DISClaimer: Daring Newcomers and One Shimmering Duet

blake shelton ashley monroe11Five fine current country male vocalists step up to the plate today.

Relative newcomers James Carothers, Sam Hunt and Dallas Smith hang tough with Blake Shelton and Brantley Gilbert. All of them get on base with ease. But only Blake Shelton knocks it out of the park. He does so by teaming up with an equally potent female stylist, Ashley Monroe. The result is our Disc of the Day.

This week’s DisCovery Award goes to Gator Park.

JAMES CAROTHERS/I Must Be Alive
Writers: none listed; BMI; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed, BMI; JC (track)
-I have already proclaimed myself a fan of this stone-country baritone. This moaning ode to a lost love has a super deep resonance and burning passion. As a song, it’s quite well crafted, with admirably dynamic melodic range as well as sturdy lyrics. The mystery is why a talent like this is languishing in indie land.

BLAKE SHELTON & ASHLEY MONROE/Lonely Tonight
Writers: Brent Anderson/Ryan Hurd; Producer: Scott Hendricks; Publishers: House of Sea Gayle/Universal, ASCAP; Warner Bros.
-Two of our finest contemporary country vocalists team up for one sizzling, sexy hook-up performance. They’re throwing “right” and “wrong” out the window in favor of a night of no-strings passion. An audio inferno.

HANNAH BETHEL/Frigerator
Writers: Hannah Bethel/Matt Vrba; Producers: Brennin Hunt/Hannah Bethel; Publishers: Hamywyn/Matt Vrba, BMI/ASCAP; Hamywyn (track)
-It is a languidly paced tune about a relationship gone cold. She sings it well, but let’s face it, nothing really rhymes with “frigerator.”

LONESTAR/Pretty Good Day
Writers: Richie McDonald/Marv Green/Tommy Lee James; Producer: Lonestar; Publishers: NuSlate/Warner-Tamerlane/The Good The Bad The Ugly/Pretty Woman/Super Phonic, BMI; 4Star (track)
-These guys continue to make top-notch music. In this case, they’re harmonizing on an upbeat ode to the simple joys of living and loving. Wonderfully tuneful and catchy.

SAM HUNT/Take Your Time
Writers: Hunt/Osborne/McAnally; Producers: Zach Crowell/Shane McAnally; Publishers: none listed; MCA Nashville
-Overnight sensation Hunt follows the Platinum “Leave the Night On” with a hushed, echoey, mid-tempo run through assorted pick-up lines. It alternates seductive, breathy, spoken-word passages with yearning tenor choruses. What gal could resist?

BRANTLEY GILBERT/One Hell of an Amen
Writers: Brantley Gilbert/Mike Dekle/Brian Davis; Producers: Dann Huff/Brantley Gilbert; Publishers:Warner-Tamerlane/Indiana Angel/Royal Doll/Mike Curb, BMI/ASCAP; Valory
-Sooner or later, we all must face death. This stirring song provides vignettes of how to go out with dignity intact. Gilbert proves again what an intensely moving vocalist he can be. Well done, son.

Gator Park

Gator Park

GATOR PARK/Hayseed Highway
Writers: Kerry Justin Degman/Andy Hobbs/Bryan Hobbs/Max Collins; Producers: Max Collins/Jon Siebels; Publishers: none listed; First Base (track)
-This new trio kicks off its CD with this rolling toe tapper featuring a solid bass undertow. Its prescription is that when the going gets tough, head for a country road and remember your carefree boyhood. Promising.

K.T. OSLIN/Do You Think About Me
Writers: K.T. Oslin/Al Anderson; Producer: Jimmy Nichols/K.T. Oslin; Publishers: Mazdu/International Dog/Bucked Up, BMI; KTO (track)
-At her 25th-anniversary shows, Oslin is selling a CD called Simply that features remakes of some of her favorite prior album tracks and a couple of hits (”Hold Me” and “80s Ladies”). Its one new song is this dandy ditty of nostalgia with a steady, mid-section groove bracketed by sultry bluesy intro and outro. She always did love to lock into a righteous rhythm.

DALLAS SMITH/Wastin’ Gas
Writers: Adam Craig/Matt Dragstrem/Jon Nite; Producer: Joey Moi; Publishers: none listed; Big Loud Mountain
-The churning production is terrifically exciting. Luckily, he’s got the vocal chops to keep up with it, and the driving song has hooks aplenty.

KENNY CHESNEY/Flora-Bama
Writers: Kenny Chesney/Ross Copperman/David Lee Murphy; Producers: Buddy Cannon/Kenny Chesney; Publishers: none listed; BMI/ASCAP; Columbia/Blue
-Further proof that you can have a country career based on being on permanent spring break.

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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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