DISClaimer: Close Calls and Country Music

blake-shelton1featuredThere are tough decisions to be made among the platters on tap this week.

For someone who makes a living speaking his mind, I had a awful hard time making mine up.

Let’s start with the DisCovery Award. There are two extremely worthy contenders, both from Texas. They are Cody Riley and Sim Balkey. I liked them both and wrestled mentally over this, but in a close call, I choose Sim Balkey for this week’s honor.

The choice for Disc of the Day was also between two super efforts. This time, I wound up in a deadlock. I can’t decide, so I’m calling it a tie between the Eli Young Band and Blake Shelton. Both of them stole my heart, and my ears.

CODY RILEY/Walls Don’t Build Themselves
Writers: Cody Riley/Dylan Riley; Producers: Wade Bowen/Ross Smith; Publishers: Thirty Ought, ASCAP; CR
-The track rocks with a terrific backbeat and unrelenting propulsion. By contrast, his twangy tenor has a tender-hearted, shy, pleading, boyish earnestness that is as country as grits. Also: The song is quite well written. Different sounding and oddly endearing.

LITTLE TEXAS/Young For A Long Time
Writers: D.Gray/P.Howell/D.O’Brien; Producer: Little Texas; Publishers: Del Yeah/P-90/Songs O’Brien, ASCAP; Goldenlane (track)
-These ‘90s “young country” favorites are back with a new collection that pairs 11 new songs with remakes of “God Blessed Texas” and “What Might Have Been.” The title tune is a lively rocker that sings the praises of being eternally youthful. Effervescent.

sim balkey

Sim Balkey

SIM BALKEY/How ‘Bout We Do That Tonight
Writers: Simon Balkey/Sarah Balkey; Producer: Kim Copeland; Publishers: Around the Cooler, BMI; SB (track)
-He has a solid honky-tonk baritone and a song with hooks a-plenty. The track simmers with pent-up energy and barely controlled fire. This kid has the goods. Spin him.

BLAKE SHELTON/Sangria
Writers: J.T. Harding/Josh Osborne/Trevor Rosen; Producer: Scott Hendricks; Publishers: Songs/Mighty Seven/Heavy Metal Disco/Might Seven/Songs of SMP/One Little Indian Creek/Songs of Black River/ReHits/Smacktown/Smack Blue, ASCAP; Warner Bros.
-Can someone please explain to me why this man is not nominated for Entertainer of the Year at the ACM’s? He stars on a huge hit TV show (The Voice), co-hosts one of country’s biggest specials (the ACM show, itself) and — unlike the men who are nominated — is a stupendous country-music vocalist. Blake’s swaying, romantic new single is head-and-shoulders above efforts by most of his peers. An atmospheric performance to get lost in.

PAT WATERS/Crazy That Way
Writers: David Lee/Eric Church/Tony Lane; Producer: Eric Paul; Publisher: Harmony, no performance rights listed; Big Valley Agency
-It’s rather preachy for my taste.

DARIUS RUCKER/Southern Style
Writers: Darius Rucker/Rivers Rutherford/Tim James; Producer: Frank Rogers: Publishers: Universal/Cadaja/Memphianna/Warner-Tamerlane/T-Brid’s, ASCAP/BMI; Capitol (track)
-The title tune of Rucker’s new CD sounded like a winner when he debuted it at CRS. It still does. His singing is more relaxed and breezy this time around. The melody is wonderfully lilting. And the lyric is loaded with vivid Dixie imagery.

MANDY ROWDEN/Haunt You
Writers: Mandy Rowden/Billy Abel; Producers: Mandy Rowden/Joe Carroll; Publishers: none listed, BMI; MR (track)
-This Austin gal has a new CD called These Bad Habits. It features this languidly-paced tune where she seems to approach each note with caution. She is a little pitchy. The steel playing by Lloyd Maines dominates the track and is what will truly “Haunt You.”

Photo: Republic Nashville

Photo: Republic Nashville

ELI YOUNG BAND/Turn It On
Writers: none listed; Producers: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Republic Nashville
-How do they do it? Every time this band comes up with the catchiest song on the country scene, it manages to find yet another one. This one sends your brain into a dizzy, fizzy stratosphere of sound. The rapid-fire lyric is matched by a swirling instrumental track and rhythm that doesn’t let up for one second. Thrilling.

THE LACS/God Bless A Country Girl
Writers: none listed; Producers: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Average Joes
-It’s a combination of rap and bro country. Just what we need.

AUDREY AULD/I Am Not What I Have Done
Writers: Gary Harrell/Juan Meja/Joey Barnes/Rolf Kissmann/Gino Sevacos/Justus Evans/Michael Littlebear/Andrew Vance/Khalifah Christensen/Felix Lucero/Kevin Sawyer/Joe Askey/Audrey Auld; Reckless (track)
-Auld has been conducting songwriting workshops in San Quentin Prison since 2006. She has included five compositions that she created with inmates on her new CD Hey Warden. This one asks for simple understanding and compassion. It is a simple guitar-vocal, but elsewhere on the album she is joined by notable Nashville sidemen such Kenny Vaughan and Dennis Wage.

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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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