DISClaimer: Country Music Stages A Comeback

sturgill simpson11Country music stages a comeback this week.

Apparently, there are still a few record makers out there who cherish our honky-tonk traditions. One of them is our DisCovery Award winner, James Carothers. His CD is titled, of course, Honky Tonk Land.

There’s also an Ernest Tubb tribute album in this stack of platters. How could it be anything but country, country, country?

The trio of big stars on tap today are solidly country, too, albeit in modern ways. My applause goes to all three, Blake Shelton, Brad Paisley and Lee Brice. Deciding among them for a Disc of the Day award was simply impossible. So I am giving it to a guy who marries tradition to electronics with striking results, Sturgill Simpson.

SARA BETH/Nowhere With You
Writers: Ashley Hewitt/Dean Sams/SaraBeth Swagerty; Producer: Dean Sams; Publishers: Onjarose/Last Song Standing/Clear Box/Delta Pearl, ASCAP/BMI; Circle S (track)
-This sweet and pleasant, languidly paced ditty goes down smoothly.

STURGILL SIMPSON/The Promise
Writers: Farrington/Mann/Floreale; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publishers: Songs of Kobalt, BMI; High Top Mountain
-Many in the media are hailing this Nashvillian as a “savior” of country music. His resonant baritone has echoes of Waylon, but his extraordinary style is all his own. If you know this song from its days as a 1988 pop hit for the British dance act When In Rome, you’ll be stunned at how he transforms it into an earthy, yearning country love ballad. Esquire, Rolling Stone, The Washington Post and other elite commentators are calling Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds in Country Music CD the country album of the year. You’ll get no argument from me. The singer-songwriter is nominated as Emerging Artist of the Year at next month’s Americana Music Awards.

BLAKE SHELTON/Neon Light
Writers: Andrew Dorff/Josh Kear/Mark Irwin; Producer: Scott Hendricks; Publishers: Songs of Universal/Moreendorffin/Global Dog/Book of Spells/Green Vinyl, BMI/ASCAP; Warner Bros.
-Honky-tonk heartbreak brought right up to date with a sensational groove and brilliantly clever lyrics. Absolutely irresistible.

James Carothers

James Carothers

JAMES CAROTHERS/New Country Singers
Writers: James Carothers; Producer: none listed; Publisher: James Carothers; BMI; JC (track)
-If this doesn’t make you smile, you must not be listening. It seems that the depressing drinking in his hang-dog life doesn’t quite match up to the beer-and-babes lyrics he hears today’s country singers warbling. This boy is a stone-country singer, and his song is as catchy as can be. Play it.

BRAD PAISLEY/Perfect Storm
Writers: Brad Paisley/Lee Thomas Miller; Producers: Luke Wooten/Brad Paisley; Publishers: House of Sea Gayle/Words & Music/Warner-Tamerlane/The Country and Western, ASCAP/BMI; Arista (track)
-The echoey guitar flourishes are heavenly, as Brad continues to dazzle as a player. Beyond that, the song is a melodic dream of being lost in love. In a word, wonderful.

AL BRAKE/Hot Pink Lady
Writers: Al Brake; Producer: Bob Bullock; Publishers: none listed; AB (track)
-This Canadian came to Nashville to record his self-titled CD. But all the professional surroundings in the world can’t disguise his thin, too-sharp, breath-challenged voice.

LEE BRICE/Drinkin’ Class
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Curb (track)
-If this isn’t a monster hit, I’ve never heard one. Every nine-to-fiver in America is going to raise a glass to this anthem. Apparently, it is already a sensation with audiences at Lee’s shows. I can certainly hear why.

QUENTIN REDDY/Moonlight Ride
Writers: Rob Crosby/Brice Long/Quentin Reddy/Darren Crow; Producer: Bart McKay; Publishers: Golden Vault/Wadmalaw/The Song Factory/Wordspring/Blongsongs/Q Factor, BMI/SESAC/SOCAN; On Ramp (track)
-This fellow has already achieved a measure of notoriety by competing on CMT’s “Big in a Small Town” TV competition in Canada. To translate that into U.S. radio prominence, I think it’s going to take a song that’s a little less generic than this.

TONY BOOTH/Walking The Floor Over You
Writers: Earnest Tubb; Producers: Jim Loessberg/Justin Trevino; Publishers: Unichappell, BMI; Heart of Country
-I love this Lone Star State label. Its latest CD is a tribute to Ernest Tubb called Thanks a Lot Texas Troubadour. Country vet Tony Booth kicks it off with a sprightly, bopping rendition of ET’s signature song. Other participants on this thoroughly enjoyable and totally country package include Johnny Bush, the late George Jones, Dottsy, Darrell McCall, Dolly Parton, Norma Jean and Georgette Jones.

JIM PHOTOGLO/Halls of My Heart
Writers: Jim Photoglo; Producer: Jim Photoglo; Publishers: Griffin Pie/Haber; ASCAP; Grifftone (track)
-Photoglo’s songwriting catalog includes such evergreens as “Fishin’ in the Dark” (The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), “Hometown Honeymoon” (Alabama) and “Honky Tonk Heart” (Highway 101). This is the title tune of his latest solo CD. It is a heartwarming salute to Elvis, The Beach Boys and The Beatles that wafts with nostalgia and stardust. His evocative, tender, tenor voice sounds younger than yesterday. Recommended without reservation, especially if you’re looking for songs with true class. Also, it is exquisitely produced.

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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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