DISClaimer: Chase Rice, Zac Brown Band, Brandon Lay Top This Week’s Offerings

Country music returns to form in this post Labor Day season, and that means all boys, all the time.

There are two Disc of the Day awards, and both are production triumphs. They belong to Chase Rice and to the Zac Brown Band. These are singles that will tickle your ears.

The DisCovery Award goes to singer-songwriter Brandon Lay. He’s a sports-loving preacher’s kid from Jackson, TN, as you might guess from the lyrics of his debut single.

Did you miss me when I took last week off? Our San Diego vacation was delightful. In the city’s Balboa Park they have the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ, and we caught a concert there. At Eddie V’s bar in Seaport Village, we grooved to the AJ. DeGrasse jazz trio. And just so you know, the two best places to buy vintage vinyl there are Record City in Hillcrest and Folk Arts Rare Records in North Park.

ZAC BROWN BAND/Roots
Writers: Zac Brown, Niko Moon, Ben Simonetti, and Coy Bowles; Producers: Dave Cobb and In The Arena Productions; Publishers: Day for the Dead Publishing, administered by Reach Music Tunes, SESAC / Siva Moon Publishing, all rights administered by W.B.M. Music Corp., SESAC / Simonetti Music Publishing, administered by Kobalt Group Publishing, SESAC; Warner Music
– The saga of a traveling minstrel, performed with loads of rhythmic punch, filled with delightfully complex layered tracks and soaked in glorious vocal harmonies. These guys rule.

OLD DOMINION/Written In The Sand
Writers: Matthew Ramsey/Trevor Rosen/Brad Tursi/Shane McAnally; Producers: Shane McAnally; Publishers: none listed, ASCAP/GMR; RCA (track)
– Will the relationship last? It should, if she goes for lines this clever. “Are we written in the stars, or are we written in the sand?” “Are we names in a tattoo or just a number on a hand?” “Are we just a backseat, trying to get it while we can?” “Are we last-call kissin,’ or are will we be reminiscin’ for the next 40 years?”

DAN+SHAY/Road Trippin’
Writers: Dan Smyers, Shay Mooney, Martin Johnson; Producers: Martin Johnson, Dan Smyers; Publishers: ã2016 WB Music Corp. / Beats and Banjos (ASCAP) / Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. / Shay Mooney Music (BMI) / EMI April Music Inc. / Twintipskier Music (ASCAP); Warner Music
– I remain a fan. Hold onto summer a little bit longer with this sunny, breezy, thumpy ditty about vacation joys.

MIDLAND/Make A Little
Writers: Jess Carson/Cameron Duddy/Mark Wystrach/Shane McAnally/Josh Osborne; Producers: Dann Huff, Shane McAnally & Josh Osborne; Publishers: WB/TipTop/Tropical Cowboy/Warner-Tamerlane/Kitt Cass/Smack Hits/Smack Songs/Kobalt/Anderson Fork in the Road/Smackville, ASCAP/BMI/GMR; Big Machine
– Somewhat bland, under-produced country-rock that goes in one ear and out the other.

MATT & THE HERDSMEN/Miss My Chance
Writers: Matt Castillo/Eddie Seanz; Producer: David Perecefull; Publisher: none listed; BMI/SESAC; MH (track)
– This band is five Hispanic guys from Texas stirring an old-school country-rock stew. It sounds like live, raw, sawdust-floor, honky-tonk, beer-drinking music. However, neither the lead singer nor the production values are worth much.

BIG & RICH/Smoke In Her Eyes
Writers: John Rich/Rodney Clawson/Vicky McGehee; Producers: Big Kenny & John Rich; Publishers: J Money/Rich Entertainment Group/Kobalt/Round Hill Works/Big Loud Proud Crowd/Shirts at Work/Magic Mustang/Vick Town/BMG, ASCAP/BMI; Big & Rich/Thirty Tigers
-Don’t go near her: She’s not in the bar for a good time. She’s drinking off a bad goodbye. It’s well written, but a little “busy” sounding.

STEVE AZAR & THE KINGS MEN/Down At The Liquor Store
Writers: Steve Azar; Producers: Azar, AAron Bethune; Publishers: Just Al/Jigger & Jug, BMI; Ride (track)
– This is the title tune of a CD that pairs Azar with some of Mississippi’s top-flight sidemen, musicians who have played with Elvis, B.B. King and Little Milton. It is also the soundtrack of a documentary film titled Something In the Water. The Deep South vibe here is laid back, nostalgic, conversational and atmospheric.

BRANDON LAY/Speakers, Bleachers and Preachers
Writers: Brandon Lay/Luke Laird/Shane McAnally; Producers: Paul DiGiovanni/Brandon Lay; Publishers:2017 Mid South Mood Maker Music/WB Music Corp. (ASCAP); Universal Music Works/We Are Creative Nation/Jake & Mack Music, admin. by Universal Music Works; Smack Hits/Smack Songs LLC, admin. by Kobalt Music Group Ltd. (GMR); EMI (CDX)
– Lotsa words and not much melody. But very evocative and listenable and radio ready.

DARIUS RUCKER/For The First Time
Writers: Darius Rucker/Derek George/Scooter Carusoe; Producer: Ross Copperman; Publishers: 2017 Sony/ATV Accent/GrowingMusic Publishing; WB Music Corp./Funky Friars Music, admin. by WB Music Corp.; Scrambler Music/Abbotts Creek Music Two, a div. of Carnival Music Group (ASCAP); Capitol (CDX)
– Let yourself go and do something spontaneous while the steady, stomping tempo marches along relentlessly and hands clap in time. “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” asks Darius as the electric guitars grind.

CHASE RICE/Three Chords & The Truth
Writers: Chase Rice, Ross Copperman, Jon Nite; Producer: Ross Copperman; Publishers: © 2017 Sony/ATV Countryside (BMI) admin by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC, Dack Janiels Publishing (BMI) admin by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC, EMI, Blackwood Music, Inc. (BMI) admin by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC, Rezolant Music (BMI) admin by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC, EMI April Music, Inc. (ASCAP) admin by Sony/ATV Music Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved. Used by permission; Broken Bow (ERG)
– “All I need is you, three chords and the truth.” With an echoey, swirling, shuddering undertow of a track as a backdrop, he sings of betting on your music dreams and getting lost in song. “Ring of Fire,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Copperhead Road,” “Amazing Grace,” “Mama Tried” and “Sweet Bye and Bye” all get shout outs. Audio magic.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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