Judging by the sounds reviewed today, the country genre has officially gone completely pop.
Not one of these tracks could be described as “country” in any conventional sense of the term. One of them is white rap. Two of them are folk. The rest are all written and produced as Nashville pop. Which is evidently what “country music” is these days.
There are two young ladies named Emily in the mix. Emily Vance and Emily Haines are sharing the DisCovery Award.
The Disc of the Day goes to the always-listenable Zac Brown Band.
SUSAN HARTMAN/My Instinct
Writers: Susan Hartman; Producer: Eddie Gore; Publisher: Pink Scarf, ASCAP; Pink Scarf (track)
-Rollicking and rocking and highly involving, but perhaps a little too arty in production and song construction for country music. Pitch her pop.
ASHLEY GEARING/Train Track
Writers: Maren Morris/Jon Nite/Jimmy Robbins; Producers: Kenny Greenberg & Chad Cromwell; Publishers: International Dog/Words & Music/EMI April/Jon Mark Nite/Extraordinary Alien/Universal, BMI/ASCAP; Curb (CDX)
-It’s a kiss-off, but a mighty sweet and sunny sounding one. The full-bodied production and her soaring vocal are both exactly right. Recommended.
ANDY GRAMMER & ELI YOUNG BAND/Honey I’m Good
Writers: Andy Grammer/Nolan Sipe; Producer: Mike Daly; Publishers: Ladder Soul Music / S-Curve Songs (BMI), Sony/ATV / Nolan W. Sipe Music (ASCAP); S-Curve/Valory
-Bouncy and poppy. Packed with hand claps, electronic burbles, woo-hoo backing vocals, banjo and stuttering rhythms.
EMERSON DRIVE/Til The Summer’s Gone
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; TTA (ERG)
-Poor timing. This breezy, catchy, sing-along, summer-sounding song is coming out about three months too late.
THE LACS & JOSH THOMPSON/Tonight On Repeat
Writers: C. Sharpe, B. King, B. Berryhill, E. Coffman, B. Hill, J. Benson; Producers: Brock Berryhill & Evan Coffman; Publishers: Average ZJS Music Publishing (BMI), Don’t Be A Gypsy (BMI), Distinctive Third (BMI), Brothers By Fate (BMI), Joseph Benson (BMI); Average Joes
-I hate country rap.
ZAC BROWN BAND/Beautiful Drug
Writers: Zac Brown/Niko Moon; Producer: In The Arena; Publishers: Day for the Dead/Southern Ground, SESAC; No Reserve/Republic (track)
-Propulsive, driving and relentless. Hang on for the second chorus when the harmonies, rhythm, electronics and atmosphere all kick in with full force. What a rush.
Writers: Butaud/Butaud/Cotten/Johnson; Producers: Shane Stevens & Neeki Bey; Publishers: none listed; SR (track)
-Singer Olivia Butaud with her acoustic guitarist older brother Mitchell Butaud on harmony vocals have a tender, touching tune about the lonely death of a homeless man. Very folkie.
EMILY HAINES/Outside In
Writers: Janine LeClair/Michael Howard/Josh Thompson; Producer: Dean Scallan; Publishers: none listed; BMI; SSM (track)
-She has a vibrato that is quite ear catching in this bluesy, minor-key little outing. Intriguing.
Writers: Carolina Baldridge/Emily Vance; Producers: Zac Odom/Kenneth Mount; EV (CDX)
-Very feminine and frothy. It has a giddy, girlish quality that makes you smile.
VINCE MATTHEWS & JIM CASEY/Melva’s Wine
Writers: Vince Matthews; Producers: Shel Silverstein, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson & Jack Clement; Publishers: Universal, BMI; Delmore Recording Society (track)
-Co-producer Johnny Cash called this “the greatest contemporary American folk song I ever heard.” I don’t know if I’d go that far, but it is a nice, acoustic, sing-song-y, simple ditty. It can be found on a song cycle called The Kingston Springs Suite. It was recorded in 1972 and performed as an “opera” once in 1978, but never released until now. These are folk songs and recitations about small-town people and small-town life. Colorful songwriter Vince Matthews died in 2003 at age 63, leaving behind such gems as “Love in the Hot Afternoon” (Gene Watson), “This Is My Year for Mexico” (Crystal Gayle), “The Toast of ‘45” (Sammi Smith) and cuts by Cash, Waylon, Hank Jr., Charley Pride, Webb Pierce and Gordon Lightfoot, plus this collection. His co-writer Jim Casey saved the tapes of this conceptual curiosity.