DISClaimer: Joe Nichols Wins Disc of the Day

risa binder nashville1The story today is told by the newcomer females.

Three of them are vying for the DisCovery Award—Ashley Barron, Olivia Lane and our winner, Risa Binder. She may be a newcomer, but she’s a smart cookie. Her 5-track Nashville EP contains songs penned by Matraca Berg, Lauren Lucas, Marc Beeson and other top-drawer talents. And Luke Wooten has given her the best-produced recording of this entire listening session.

Last week, we had one of my favorite male country singers in our spotlight, Chris Young. This week, we have another, the equally splendid Joe Nichols. He takes home the Disc of the Day prize.

Another trend of the day was folks doing double duty by working in different departments. You’ll find Ilya Toshinsky here producing Olivia’s disc and playing guitar on Risa’s. Tyler Farr is present as both a singer and as the co-writer of the Brushville single.

BRUSHVILLE/Baby’s Got Her Boots On
Writer: Tyler Farr/Houston Phillips/Cole Taylor; Producer: Kyle Lehning ; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree/Make It a Bucket/Mount It/Universal/No Bridge, BMI/ASCAP; Brushville (track) (www.brushville.com)
—This Illinois five-piece band was smart enough to enlist one of Nashville’s finest producers when it came to town to record. But I don’t know that I’d have chosen this word-y song for a single.

joe nichols slider 2014TEA GOANS/Nobody Wins
Writer: Kris Kristofferson; Producer: Terry Choate; Publisher: EMI Blackwood/Resaca, BMI; Crosswind (CDX) (615-467-3860)
—Goans remains one of my favorite current female country singers. She gives this a fine, moaning, honky-tonk balladeer interpretation. But Brenda Lee’s throaty 1973 version remains definitive.

RHETT WALKER BAND/Here’s to the Ones
Writer: Rhett Canipe/Kenny Davis/Joe Kane/Paul Moak; Producer: Paul Moke; Publisher: Sony-ATV/Ships in a Bottle/Give Me Analog/Grizzly Blue/Universal/Brentwood Benson/Paul Moak, SESAC/ASCAP; Essential (CDX) (www.therhettwalkerband.com)
—I think it’s meant to sound stirring and inspirational. Despite its earnest, blue-collar intentions, the country rocker never seemed to connect with me. This sort of thing has been done better by others in the mainstream rock field.

CLINTON GREGORY & IRA DEAN/You Can’t Hide High
Writer: Tommy Curry/Jayce Hein/Dennis Knudson; Producer: Larry Beaird; Publisher: Chubu/Busy at Play/Melody Roundup/Bluewater, BMI; Melody Roundup (CDX) (www.melodyroundupmusic.com)
—He’s secretly growing weed at home. But as soon as he fires it up, “You can’t hide high.” Your eyes are red, you’re laughing like a loony, and you’ve got the munchies. Goofy fun for stoners everywhere. Stay tuned for the ad libs at the end: “I feel like we’re smoking Willie Nelson’s brain” and the like.

T. GRAHAM BROWN & VINCE GILL/He’ll Take Care of You
Writer: Dan Penn/Gary Nicholson/Donnie Fritts; Producer: Mark L. Carman & T. Graham Brown; Publisher: Sony-ATV/Dan Penn, BMI; MCM (CDX) (www.tgrahambrown.com)
—As you might guess from those writer credits, this has a Southern-soul vibe. And of course, blue-eyed soulman Brown is just the singer for this kind of song. Gill proves to be just as bluesy during his turn at the mic. Groove soaked and audio seductive. Get down with it.

ASHLEY BARRON/It Might Get Loud
Writer: Pat Kelley; Producer: Bobby Zoppi; Publisher: none listed; AB (track) 
—The title tune to this gal’s CD is just barely produced. She sings okay, but it sounds like a demo.

TYLER FARR/A Guy Walk Into a Bar
Writer: Melissa Peirce/Jonathan Singleton/Brad Tursi; Producer: Bill Catino & Julian King; Publisher: Platinum Molly/East Pass/Nashvistaville/Disney/Super Big/Jett/Big Machine/Songs of Big Deal/BMG, BMI/ASCAP; Columbia 
—Nicely written, with a catchy chorus that loops back on itself. I could have done without the inappropriate, arena-rock guitar solo, but as long as you focus on Farr’s distinctive, furry-rasp vocal, this is a dandy effort. Hit bound.

OLIVIA LANE/Steal Me Away
Writer: Olivia Lane/Lee Thomas Miller/Ilya Toshinsky; Producer: Ilya Toshinsky; Publisher: Liv Write Play/Warner-Chappell/It, SESAC/BMI/ASCAP; Big Spark (www.olivialane.com)
—Rousing. She’s a filly breaking out of the starting gate at a full gallop. Both her vocal and the production are super sunny. Well worth your radio spins.

JOE NICHOLS/Hard to Be Cool
Writer: Rob Hatch/Jason Sellers; Producer: Mickey Jack Cones; Publisher: Legends of Magic Mustang/Big Loud Bucks/Sony-ATV Cross Keys/Becky’s Boy, SESAC/ASCAP; Red Bow (track) (www.joenichols.com)
—This guy gets me every time. On this outing, he’s tearing it up on an asphalt track, roaring with the throttle wide open. “She’s so hot, it’s hard to be cool,” he sings while the rhythm track pounds away relentlessly. Get up and dance!

RISA BINDER/Gotta Have You
Writer: Phil Barton/Emily Shackelton/Victoria Banks; Producer: Luke Wooten; Publisher: HoriPro/Liz Rose/Rare Spark Media Group, no performance rights listed; Warehouse (track) (www.risabinder.com)
—She sings with striking country clarity, and the superb production mixes her up front and center. The propulsive, gripping arrangement is an arrow pointed straight at the sun. The melody is beyond hooky. Prepare to fall in love.

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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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