We have an embarrassment of riches in this week’s stack of platters.
A constellation of stars is on hand. And all of them are making music at the tops of their games — Brothers Osborne, Gene Watson, Kelsea Ballerini, Willie Nelson and Chris Stapleton. Shining brightest is Martina McBride, who takes home the Disc of the Day prize.
I have three newcomers to recommend to you today. They are Jordan Rager, Joey Hyde and this week’s DisCovery Award winner, Brett Young.
BROTHERS OSBORNE/21 Summer
Writers: John Osborne/TJ Osborne/Craig Wiseman; Producer: Jay Joyce; Publishers: WB/Trampy McCauley/All the Kings Pens/Songstein/Big Loud Shirt; EMI (track)
-Dreamy nostalgia set to a gorgeous melody and married to a swaying, echoey, atmospheric production. I dig these guys the most.
JOEY HYDE/Losing It
Writers: Joey Hyde/Heather Morgan/Lindsay Rimes; Producer: Aaron Eshuis; Publishers: none listed; JH (track)
-Thumpity, thumpity rhythm burbles beneath his urgent, slightly raspy tenor vocal performance. Gripping. Intense. Addictive.
Writers: Sarah Buxton/Heather Morgan/Zach Crowell; Producers: Dann Huff/Nathan Chapman; Publishers: TBD; Nash Icon Records
-This is downright inspiring. Like a beam of brilliant sunlight, her voice pierces through the heart-pounding production. I love it when she rocks, and one of the outstanding things about this performance is that she phrases with so much subtlety while soaring into the sonic stratosphere. Another masterpiece from one of our most gifted interpreters.
GENE WATSON/Enough For You
Writer: Kris Kristofferson/Producer: Dirk Johnson; Publisher: none listed; BMI; 14 Carat (CDX)
-Heavenly strings, a sighing steel guitar, a Kristofferson song and Gene’s enduringly soulful voice. What more could you ask for?
KELSEA BALLERINI/Peter Pan
Writers:Kelsea Ballerini/Forest Glen Whitehead/Jesse Lee; Producer: Forest Glen Whitehead/Jason Massey; Publishers: Songs of Black River/KNB/Ole Purple Cape/Honey Lee/Ole, ASCAP/BMI; Black River (track)
– The best-written song on Ballerini’s debut CD is now her third single. Excellent use of Neverland, Lost Boy and flying away imagery. The production punches in all the right places, and her vocal performance is shaded perfectly.
BRETT YOUNG/Sleep Without You
Writers: Brett Young/Kelly Archer/Justin Ebach; Producer: Dann Huff; Publishers: Super Big/Caliville/Downtown DMP/Stars and Stripes/Maple Leaf/Wordspring, ASCAP/BMI/SESAC; Big Machine Label Group
– His voice has an appealing throaty quality. The songwriting is vividly picturesque. The chugging, choppy production has loads of hooks. A solid winner.
CHRIS STAPLETON/Fire Away
Writers: Chris Stapleton/Danny Green; Producer: Dave Cobb/Chris Stapleton; Publishers: none listed; Mercury (track)
– Smoldering sonic embers. The definition of blue-eyed soul.
JORDAN RAGER & JASON ALDEAN/Southern Boy
Writers: Luke Laird/Barry Dean/Jeremy Stover; Producer: Jeremy Stover; Publishers: Songs of Universal/Creative Nation/Country Paper/These Are Pulse/Creative Pulse/Pulse Nation/Songs of Countrywood/Ole/EMI April, BMI/ASCAP; BBR
– Gentle yet anthem-like. The lyric doesn’t always deliver 100%, but the swelling production does. A promising debut.
Writers: George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin/DuBose Heyward; Producers: Buddy Cannon & Matt Rollings; Publishers: Frankie G/Nokawi/Ira Gershwin/DuBose & Dorothy Heyward/SMP/Imagem/WB, ASCAP; Legacy (track)
– The title tune of “Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin” is this oft-sung ballad from Porgy & Bess. Willie’s rendition has a slightly loping tempo. His conversational baritone is contrasted against sister Bobbie’s rippling piano lines and his own acoustic guitar runs. Sublimely listenable.
Writers: Lindsey Lee/Rachel Proctor/Victoria Banks; Producer: Eddie Gore; Publisher: none listed; Sixth Beat (track)
-The message here is that women are tougher than they look: “We wear our pain like stilettos.” Louise uses her upper vocal register effectively.
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