DISClaimer: All Under The Country Umbrella

Kaitlyn Jackson

Kaitlyn Jackson

Oldie revivals, Euro-country, a teenager, redneck rocking and a Grammy TV success story — today’s column has them all.

Teea Goans and Sage Keffer are the revivalists. Nicole Freytag and Fred Weston are checking in from Austria. American Idol competitor Kaitlyn Jackson is the teen queen. Montgomery Gentry are back.

And Brandy Clark’s TV performance on the Grammys was one for the record books. She might not have won an award, but she sure gained some fans. If you don’t already own a copy of her stunning 12 Stories album, you’re a fool.

But none of these seven acts won this week’s Disc of the Day prize. Instead, it goes to the always-pleasing Dan + Shay.

To the afore mentioned teen Kaitlyn Jackson, we present a DisCovery Award along with a wish for a long and happy country career.

JILL & JULIA/Cursed
Writers: Jill & Julia; Producer: Dave Moody; Publishers: Songs From American Street, BMI; Lamon (track)
-The title tune of this duo’s 7-song EP is a bluesy, minor-key, mid-tempo outing with a haunting vibe. The problems with it are a busy production and a mix so muddy that you can barely understand the lyrics. The gals seem like they have talent, but they need to get some clarity in their sound.

MONTGOMERY GENTRY/Folks Like Us
Writers: Neal Coty/Ash Bowers/Adam Craig; Producer: Michael Knox; Publishers: none listed; Blaster
-In praise of the “boot-wearin,’ God-fearin’” everyday people of small-town Middle America. Enthusiastic sounding.

NICOLE FREYTAG/Lay Back
Writers: Pete Jordan; Producer: WIR Records; Publishers: none listed; WIR (Austria)
-A country label in Austria has sent in some sides for consideration in the column. This one has a lilting, Abba-esque melodic quality that is quite listenable. The rhythm track is a little on the mechanical side, but she was a sweet soprano vocal.

Dan+Shay

Dan+Shay

DAN + SHAY/Nothin’ Like You
Writers: none listed; Producer: Chris DeStefano; Publishers: WB/Beats and Banjos/Warner-Tamerlane/Shay Mooney/Highly Combustible/Sadie’s Favorite/EMI April/Sugar Glider, ASCAP/BMI; Warner Bros.
-She drives him into a spinning, dizzy, sweetly romantic swirl. The fizzy, frothy track and the youthful, innocent, tenor vocals combine to create a totally dreamy pop-country confection. I remain a fan of these boys.

KAITLYN JACKSON/All The Little Things
Writers: Kaitlyn Jackson/Joe Sins; Producer: Kent Wells; Publishers: none listed; KJ (track)
-This former American Idol competitor is just 16, but she sings with the assertion, power and confidence of someone much older. Her song is an upbeat message ditty about celebrating every small blessing in your life. Quite promising.

BRANDY CLARK/Hold My Hand
Writers: Brandy Clark/Mark Stephen Jones; Producer: Dave Brainard; Publishers: Songs of Parallel/Vista Loma/Amplified Administration/Harlan Howard, ASCAP/BMI; Slate Creek (track)
-Clark’s performance of this ballad on Sunday’s Grammy Awards telecast resulted in a 3,763% increase in Pandora “station adds,” a 34% increase in Spotify streams for her CD and a 494% increase for this track. The tenderness and vulnerability of “Hold My Hand” melts the soul. Amid a sea of TV performances that tried to be over the top, her simple, acoustic, unadorned rendition of it with Dwight Yoakam singing harmony justifiably stole hearts from coast to coast. Righteous and true.

TORI MARTIN/From Here To There
Writers: none listed; Producer: Bart Rose/Billy Herzig; Publishers:none listed; Martin Enterprises
-Punchy and percussive. She’s hitting the road, leaving the mistakes of her life behind her. She’s a tiny bit vocally sharp here and there, but the energy is definitely audible.

TEEA GOANS/Memories To Burn
Writers: Dave Kirby/Warren Robb; Producer: Terry Choate; Publishers: Sony-ATV Tree; BMI; Crosswind (track)
-Goans is unquestionably one of the finest young traditional female country stylists working today. The title tune of her latest CD is a solid revival of a 1985 Gene Watson chestnut, complete with twin fiddles and steel guitar. There’s a delight around every corner on this collection, whether she’s tackling tunes originated by Merle Haggard (”Sing a Sad Song,” “You Take Me For Granted”), Ray Price (”I Won’t Mention it Again”) or even Michael Martin Murphey (”What’s Forever For”). Buy this record.

FRED WESTON/You Tell Me
Writers: Peter Jordan; Producer: WIR Records; Publishers: none listed; WIR (Austria)
-Recorded in Austria with a backing band called “The Dirty Nuggets,” this is a toe-tapping ditty with a feather-light, Teutonic-accented vocalist who’s asking for truthfulness. In case you might miss it, he repeats the three-word title 34 times, by my count.

SAGE KEFFER/You’re Only Lonely
Writers: John Souther; Producers: Matt Rovey/Sage Keffer; Publishers: none listed; SK (track)
-Keffer is a longtime “DisClaimer” column favorite. This time around, he’s reviving J.D. Souther’s 1980 hit, which charted country as well as pop. The new version slows the song and eliminates the original’s Orbison-like echo. These changes throw the spotlight on its still-gorgeous melody as well as on its well-constructed, desolate, aching lyric. Also: Keffer holds the finale falsetto note beyond human endurance. Well worth your spins.

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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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