DisClaimer: Moon Taxi, Big Shoes Offer Top Pop/Rock Tracks

Moon Taxi

It’s a sunny season for the Nashville pop/rock community.

With Kelly Clarkson judging on The Voice, Jack White on the cover of the current Rolling Stone, blues rocker Mike Henderson cowriting with million-selling Chris Stapleton and The Shadowboxers out on the road opening for megastar Justin Timberlake, this side of Music City is definitely having a Moment.

Today’s listen to the community’s current sounds includes the legendary Peter Frampton, a comeback record by Raging Fire and a new album by my enduring favorite Beth Nielsen Chapman.

Taking home the Disc of the Day award is Moon Taxi. This former indie act is now on the RCA star-maker roster.

The DisCovery Award goes to the party band Big Shoes.

JACK WHITE/Connected By Love
Writers: Jack White III; Producer: Jack White III; Publishers: Third String Tunes, BMI; Third Man/Columbia
-His new Boarding House Reach collection kicks off with this shuddering throbber featuring ear catching percussive effects, rippling piano, soul-chorus backup singing and a passionate, shredded, top-of-his-range vocal performance. Gripping.

Writers: Moon Taxi; Producer: Spencer Thomson; Publishers: No More Worry, BMI; RCA (track)
– Joyous. This smile-a-minute bopper beckons us to raise our hands to the sky and celebrate life. A surprise, stuttering-sax section enters in mid song and gives the already ecstatic track an extra jolt of energy. I love this band. The album is called Let the Record Play. It’s available on vinyl. Buy it now.

Writers: M. Heritage/P. James; Producers: Morgan Heritage/Shannon Sanders; Publishers: Heritage 4 Life/Dubsmuggla, ASCAP; CTBC/Empire
– This Grammy Award winning family reggae band calls Middle Tennessee home. The members are the sons of Jamaican star Denray Morgan. On this single/video from its current Avrakedabra album, the group mixes traditional reggae beats with cool electronic touches, a segment of rapping and layered singing vocals. The track will make you want to move your body.

Writers: Luther Dickinson/Cody Dickinson/Oteil Burbridge; Producer: Dickinson Brothers; Publishers: Vibratone/Tandem Liberi/Ausar Auset, BMI;
– Judging by their name and the fact that their dad was a Memphis music mainstay, you wouldn’t expect these sonic wunderkinds to be Nashvillians. But there they are, right there in West Meade. This is the title tune of the group’s current album (which is available on vinyl, hallelujah). It’s a hypnotic stew of blues, gospel, trance and pop that will set you free. By the way, their late father Jim Dickinson’s book I’m Just Dead I’m Not Gone is a pip.

Writers: Beth Nielsen Chapman/Graham Gouldman/Kevin Montgomery; Producer: Sam Ashworth; Publishers: Songs of Prismlight/Union Square/BMG Rights Management/Winona Blvd., SESAC/PRS/ASCAP; BNC (track)
– This Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer’s new Hearts of Glass CD drops next month.It leads off with this percolating, rhythm-happy pop tune about living life to the fullest while we’re here. “Bring your smile with its light/Bring what’s wrong we’ll make it right.” Bop along and believe.

Writers: none listed; Producer: Victor Wooten; Publishers: none listed; Vix (track)
-Victor Wooten is best known for his work in Bela Fleck & The Flecktones. But he has an independent reputation as one of the best electric bass players on the planet. The title track to his current trio CD with funk drummer Dennis Chambers (Bootsy Collins, Santana) and sax man Bob Franceschini (Paul Simon, Mike Stern) is a dizzy, complex, whirlwind of percussive picking and stop-start jazz rhythms. Brain tingling.

RAGING FIRE/After Loving One Man From East Texas
Writers: none listed; Publishers: Pristine/BMI; Producers: Mike Purcell/Raging Fire; Pristine (track)
– Back in the 1980s, these folks were among Nashville’s finest punk rockers. The first album in more than 30 years by Raging Fire is titled These Teeth Are Sharp. This track from it stings and bristles with snarling energy and snarky attitude. They’ve still got the goods. I loved them then. I love them now.

KELLY CLARKSON/ I Don’t Think About You
Writers: Andre Davidson/Sean Davidson/Jessica Ashley Karpov/Michael Pollack; Producer: The Monarch; Publishers: Warner-Tamerlane/Numbers Don’t Lie/The Fraternity Music Group/Songs of Kobalt/Jessica Ashley Karpov/Evan And Eman Publish This/What Key Do You Want It In/Songs With a Pure Tone, BMI; Atlantic (track)
– Nashville’s reigning pop diva has just issued this torrid ballad as a single/video from her current Meaning of Life collection. Her high-soprano chops are on full display. Some gospel-y backup vocals are the icing on the cake.

BIG SHOES/Walked Out The Front Door
Writers: Mark T. Jordan/Rip Stock; Producer: Andy Peake; Publishers: none listed; Biglittle (track)
– Big Shoes is a seven-man blues-rock band comprised of top-tier Nashville and Muscle Shoals studio musicians. Its Music City notables include keyboardist Mark T. Jordan and singer-songwriter Rick Huckaby. The group’s Step On It! debut CD features this Jordan tune originally recorded by Bonnie Raitt. Their arrangement gives the number a certain New Orleans/funk vibe that’s mighty groovy. Collectively, these guys’ credits include Van Morrison, Etta James, Taj Mahal, Delbert McClinton and Bobby “Blue” Bland, as well as Raitt. So you know they know what the deal is.

Writers: Chris Cornell; Producers: Peter Frampton/Gordon Kennedy; Publishers: You Make Me Sick I Make, ASCAP; Phenix Phonograph
– Frampton’s Grammy-winning Fingerprints album has been reissued on vinyl this year. The Nashville resident guitar wizard demonstrates he has lost none of his power on this moody, dense, echoey instrumental that builds to a searing crescendo.


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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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