The big news in today’s column is that we have two young African-American country artists in our listening stack.
The even better news is that Tony Jackson and Simba Jordan are both well worth your attention and your spins. Lend them your ears. We fondly remember Tony from his dandy remake of “Nashville Cats” last year. But Simba is a newcomer to the column, so he lands a DisCovery Award.
The Disc of the Day prize goes to the always dependable Big & Rich. Their tightly crafted “California” wins on all levels — song, performance and production.
RACHAEL TURNER/Hurts Don’t It
Writers: Kerry Kurt Phillips/Larry Haack/Michael Higgins; Producer: Kent Wells; Publishers: none listed; Rustic (CDX)
– She has a great deal of vocal “presence,” with an up-close-and-personal delivery that’s married to a crystal-clear production. In addition, she nails the pain in the lyric perfectly. This aching ballad richly deserves your spins.
BIG & RICH/California
Writers: Rodney Clawson/Vicky McGehee/John Rich; Producers: Big & Rich; Publishers: none listed, BMI/ASCAP; Big & Rich/New Revolution
– Their vocal harmonies have never been more stellar. And this rolling country-rocker just might be the most tuneful and catchy song they’ve ever recorded. A home run.
DENNY STRICKLAND/We Don’t Sleep
Writers: Jaida Dreyer/Cole Taylor/Tommy Cecil/Jody Stevens; Producer: Sean Giovanni; Publishers: none listed; Red Star (CDX)
– It’s kinda sexy when he’s in his softer voice on the verses. The power-ballad, shouted choruses shatter the mood. But all in all, this is a performer who shows great promise.
TONY JACKSON/The Grand Tour
Writers: Norro Wilson/Carmol Taylor/George Richey; Producers: Donna Dean-Stevens/Jim Della Croce; Publishers: none listed, BMI; Pathfinder (CDX)
– Taking on this definitive 1974 George Jones classic takes courage. Jackson juts out his chin and goes for it, note for note. Well done, buddy. You gave me chills.
ZAC BROWN BAND/My Old Man
Writers: Zac Brown/Niko Moon/Ben Simonetti; Producers: Dave Cobb & In The Arena Productions; Publishers: none listed; SESAC; Southern Ground/Elektra
– Folkie, like a countrified James Taylor. The gentle ballad’s father-son sentiment is so warm that you’ll melt.
AUBRIE SELLERS/Liar Liar
Writers: Aubrie Sellers/Brandy Clark/Jessie Jo Dillon; Producer: Frank Liddell; Publisher: none listed, BMI/ASCAP; Atlantic (CDX)
– Aubrie tones down the garage-rock country roaring in favor of an accusatory female attitude tune with a sidewinder backbeat. Gripping. Compelling. Mesmerizing.
SIMBA JORDAN/Those Goodbye Eyes
Writers: Lonnie Wilson/Jimmy Yeary; Producer: Lonnie Wilson; Publishers: none listed; Kinfolk (CDX)
– His pleading tenor hurts in all the right places on this heartbreak tune. The song is a winner, and the arrangement is nicely understated. Well done by all.
RACHEL HOLDER/You Only Call Me When You’re Drunk
Writers: David Lee Murphy/Rachel Farley; Producers: Norman DeVasure, Wilbur Rimes, and Rachel Holder; Publishers: none listed, ASCAP/BMI; Curb (CDX)
– The song is strong. Thus, there’s no point in her trying so overly hard to sell it.
SARAH DUNN BAND/Figure It Out
Writers: Sarah Dunn; Producer: Larry Beaird; Publishers: none listed; BMI; 9 North (CDX)
– The song meanders around too much, and there’s nothing that is attention grabbing in her performance of it. My mind wandered off. My attention drifted away.
WHEELER BRYSON/Pour Me Out Of This Town
Writers: Stephen Dorff/Andrew Dorff/Bobby Tomberlin; Producers: Stephen Dorff/Bobby Tomberlin; Publishers: none listed; BMI; Varese Sarabande (CDX)
– “Wheeler Bryson” is the fictional star of the low-fi country movie Wheeler, starring actor Stephen Dorff as the title character. His slightly raspy, growly delivery is ear catching, and this drinking song has plenty of hooks. Stephen and his late songwriter brother Andrew are the sons of successful composer Steve Dorff (”Every Which Way But Loose,” “I Just Fall in Love Again,” “I Cross My Heart,” “Through the Years,” etc.).
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