DISClaimer: Three Promising Newcomers Earn DISCovery Honor

Pictured (clockwise from top left): Ben McPeak, Dylan Jakobsen, Midland

Pictured (clockwise from top left): Ben McPeak, Dylan Jakobsen, Midland

Happy New Year.

We’re starting 2017 the right way in DISClaimer, by showcasing artists who are new and promising. In a first for this column, we have a three-way tie for the DisCovery Award. Let me direct your attention to one of the most solid singers I’ve heard in a while, Ben McPeak. Next pay heed to a trio of hunks called Midland. Then lend the edgy Dylan Jakobsen your ears. All three are fine, fine listening experiences.

One theme of the day seemed to be weird band names — Australia’s Tornadoes, The Runaway Hamsters, The Easy Leaves — and that’s the most interesting thing about all three.

The Disc of the Day goes to veteran Billy Hardwick Jr. His “The Day Merle Haggard Died” is as country as it gets.

Writers: Sage Fifield; Producer: Brad Dollar; Publisher: none listed; Omega (track)
-The tempo slogs through sludge. The echo chamber is ten miles deep. The vocals are hillbilly nasal and way pitchy. It says here that it was recorded live.

BILLY HARDWICK JR./The Day Merle Haggard Died
Writers: Billy Hardwick Jr.; Publisher: Rusty Washboard, BMI; Producer: none listed
-Country to the core. It name-checks the Hag’s song titles as it tells the tale of a performer who yearns to be just like his idol. This veteran has always been considered “too country.” Which is fine with me.

Writers: The Runaway Hamsters/Kent Wells; Producer: Kent Wells; Publisher: Way West/Creek Valley, BMI/ASCAP
– This acts consists of three sisters and a brother, all of whom are pre-teen. They sound exactly like little kids playing dress-up. Bouncy and bubblegummy.

MIDLAND/Drinkin’ Problem
Writers: Jess Carson/Cameron Duddy/Mark Wystrach/Shane McAnally/Josh Osborne; Producer: Shane McAnally, Dann Huff & Josh Osborne; Publisher: WB/Jess Carson/Warner-Tamerlane/Vaqueros Galacticos/Tropical Cowboy/Smack Hits/Kobalt/Songs of Black River/One Little Indian Creek, ASCAP/BMI/GMR; Big Machine 
-Airy and vaguely “western” sounding, with plenty of breezy steel and lightly twanging guitar work. Nicely understated vocal work on the gentle melody. Extremely promising.


Writer: Wynn Varble; Producer: Gary West; Publisher: none listed
-West’s new CD is a salute to The Man in Black, titled For the Love of Cash Volume 2. He offers his own take on standards like “Ring of Fire,” “Understand Your Man” and “Sunday Morning Coming Down,” mixed in with new tunes. This witty, tongue-in-cheek ditty is a catchy toe tapper with stuttering guitar and rumbled, Cash-like vocals. Also check out the equally catchy “I Ain’t Playin’ No Jason Aldean.”

JOSEPH WELZ/Save The Night
Writers: Joey Welz; Producer: Joey Welz; Publisher: Ursula, BMI
-His whispered vocal wobbles from note to note, seldom landing accurately. The cheesy, piano-and-saxophone production is a riot.

Writers: Dale & Gale Hammond; Producers: Dale & Gale Hammond; Publishers: Vonger, no performance rights listed; Vonger (CDX)
– Pleasant and inoffensive, featuring good sibling harmony vocals. But I don’t know that I’d play it more than just this once.

Writer: Darrell T. Ewing; Producers: Hillbilly Rick, Dave Goodger, Mark Borg; Publishers: none listed; BMI; HR (CDX)
– Basic neo rockabilly, with a rollicking piano, a honking sax and a jitterbug beat. There’s nothing special about the singing, but it gets the job done.


Writer: Dylan Jakobsen; Producer: Dylan Jakobsen; Publishers: none listed, BMI; CB (CDX)
– I like the rasp in his voice and the powerful rhythm track. The lonesome lyric is sweet, too. This is very, very cool sounding. Who are you? Send more.

Writers: Hayslip/Wiseman/Akins; Producer: Billy Decker; Publisher: none listed; BMM (CDX)
– He’s gonna cure her heartache with a night on the town, followed by some smooching in the car. He sings with plenty of chesty oomph, and the track rocks nicely. Well done.


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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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