DISClaimer: Music City Offers Way More Than Country

shel-album-2016Nashville’s non-country scene has never been livelier. Today, we have jazz, rock song demos, boy-band pop, chanteuse singing, a Beatles cover, rockabilly and much, much more.

The Disc of the Day belongs to the all-female combo SHEL. You will not hear a better crafted Nashville pop/rock album this season. Dave Stewart, of Eurythmics, co-produced. The band’s name, by the way, derives from the first letters of the Holbrook sisters’ first names—Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza. The DisCovery Award goes to the enchanting sounding Towne. This male-female duo consists of Steevie Steeves and Jon Decious. They met at a Skip Ewing songwriting seminar. He is a veteran of the late, lamented Pink Spiders.

Writer: Nick Fradiani/Andy Albert/Jordan Mark Schmidt/Mitchell Tenpenny; Producer: Jordan M. Schmidt; Publisher: Big Music Machine/19/Nick Fradiani/Downtown DJ/Freshy/We-Volve/Sony-ATV, BMI/ASCAP; 19/Dot (track)
—Nick won on American Idol in 2015. He lives in Music City. His debut solo album, Hurricane, contains this as his second single. Its processed vocals, crunchy beats, rapid-fire delivery and electronic effects are all straight-down-the-center, pure, boy-band pop, pop, pop.

SHEL/You Could Be My Baby
Writer: Shel; Producer: Shel, Brent Maher & Dave Stewart; Publisher: Songs of Fair Street, SESAC; Moraine Music Group (track) (shelmusic.com)
—SHEL is a four-sister band with a dreamy sound. The new CD is titled Just Crazy Enough. This single from it is a languid, layered, swooning swirl of sound that drifts through the room like a swampy mist. Completely captivating. Lend these ladies your ears.

Writer: none listed; Producer: Bernie Batke; Publisher: none listed; Witchcraft International (track) 
—They’re BACK! Music City’s favorite roots rocker revivalists reassembled at Sun Records in Memphis to craft their comeback LP Return of The Planet Rockers. As this toe-tapping track amply demonstrates, they remain rockabilly princes without peer. Eddie Angel’s guitar workouts and the pile driving rhythm section of Mark Winchester and Bill Swartz are the perfect foils for Sonny George’s wolf howls and “Aieee!” bayou exclamations. Essential. Not to mention a boatload of fun.

Writer: Cy Winstanley; Producer: Josh Kaler; Publisher: Old Oak, APRA; Old Oak Music (track) (tattletailsaints.com)
—Multiple award winners in their native New Zealand, these guys now call Nashville home. This single from their current self-titled CD is a jaunty, folk-pop outing with a boyish lead vocal. The gist of it is that a small-town innocent gets taken advantage of in the Big Bad City.

JACK WHITE/Honey We Can’t Afford to Look This Cheap
Writer: Jack White; Producer: Beck; Publisher: none listed; Third Man (track) (jackwhite.com)
—Jack has a new double-LP collection called Acoustic Recordings. It compiles stripped-down versions of tunes by The White Stripes, The Raconteurs and his solo sets recorded between 1998 and now. He produced almost all of it himself, but Beck stops by to man the board on this garage-y bit of wit. A piano plunky plunks behind his plaintive vocal, and drunken drums and woozy guitar come staggering in from time to time. What this whole collection does is show you what a skillful songwriter he really is. Fascinating listening.



TOWNE/Runnin’ Into You
Writer: Steevie Steeves/Jon Decious; Producer: Evan Hutchings; Publisher: none listed; Towne (track) 
—This Music City pop duo stages its disc debut with a five-song EP titled Games We Play. The first single is a sterling showcase for Steevie’s effervescent soprano and the team’s skill at crafting pristine, bopping pop. The bass track sometimes rumbles a little too loudly, but otherwise the production is spot-on.

Writer: Ricky Young/Taylor Burns/Joel King; Producer: Jay Joyce; Publisher: Young Town Mountain/Noble Dog/Effecter, ASCAP/BMI; Warner Bros. (track) 
—This band of Nashville rockers should be far more famous than they are. The hooks-a-plenty songwriting here is outstanding. The echoey harmony singing and electric-guitar stinging are both ear grabbing in the extreme on this current single. The new CD is called Lonely Is a Lifetime. Get it now.

BILL LLOYD/Across the Universe
Writer: John Lennon/Paul McCartney; Producer: Bill Lloyd; Publisher: none listed; SpyderPop (track) 
—This Nashville pop treasure’s latest Lloyd-ering is a collection of tunes celebrating his influences. So, on it you’ll find gems from the catalogs of The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Byrds, Badfinger, The Raspberries, Todd Rundgren, The Hollies, Harry Nilsson and more. No such work would be complete without a Beatles cover, like this one. In keeping with his longtime work in The Long Players, the original 1960s sounds are evoked, but given his own special panache. I love this guy.

Writer: Jack Pettis/Billy Meyers/Elmer Schoebel; Producer: Bela Fleck; Publisher: EMI MIlls/Morris Edwin H, ASCAP; Stretch/Concord (track) 
—Jazz piano master Corea and Nashville banjo experimentalist Fleck culled their two-CD set Two from tapes of eight years worth of concerts they did together. This rippling, lickety-split treatment of a pop standard is just one of many audio delights from the highly recommended collection. I didn’t know fingers could fly this fast, either on strings or on keys. Corea, by the way, brings his Elektric Band to the Schermerhorn this Friday (Oct. 14) for a concert stop on the tour celebrating his 75th birthday.

BENITA HILL/I Carry a Torch
Writer: Benita Hill; Producer: Douglas Romnow & Kevin Madill; Publisher: Benitasongs, BMI; Sweetie Dog (track) (benitahill.com)
—Long one of Nashville’s finest jazz vocalists, Benita has a new, self-composed collection titled Noir. This slow-burn torch tune is typical of her approach on this CD. Deep, dark bass plus shuddering piano chords and thunderous, low percussion frame her soulful vocal soaring. Very, very cool.


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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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