DISClaimer: Country’s Fringe Offers Solid Benefits

Brendon Preece

Brendon Preece

In today’s exploration of the fringes of the country music world, I found plenty to like.

Here are some folks you might not know about, but should: Chris Heers, Dexter Roberts, Cash Creek, Brendon Preece, Ricky Gunn and John Moreland. All but Heers, a former DisCovery Award winner, are making their debuts in DisClaimer this week.

Today’s DisCovery Award honoree comes from this list. It is Brendon Preece. I know very little about him, other than the fact that he’s a Texan. But his debut single made me sit straight up, pay attention and want to know (and hear) more. Whoever he is, he has star quality.

The Disc of the Day goes to American Idol alumnus Dexter Roberts.

Writers: Justin Pecina; Producer: Greg White; Publisher: none listed; JP
-Pleasant and inoffensive, if not exactly gripping. He has a smooth tenor voice, and the production is unobtrusive.

Writers: Dexter Roberts/David Jones/Brad Wolf/Don Goodman/Erik Nelson; Producer: Erik Nelson; Publishers: Honky Tonk Skool/Morris Bedell/Sounds and More/First Launch, BMI/ASCAP; First Launch
-This fellow was a top-10 finalist on Season 13 of American Idol. His jaunty debut single is quite engaging, with a flirty, built-in smile and a catchy, winning chorus. Promising.

Writers: Brendon Preece; Producers: Tim Phelan/Brendon Preece; Publishers: none listed; BP
-Now here’s a solid honky-tonk singer. His baritone drawls and dips in all the right places. The tempo tune cooks with gas as it tells the tale of a guy who muses, “looks like I’m livin’ in my truck now.” You see, she’s kicked him out because of his partying ways. Mr. Preece has it all going on as both a writer and a vocalist. Send more, pronto.

CASH CREEK/Even Angels Have Bad Days
Writers: Harris/Barker; Producer: Kimo Forrest; Publishers: none listed; Heartland (track)
-This hooky, easy-going country rocker boasts tight band harmonies, cool guitar work, propulsive percussion, deft fiddling and a wistful, likeable, pop-ish lead vocal. Extremely programmable. Spin it.

Dexter RobertsSUZANNE JARVIE/Spiral Road
Writers: Suzanne Jarvie; Producer: Hugh Christopher Brown; Publishers: Modern Works, SOCAN/ASCAP; SJ (track)
-It’s a mystical, poetic meditation with Southwest Native American imagery. Her alto is mixed so you can follow every line in the spacey spiritualism. Direct this folkie outing toward your Americana listeners.

RICKY GUNN/King of This Town
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; New Canvas
-As a teen, he ruled his rural flyspeck village: “Nothin’ but cornfields for miles around/I was the king of this town.” Alas, now he’s grown up and no one remembers. Well written (uncredited) and expertly (if anonymously) produced. You have talent. Start packaging yourself with some professionalism.

JOHN MORELAND/High on Tulsa Heat
Writers: John Moreland/John Calvin Abney; Producer: John Moreland; Publishers: FTWSNGS/Bullet in the Chamber Folk, BMI; Old Omens/Thirty Tigers (track)
-The title tune of Moreland’s new collection has a really groovy, jingle-jangle sound. Not only that, he sings with a heart-grabbing rasp that would do any blue-collar rocker proud. Somewhere, Springsteen is smiling. I wish all country music sounded as cool as this.

Writers: Chris Heers/Sammy Steele; Producers: Pat McGrath/Chris Heers; Publishers: Saddlefarm, ASCAP; Saddlefarm (track)
-I have admired this man in the past, and his second CD more than delivers on the promise of his first. Titled The Road Ahead Shines, it features this breezy, steel-soaked highway tune about a guy who tells his boss to kiss his keister and heads off for parts unknown. You can practically feel the wind in his smiling face as he glides through the countryside in search of American beauty. Get hip to this guy’s songwriting: you won’t find many more cinematic, vivid character portrayers working today.

JEFF BLANEY/Go Now, Don’t Look Back
Writers: Jeff Blaney; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Very Entertaining
-The bouncing fiddle and brushed drums kick this off with elan, but when the singing starts, things become rather more tentative. labored and uncertain. I recommend some seasoning. Or a demo singer.

DON MIDDLEBROOK/Bluer Skies Down The Road
Writers: Don Middlebrook; Producers: Don Middlebrook/Ricky Nalett; Publishers: none listed; DM (track)
-The title does not occur in the chorus. The verses don’t scan. The noodling band is lame. He can just barely sing. Other than that, “How did you enjoy the play, Mrs. Lincoln?”


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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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