There’s a new sheriff in town.
Actually, he’s been around awhile, performing often at the Grand Ole Opry, writing songs beaucoup, issuing records on an independent label and earning a reputation as a highly entertaining stage performer. Now Chris Janson not only has a major-label shot, but has the most delightful new song of the season. Give that man a Disc of the Day award.
Also lend your ears to the singles by The Cadillac Three, Jason Michael Carroll, Lee Brice and Steven Ybarra. Not to mention The Bigsbys. I know next-to-nothing about these guys, except that their raw oomph won them my DisCovery Award. Judging by their touring schedule, I’d say they are Texans.
CHRIS JANSON/Buy Me A Boat
Writers: Chris Janson/Chris DuBois; Producers: Chris DuBois/Brent Anderson/Chris Janson; Publishers: Red Vinyl/Buckkilla/House of Sea Gayle, BMI/ASCAP; Warner Bros.
-Where do I begin? The shuddering-twang guitar work; the hillbilly-accented delivery; the wildly inventive lyric; the hook-filled melody; the blue-collar message. It’s all here, and then some. In a word, brilliant. The rest of you gathered here today for my listening enjoyment might as well pack your bags.
NATASHA BORZILOVA/Wilder Days
Writer: Natasha Borzilova; Producers: Natasha Borzilova/John Caldwell; Publisher: Uncle Hadley, ASCAP; Hadley Music
-The title tune of this former Bering Strait frontwoman’s fourth solo outing is kissed with mandolin twinkles and crunchy guitar chops. It takes a good while to get to the hook. But the getting-there sure is listenable.
THE CADILLAC THREE/White Lightning
Writer: Jaren Johnston; Producers: Dann Huff/Justin Niebank; Publishers: Sony-ATV/Texa Rae, ASCAP; Big Machine
-Not to be confused with the George Jones/Sawyer Brown chestnut, this is a love song where emotion hits him with the force of a thunderstorm. Well written, produced with panache and performed with intense believability. Groovy in the extreme. This trio has so far issued nothing but excellent records. It is high time you played them.
RANDY ROGERS & WADE BOWEN/In The Next Life
Writers: Wade Bowen/Randy Rogers; Producer: Lloyd Maines; Publishers: Theycallmepaul/Warner-Tamerlane/Trouble Songs, ASCAP/BMI; Lil’ Buddy Toons
-These two longtime buddies have teamed up on a CD titled Hold My Beer Vol. 1. It kicks off with this autobiographical thumpy jangler. Their brotherhood/friendship glows in every note. And, boy, is this country, country, country. My kinda music. In case you’re wondering: What happens “in the next life,” is “we’re gonna be ourselves again.”
ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL & THE TIME JUMPERS/Faded Love
Writers: Bob Wills/John Wills; Producers: Ray Benson/Sam Seifert; Publishers: none listed; Bismeaux (track)
-Asleep at the Wheel’s latest Bob Wills tribute CD is called Still the King. You’ll find Lyle Lovett, Brad Paisley, Merle Haggard, Old Crow Medicine Show, George Strait, Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson and more on its 22 tracks. The most poignant one is this — the all-time western-swing classic performed by the two bands on earth that understand this music best, highlighted by a soul-piercing vocal by Dawn Sears. The Jumpers’ singer died last December, so this is her fitting epitaph.
THE BIGSBYS/Keep You Waiting
Writers: Alex Smith/Jonathan Tyler; Producer: Jonathan Tyler; Publisher: Swanson Hill, no performance rights listed; Shiner
-This four-piece combo lets fly with a robust, muscular, country-rocking sound. The single features a deep, deep bass rhythm track and three-part harmony choruses. There is a scrappy energy here that I find enormously endearing. Recommended.
LEE BRICE/That Don’t Sound Like You
Writers: Lee Brice/Rhett Akins/Ashley Gorley; Producers: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Curb (track)
– Admittedly, following “I Don’t Dance” and “Drinking Class” is daunting. For any other artist, this would be a perfectly good single. But by comparison with its predecessors, the song is ordinary.
SCOTT DEAN/In My Arms
Writers: none listed; Producers: none listed; Publishers: none listed; SDC (track)
-This guy works the Texas market. To go further, I’d recommend a more imaginative production approach.
JASON MICHAEL CARROLL/God Only Knows
Writers: J.M. Carroll/P. Good/A.J. Babcock; Producer: J.M. Carroll; Publishers: none listed; For the Loney/Malaco (track)
-Not to be confused with The Beach Boys classic with the same title, this is a country rocker about a no-good man who loses his gal because of his carousing. The track bristles with energy, and his singing has never sounded stronger. Well done.
STEVEN YBARRA/What I Really Want To Say
Writers: Steven Ybarra/Diane Waters; Producers: Steven Ybarra, Chris Rodriguez, Dran Michael & Chad Jeffers; Publishers: none listed; Pacific (track)
-The title tune of this fellow’s CD kicks off the collection with some ear-opening, thunderous, stark drum pounding. But by the time he swings into the chorus, it’s sunny fiddling, soaring guitars and tenor vocal gliding all the way. Polished, promising and highly professional.