One of the coolest things about this week’s collection of country music is its sonic diversity.
We have dusty, Texas-influenced troubadours like Mark Jones and Radney Foster. We have ultra-produced pop-country sounds from Carrie Underwood and Victoria Banks. There’s the throwback, 1950s country style of Doug Seegers as well as the contemporary song craftsmanship of Eric Paslay. The shiny newness of Jon Pardi sits alongside the nostalgia of “Gentle on My Mind” by The Band Perry.
And you know what? It’s all good.
So much so, that both of our awards this week are ties. Although totally different, Radney Foster and Carrie Underwood are both Discs of the Day.
Likewise, our two distinctive DisCovery Award stylists, Doug Seegers and Mark Jones & Twenty Paces.
KENNY CHESNEY/Til It’s Gone
Writer: Rodney Clawson/David Lee Murphy/Jimmy Yeary; Producer: Buddy Cannon & Kenny Chesney; Publisher: none listed, BMI/ASCAP; Columbia/Blue Chair (track)
—The track sounds curiously compressed and mushy, with a constant guitar drone that doesn’t let up and nearly buries the vocal. The song about living in the moment while love is fresh is solid as a rock.
MARK JONES & TWENTY PACES/Breaking Even
Writer: Mark Jones; Producer: Jeffery Armstreet; Publisher: none listed; MJ (www.markjonesxxpaces.com)
—It’s over. Looking back, he realizes they never had a chance. Jones sings with marvelous warmth, giving the ballad its intense, country-boy heartache. The band and production are both stellar, as well. Lend this your ears.
THE BAND PERRY/Gentle on My Mind
Writer: John Hartford; Producer: Dann Huff; Publisher: Sony-ATV, no performance rights listed; Republic Nashville
—The band was on Glen Campbell’s farewell tour and appears in the acclaimed documentary Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me. This salute to the afflicted superstar retains the classic song’s breezy tempo as well as its wistful, rambling-boy tone. Effortlessly entertaining.
Writer: Victoria Banks/Phil Barton/Preston Brust/Lindsay Rimes; Producer: Victoria Banks & Park Chisolm; Publisher: Spark Ark Songs/Petrelli Tunes/Better Boat Music/Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp./Sony-ATV Tree Publishing/EMI Music Publishing Australia, ASCAP/BMI/APRA; Fontana North (track) (www.victoriabanks.net)
—Banks is a Nashville singer-songwriter who was named Female Artist of the Year and Songwriter of the Year at the 2010 Canadian Country Music Awards. Her new Indigo CD has a refreshing, experimental pop-country sound typified by this crunchy, wooshy, upbeat single. The song craftsmanship is topnotch throughout the collection. This is an artist you absolutely need to pay attention to. Recommended without reservation.
JON PARDI/When I’ve Been Drinkin’
Writer: Jon Pardi/Bart Butler/Jeremy Spillman; Producer: Bart Butler & Jon Pardi; Publisher: The Song Factory/Golden Vault/Bill Butler/HoriPro/Brave Bandito, BMI; Capitol (track)
—He phoned her and babbled lovey-dovey stuff, but it was only because he was loaded. At least that’s the way he remembers it in this wryly drawling ditty. The goofy banjo notes are the perfect audio touch.
ERIC PASLAY/She Don’t Love You
Writer: Eric Paslay/Jennifer Wayne; Producer: Marshall Altman; Publisher: Cal IV/Five Stone/Songwriters of Platinum Pen, ASCAP/BMI; EMI (track)
—Sadly wistful, this ballad paints a portrait of a lost lamb who finds solace wherever she can. Supportive strings sigh along.
CARRIE UNDERWOOD/Something in the Water
Writer: Carrie Underwood/Chris DeStefano/Brett James; Producer: Mark Bright; Publisher: Carrie-Okie/EMI April/Sugar Glider/Sony-ATV/WB, BMI/ASCAP; Arista
—Underwood tears into this gospel rocker with gusto. Bright’s production froths around her, alternately pounding and dropping into near silence. All in all, a brilliant sonic creation.
DOUG SEEGERS/Going Down to the River
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Rounder (track)
—Early this year, Swedish country star Jill Johnson came to Nashville to make a music documentary. She and her crew found Seegers singing on the streets downtown. Captivated by his soulful, retro style, she spearheaded the creation of an album. Listeners in her homeland turned this evocation of the great Hank Williams into a Swedish smash, and soon his reputation spread elsewhere in Europe. Rounder perked up its ears, signed the homeless man to a U.S. deal, and released the record on Tuesday. It is one terrific listening experience, featuring 10 Seegers originals plus one cover each of Hank and Gram Parsons songs. Buddy Miller and Emmylou Harris are among the stellar guests in the cast.
Writer: Radney Foster; Producer: Justin Tocket & Radney Foster; Publisher: Alamo Lounge/Kobalt, ASCAP; Devil’s River (track)
—If I were king, this man would be a superstar. As it is, he remains an A+ country vocalist and a song craftsman without peer. This heartbroken meditation burns and yearns as its narrator travels the road to the Golden State. Aspiring tunesmiths could use this as a tutorial, because every line of this ballad is a jewel. Kacey Musgraves provides the wafting vocal harmony.
CASEY BERRY/Won’t Let You Make a Fool of Me
Writer: Jim Reilley; Producer: Roger Hodges; Publisher: Mike Curb/Keantunes, BMI; 80615 (track) (www.caseyberry.com)
—Solidly country. He’s not the world’s strongest singer, but the well-written, conversational lyric and steel-soaked production support him admirably.
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