DISClaimer: All Eyes On Country

Toby KeithAll eyes are on country music this week. You’d think the genre would be firing on all cylinders. But based on this stack of releases, the car is idling in the garage.

Only Toby Keith takes to the highway and puts pedal to the metal. He has the unchallenged Disc of the Day. The DisCovery Award goes to Laura McCormick, whose album is titled Box Full of Trouble. Here’s hoping it is.

STEPHEN CHADWICK/Hell of a Time To Go Crazy
Writers: Lance Miller/Darren Smith/Brad Warren/Brett Warren; Producer: Tommy Detamore; Publishers:EMI Blackwood/Sony-ATV Rhythm/Stylesonic, SESAC/BMI; Stag (track)
-Texas country, served up with plenty of steel-guitar licks, fiddle solos and rapid-shuffling drumming that doesn’t let up. Also, the lyric has some real cute moments of tongue-in-cheek humor.

TOBY KEITH/Drunk Americans
Writers: Brandy Clark/Bob DiPiero/Shane McAnally; Producers: Toby Keith & Bobby Pinson; Publishers: House of Sea Gayle/Highway 508/Sony-ATV/Love Monkey/Kobalt/Universal/Smack Ink, ASCAP/BMI; Show Dog (CDX)
-Equality and brotherhood, thanks to boozing it up together. This guy writes songs like no one else and remains one of country’s truly gifted vocal stylists. And I do mean country. By all means, play it, play it, play it.

JAMES OTTO/Somewhere Tonight
Writers: James Otto/Corey Crowder/Patrick Davis/James Slater/J.T. Hodges; Producers: Corey Crowder & James Otto; Publishers: You Otto Hear This/Liz Rose/Warner-Chappell/Patrick Davis/Delaney/Ain’t My Baby Grand/Buffalo Sound, SESAC/ASCAP/BMI; Ottopilot (CDX)
-Big James still has that bruiser of a voice. He turns it loose on this charismatic, rhythm-happy stomper that makes you want to get up and shake your money maker. I call that star power.

TATE STEVENS/Better at Night
Writers: Ramsey/Dorff; Producer: Blake Chancey; Publishers: Music of RPM/Sonic Geo/Endorffin/Songs of Universal, ASCAP/BMI; RPM (CDX)
-The verses just kinda lay there, but the choruses really take flight. The vocal performance is first-rate throughout. It also has a cool, repeated guitar groove.

RICKY GUNN/King of This Town
Writers: Dan Hannon/Emily Lynch; Producer: Dan Hannon; Publishers: Emilex/Emily Sheridan Lynch, BMI/ASCAP; NCE (CDX)
-It’s a story song about growing up and becoming wistful about once being a teen and having the world by the tail. It is somewhat word-y, and the singer seems rather generic.

JOHN SPICER/Pretty Good at Lovin’ You
Writers: John Spicer/Drew Baldridge; Producer: Tom Fletcher; Publishers: Legend, no performance rights listed; Legend (CDX)
-It is meant to be bluesy, but he is hopelessly white.

Writers: L.E. White; Producer: Jeff Bates; Sony-ATV Tree, BMI; Red River (track)
-After years of being told he sounds like Conway Twitty, Jeff Bates has surrendered to the inevitable and recorded a tribute CD called Me and Conway. Loretta joins Jeff on her most famous duet with the late legend. Alas, he doesn’t sing harmony to her nearly as strongly as Conway did.

Writers: Teddy Gentry/Randy Owen; Producer: Alabama; Publishers: Sony-ATV, no performance rights listed; Eagle/Universal
Alabama & Friends at the Ryman is a double-CD set that pairs the band with Jason Aldean, Trisha Yearwood, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line and The Eli Young Band in between its own live renditions of its hits. Hard-core Alabaman Jamey Johnson joins the group for a downbeat treatment of this anthem to their shared state. His slow-burn lead vocal simmers with soul. The crowd screams its approval.

laura mccormick1LAURA McCORMICK/Feel The Fire
Writers: Laura McCormick/Frank Schofield; Producer: Frank Schofield & Laura McCormick; Publishers: Ruby Rouge, no performance rights listed; LM (track)
-She has a throaty, smoky delivery that’s full of tension, emotion and technique. The sexy track throbs around her relentlessly, whether she’s smoldering in her lower register, growling passages or soaring into soprano passion. Extremely promising.

Writers: Marty Stuart; Producer: Mick Conley; Publishers: Marty Stuart/Do Write, BMI; New
-This durable country-gospel quartet salutes the songs of Marty Stuart on its new CD Meeting in Heaven. If you remember the sound of the original group, you’ll be disappointed in the new ensemble’s cautious, precise and ultimately bland style. If you don’t know the original, this will do, I suppose.


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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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