In this week’s “DisClaimer,” melodies you can sing along with, harmonies that tickle your ears and real-life lyrics that fire your brain have returned to the country music landscape. I don’t know when I’ve had a better listening day.
Around every corner is a delight, thanks to Eric Church, Steve Moakler, Tim McGraw, Faith Hill, Delta Rae, Bobby Bare, Angaleena Presley and Ray Scott. Whoopie.
Sorting all this out into awards categories was a problem. In squeaky-tight contests, I’m giving Disc of the Day to Eric Church and the DisCovery Award to Delta Rae. The band has been around the block a few times, but this is its first appearance in the column.
RAY SCOTT/Livin’ This Way
Writer: Ray Scott; Producer: Michael Hughes; Publisher: none listed, BMI; Jethropolitan
– His baritone is one of the most charismatic voices in country music. In this compelling, rampaging “outlaw” thumper, he knows full well that he’s killing himself with drink and drugs to get over her. I rode this journey all the way with him. Then I played it again. Great stuff.
BOBBY BARE/Things Change
Writers: Bobby Bare/Jeff Hyde/Roger Springer; Producers: Jimmy Ritchie/Max T. Barnes; Publishers: none listed, BMI/ASCAP; Hypermedia (CDX)
– Bobby drawls his way into this philosophical toe tapper with characteristic personality and warmth. Solid proof that this Hall of Famer still has what it takes to craft a winner. He might just be the World’s Coolest Human.
Writer: Angaleena Presley; Producers: Angaleena Presley/Oran Thornton; Publishers: WB/Mountain Girl/Vistaville, ASCAP; Mining Light/Thirty Tigers
– Get ready for a stunning collection from the brunette member of The Pistol Annies. Due in three weeks, it is a set of songs that touch on her hard-knocks trip through the country music business. This title tune is a sultry saga of a woman’s dissatisfaction with the everyday dullness of housewifery. Guests on the CD include Jack Ingram, Yelawolf, Morgane Stapleton and Walker County, as well as Miranda and Ashley. Her stellar songwriting collaborators include Guy Clark, Chris Stapleton and Wanda Jackson, but this gal does just fine on solo writes, too. Start saving your pennies now. This set is absolutely worth buying.
Writers: Steve Moakler/Gordie Sampson/Caitlyn Smith; Producer: Luke Laird; Publishers: Highway 76/Creative Pulse/These Are Pulse/BMG Firefly/Dash8/Warner Tamerlane/Songs of the Corn, BMI/ASCAP; Creative Nation
– The new CD by my fellow Pittsburgh native is titled, fittingly, Steel Town. He’s proved himself as an accomplished songwriter for others (”Riser” by Dierks, etc.), but Moakler’s new single is a stellar effort for himself. It’s a rushing, breezy and very cool metaphor about motion being just like life. Love it. Love him.
ERIC CHURCH/Round Here Buzz
Writers: none listed; Producers: Jay Joyce; Publishers: none listed; EMI
– I fell hard for this somber portrait of small-town, high-school, dead-end life. He’s downing beers, missing the gal who got out while he stayed behind. Eric’s vocal phrasing is always gripping, but perhaps on this ballad more than ever.
CORTNI BIRD/Men Don’t Have It Like That
Writer: Cortni Bird; Producer: Mark Mosley; Publisher: none listed, ASCAP; C-Hawk (CDX)
– The production is alternately too bottom heavy, too thin or too jumbled. On top of that, she’s not much of a singer.
TIM McGRAW AND FAITH HILL/Speak To A Girl
Writers: Shy Carter/Dave Gibson/Joe Sparger; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Sony
– Their finest collaboration yet. Tim and Faith’s previous duets have been love songs. This one has a lyric about communication and understanding. The strong ballad is matched by excellent vocal phrasing by both. A stone smash.
JAMES ROBERT WEBB/Six Strings & The Truth
Writers: James Robert Webb; Producers: James Robert Webb/Daniel Kleindienst; Bison Creek (CDX)
– It’s the story of a guy who’s doing his best to entertain and getting “high fives from a crowd in cowboy boots.” Sorry, but you won’t be getting any hand claps from this member of the crowd.
JAKE OWEN/Good Company
Writers: Matt Alderman/Tommy Cecil/Jared Mullins; Producers: Lukas Bracewell/Jake Owen; Publishers: Curb Congregation/Sixteen Stars/Hori Pro/Big Deal Beats/Words & Music, SESAC/BMI; RCA (track)
– He’s still doing that non-stop party bop.
DELTA RAE/A Long and Happy Life
Writers: Ian Holljes/Eric Holljes; Producer: Dann Huff; Publishers: none listed; Valory Music
-Joyous. Celestial. A sonic celebration. It made my heart beat faster, my lips smile and my booty move. These folks sing like angels. Stardom awaits.
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