country tribute counterpart. Luke Bryan essays the same song as Brandy and Wade, demonstrating by contrast how pedestrian a Nashville approach can be. It’s speeded up slightly, but otherwise apes Alabama’s original arrangement faithfully. For a more creative outing, try Rascal Flatt’s version of “Old Flame.”

CRAIG BICKHARDT/It Opens
Writers: Craig Bickhardt; Producers: Glenn Barratt & Craig Bickhardt; Publishers: Stone Barn, ASCAP; Stone Barn (track)
-Country hit writer and former Schuyler-Knobloch-Bickhardt member (1988’s “Givers and Takers,” etc.) now makes simply produced, singer-songwriter solo CDs. This track from his latest, The More I Wonder, illustrates how thoughtful and enriching his composing continues to be. Persevere through life, it says, and press on because often, “It don’t look like a door, but it opens.”

RACHELE LYNAE/Touch The Stars
Writers: Rachele Lynae/Danick Dupelle/Patricia Conroy; Producer: Jamie O’Neal; Publisher: none listed
-The latest from this ingenue is a rippling, upbeat celebration of young love. Her sunny vocal rides atop a punchy, percolating track. O’Neal’s production touch is just right for this bopping youngster.

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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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