Spring has sprung, and country sounds fill the air. My favorite thing about this listening session is that there was no shortage of worthy DisCovery Award contenders. New to the column this week are 2 Steel Girls, Rainey Qualley, Bryan Hayes and Monty Byrom, any one of whom could have captured the crown.
But I’ve gotta go with the outlaw sound of Whitey Morgan & The 78s. This is the “honky-tonk alter ego of Eric David Allen,” who grew up in hard-luck Flint, Mich., and cut his extraordinary CD in Texas. Welcome to the party, son: You’ve got the goods.
The Disc of the Day belongs to Thomas Rhett, who manages to marry a loser’s lyric to a winner’s audio sunshine.
MONTY BYROM/Meet Me at Midnight
Writers: Monty Byrom/Paul Kalman; Producer: Monty Byrom; Publishers: Byrom, SESAC; WTF (track)
-Remember the Bakersfield band Big House and its groovy 1997 hit “Cold Outside?” The group’s Monty Byrom now leads The Buckaroos at The Crystal Palace once a month and has his own blues-rocking combo The Road Pilots. With the latter, he has recorded his debut solo CD, 100 Miles South of Eden. That’s where you’ll find this swampy, soulful ballad beckoning a belle to sex and sadness. Very cool. The album’s last track, by the way, features the late Buck Owens singing with Byrom on a 1998 version of “Big In Vegas.”
COLE SWINDELL/Let Me See Ya Girl
Writers: Cole Swindell/Michael Carter/Jody Stevens; Producer: Michael Carter; Publishers: Sony-ATV Tree/243/Sony-ATV Cross Keys; BMI/ASCAP; Warner Bros.
-He wants to see her “dance” in the bed of his truck, “movin’ your hips like the wind moves cotton.” It may not be the most romantic invitation in the world, but it is lively and tuneful.
BRYAN HAYES/Farther Down the Line
Writers: Bryan Hayes; Producer: Andy Hunt; Publishers: none listed; BMI; BH (track)
– The title tune to his new CD finds this tenor Tennessee troubadour questioning the future of a relationship with plenty of catchy hooks. It has been seven years since his last collection because he wrote these 11 new songs while serving in Iraq. Welcome home, bro.
THOMAS RHETT/Crash and Burn
Writers: Jesse Frasure/Chris Stapleton; Producers: Dann Huff/Jesse Frasure; Publishers: Rio Bravo/WB/Ken Tucky; BMI/ASCAP; Valory
– Jaunty and bopping, featuring hand claps, whistling and a dandy rhythm track. The lyric is about a love crashing and burning, but heartache has never sounded quite this bouncy. Delightful.
RAINEY QUALLEY/Turn Me On Like The Radio
Writers: Rainey Qualley/John Ramey/Jeffrey Easy; Producers: Russ Zavitson/John Ramey; Publishers: Russ Zavitson/Rainey Qualley/Tazmaraz, ASCAP/BMI; Cingle (track)
– Instantly familiar, with a melody that grabs your ears and won’t let go. An automatic add and a sure-fire hit for a newcomer with a winning, throaty, alto range.
Writers: Andy Eutsler/Danny Bell/Jeffrey Joseph East; Producers: Paul Carabello/Clif Doyal; Publishers: Real Man/Parrot Island/Tazmaraz; BMI; Way Out West
-I remain a fan. This time, LiveWire takes on a dark ballad with the theme of love being like an addiction. Slowly insinuating.
WHITEY MORGAN & THE 78s/Waitin’ ‘Round to Die
Writers: Townes Van Zandt; Producer: Ryan Hewitt; Publisher: Silver Dollar, ASCAP; WM (track)
-Morgan previews next month’s Sonic Ranch CD with a video of this dark, doom-drenched and completely gripping ballad. You’ll hang on every line, probably because it’s written by a master song craftsman. In addition to Van Zandt, the singer-songwriter covers tunes by Tom T. Hall, Frankie Miller and Waylon Jennings, with whom he shares a dramatic “outlaw” vocal personna. Highly recommended.
2 STEEL GIRLS/Mad Black Magic
Writers: none listed; Producers: none listed; Publishers: none listed; 2SG
-This is a mother-daughter duo — Allison and Krystal Steel — who competed on Team Blake during the 2012-13 season of The Voice. Their new single combines deep-thump rhythm and feisty-female “attitude” vocals. It drops on Tuesday, April 21. I’m intrigued.
TY BATES/Tongue Tied
Writers: Ty Bates/Thomas Archer; Producer: Rogers Masson; Publishers: none listed; TB (track)
– I dig his Georgia drawl. The song’s idea is a clever play on stuttering and kissing. I like it, even though it is somewhat wordy and could use a more memorable chorus.
ADRIAN DUFFY & THE MAYO BROTHERS/United We Fall
Writers: Adrian Duffy/Melvin Duffy; Producers: Adrian Duffy/Melvin Duffy/Matt Kemp; Publishers: none listed; SR (track)
– The three Duffy brothers from Ireland have been tantalizing me with their excellent singles for a couple of years. Now they have a crowd-funded full album at last. Its title tune is chock full of harmony vocals, ringing guitars and echoey atmosphere. These guys have vocal, songwriting and production chops in abundance.
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