Once a fan, always a fan.
Today’s listening session was dominated by the welcome returns of four folks who charted in prior decades. I am happy to report that all of them still sound as strong as ever. They are former Arista artist Michelle Wright, former Curb signee Philip Claypool, former Sony chart-topper Collin Raye and the ageless John Anderson, who has been on just about every label imprint in Music City.
A tip of my hat and a warm embrace to John Anderson, along with a Disc of the Day salute.
This week’s DisCovery Award goes to Ashley Clark. He is a former member of The Clark Family Experience and a fiddler in Carrie Underwood’s band. It doesn’t say so on the CDX, but his (excellent) producer is none other than Mutt Lange.
CHRISTIAN LOPEZ BAND/Leaving It Out
Writers: Christian Lopez; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publisher: Christian Lopez, SESAC; Blaster (track)
-He has a charmingly earnest tenor voice. The band is unimaginative but adequate. The song does nothing for me.
JOHN ANDERSON/I Work A Lot Better
Writers: John D. Anderson/Josh Turner; Producers: John Anderson & Joe Spivey; Publishers: none listed; Bayou Boys (track)
-The blander country music gets, the more I yearn for personality vocalists like this one. Anderson remains one of the greatest stylists we’ve ever had, and he’s at his best on good-humored songs like this honky-tonking romp. That’s a huge smile you see on my face as it crashes to a close. Love him. Love this.
2-BIT PALOMINO/Things I Dream About
Writers: Sheryn Cassiday/Andrea C. Renfree; Producer: Don Richmond; Publisher: none listed; Howlin’ Dog (track)
-The title tune of this trio’s CD throws a spotlight on its strengths — a poetic sensibility, an emphasis on melody and sterling harmonies. The main drawback is that all three voices are a bit too “pretty” and pop-perfect, which is underscored by the pristine-precious picking.
COLLIN RAYE/Rock and Roll Never Forgets
Writers: B. Seger; Producer: Cradle Concepts LLC; Publisher: Gear, no performance rights listed; Goldentone (track)
-Collin’s new CD is Greatest Hits Live. Its one non-hit is the rousing, rocking closing track wherein he exhorts the crowd to sing along with him on the familiar 1977 Bob Seger classic. You don’t hear them doing so, but his top-of-his-range tenor shriek comes through loud and clear. As does the extended ovation at the finale.
THE PAT WATTERS BAND/I’m Your Buddy
Writers: Pat Watters; Producers: The Pat Watters Band; Publishers: none listed; PWB (track)
-I gather from the credits that these guys hail from Wisconsin. They’re not exactly instrumental virtuosos, nor vocal volcanos. But the good-natured approach and the clever songwriting are both very winning. I bet they’re a barroom full of fun in a live show.
MICHELLE WRIGHT/Laugh A Little
Writers: Jason Sellers/David Lynn Hutton/Terri Jo Box; Producer: Jason Barry; Publishers: This Is Magic Mustang/Big Loud Bucks/Troy D/Sony-ATV Cross Keys, ASCAP; Savannah (CDX)
-This Canadian thrush made her mark in the early ‘90s with hits like “Take It Like a Man” and “He Would Be 16.” She still has the goods as a throaty, emotive vocalist. Another big plus is the solidly written song with its hooky, good-message choruses. Play this excellent comeback single.
Writers: Ashley Clark/Austin Clark; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed, BMI/ASCAP; I.R.S. (CDX)
-He had me from his first notes. This guy is a for-real singer, with lung power to spare and an excellent sense of dynamics. The chorus rushes by its title so quickly that it hardly registers. But I got so caught up in his performance and the terrifically wooshy production that I didn’t care. I’m a believer.
SMITH N WESTERN/Call Me
Writers: Travis C. Smith; Producer: Jason Plummer; Publisher: 80 Proof Poetry and Truth, BMI; 80 Proof (CDX)
-This new duo pushes its way onto the country scene with a song that has more hooks than a tuna boat. The vocals are a little “dry,” and there’s not much production finesse, but there’s no denying the potency of the material. Well worth your attention.
PHILIP CLAYPOOL/Three More Beers
Writers: Philip Claypool/Jeff Silbar; Producer: Michael Lloyd; Publishers: none listed, ASCAP/BMI; PC (CDX)
-The hillbilly in the bar is getting so plastered that he’s mistaking the gal making eyes at him for Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, J-Lo, Ga-Ga, Angaleena Jolie and Pamela Sue Anderson. All of whom he manages to not only name-check but rhyme in the lyric. A must-listen rockabilly fiesta.
RICK MONROE/Great Minds Drink Alike
Writers: Rick Monroe/Dan Adams; Producer: Sean Giovanni; Publishers: Jindo Dog/Broken Yellow Line, ASCAP/BMI; MRG (CDX)
-This oomphy rocker is produced and sung with great gusto. And who can argue with a title this witty? Shut up and dance.
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