DISClaimer: Showcasing Great Country Singers

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Toby Keith

What is this, Great Country Singers Week?

It is inspiring and overwhelming how many great hillbilly vocal stylists we have on hand today — John Conlee, Shane Owens, Joe Nichols, Dylan Scott and the trio of Charles Kelley, Dierks Bentley and Eric Paslay. What a bonanza.

Taking home the Disc of the Day is another great one. Toby Keith is at the top of his game as a romantic balladeer with “Beautiful Stranger.”


Adrian Johnston

It says under her name on her record label that she is “just another blonde.” I beg to differ. With her perfect delivery of a great lyric, Adrian Johnston is this week’s DisCovery Award winner.

JOE NICHOLS/Freaks Like Me
Writers: Lynn Hutton/Monty Criswell/Josh Thompson; Producer: Mickey Jack Cones; Publishers: New House of Sea Gayle Music/Vestal Boy Music/Sony/ATV Publishing /Dixey Bar Music/Big Music Machine (BMI)/Two Laine Collections, ASCAP/BMI; Red Bow (ERG) 
—Stuttering uptempo guitar twanging backs him as he catalogs the everyday-guy behavior that makes him a “freak.” This guy can sell a song like few others. Lend him your ears on this spiffy, percolating new single, guaranteed to charm.

Writers: Dylan Scott/Matt Alderman; Producers: Matt Alderman/Jim Ed Norman; Publisher: Curb/Curb Congregation, ASCAP/SESAC; Curb (CDX) 
—His resonant baritone is a splendid vehicle for this toe-tapping romance ditty. Warm, gentle and human.
Writers: Charles Kelley/Eric Paslay/Abe Stoklasa; Producer: Paul Worley; Publishers: WB/30A Getaway/Spirit Catalog Holdings/Five Stone/Sprit Two/Year of the Dog/Words &l Music, ASCAP; Capitol (CDX) 
—Charles steps out from Lady A for an outing with buddies Dierks and Eric. The stately waltz about life making music on the road has a terrific vibe, like an anthem for every music lover who’s ever lived. It begs you to link arms and sing along. Each guy takes a verse, and the instantly memorable choruses are for all of us.
SHANE OWENS/Where I’m Comin’ From
Writers: Kerry Kurt Phillips/Jerry Salley; Producer: James Stroud; Publisher: Dixie Stars, ASCAP; Amerimonte (CDX) (www.shaneowenscountry.com)
—Wow. What a singer. Somewhere, Keith Whitley is smiling, because this guy has the phrasing of a great, timeless country stylist. The uptempo song has dandy lyrics about what it means to be a common man. There’s just one misstep, songwriters: Contrary to the relentless fearmongering of the N.R.A., nobody is coming to take away your gun. Otherwise, you hit every line perfectly.
JOHN CONLEE/Bread and Water
Writers: Leslie Satcher/Vince Gill; Producer: Bud Logan; Publishers: Sony-ATV Tree/Leslie Satcher/Kobalt/Vinnie Mae, BMI; RCR (CDX) (www.johnconlee.com)
—Hooray! An awesome country story song and a man who sings the fire out of it. A homeless drunk wanders into the mission and finds both sustenance and salvation. Brilliantly written and masterfully performed.
Writers: Adrian Duffy/Martin Van Hoof Jenkins; Producers: Adrian Duffy/Matt Kemp; Publishers: none listed; SR (www.adrianduffy.com)
—This group has pleased me several times in the past. But I don’t like the way this somewhat out-of-meter song scans.
TOBY KEITH/Beautiful Stranger
Writers: Toby Keith/Bobby Pinson; Producers: Toby Keith & Bobby Pinson; Publishers: Tokeco Tunes/Bobby’s Lyrics Land & Livestock/Do Write, BMI; Show Dog
—This is a breathtaking, heart-in-throat performance. Toby’s vocal swoons in heavenly romance, and the strings wash over the ballad like a soothing mist. Exquisitely done.

MADDIE & TAE/Shut Up and Fish
Writers: Maddie Marlow/Taylor Dye/Pete Sallis/Aaron Scherz; Producer: Dann Huff; Publishers: Super Big/Big Machine/Song Alert/Tunes of R and T Direct/Razor & Tie, ASCAP/BMI/SESAC; Dot 
—Sprightly and pert. He gets her alone on the lake and puts the moves on her. This crowds her casting arm, so she dumps him in the water. Cute as the dickens.
MAKENNA & BROCK/Burnin’ the Night Down
Writers: Makenna Sullinger/Brock Vincent Wade; Producers: Paul Carabello & Clif Doyal; Publishers: none listed; ASCAP; Soundbyte (www.makennaandbrock.com)
—Pop-tinged tempo for your playlist. These X Factor alumni rock out on their debut single. Drums pound as they wail the tune. Both singers deliver plenty of passion.

Writer: Maloy/Galyon/Dezen; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Dallas, TX 
—Lovely. The song is a beautifully crafted evocation of what hearing a favorite tune is like. She sings it with heart, and the anthem’s production is absolutely perfect.


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About the Author

Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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