DISClaimer: Runaway June Offers A Runaway Hit

Country’s guys and gals are going head to head this week.

Kelly Willis and Cassadee Pope are duking it out with Chase Rice and the Wild Feathers, not to mention darkhorse contender R.J. Comer (who is checking in with his second stunning album in a row). In this contest, we listeners are the winners.

The ladies snare the Disc of the Day prize, thanks to the splendidly catchy release by Runaway June.

The men have the DisCovery Award winner, an interesting new singer-songwriter named Justin Fabus.

Writers: J. Fabus; Producers: Matt Very, Austin Ostiguy, Justin Fabus; Publishers: none listed; JF (track)
-His voice is a fizzy, ear-catching tenor and the CD title track has a nice, r&b feel. Unfortunately, the tempo is tediously sluggish. There are better single choices on this collection.

Writers: Ashley Gorley/Chase Rice/Chris DeStefano; Producer: Chris Destafano & Jacquire King; Publishers: Sony-ATV Countryside/Jack Daniels/EMI April/CDS Words and Music/WB/Combustion Engine/Sadie’s Favorite, BMI/ASCAP; BBR/Jack Daniels
– Nicely romantic. Wherever they go, whatever they do, he only has eyes for her. I like the way his vocal is mixed with so much intimacy and presence. The title is repeated about 30 times too often for my taste, but it’s still a nifty little record.

Writers: Bo Steele/Ben Rubino; Producers: Rob Burrell/Stacy Savola; Publishers: FRMG/Kadence Faith/B Rubino, BMI; Fire River
– This has a richly masculine sound. It’s about reflecting and meditating and letting grief take its time. It’s a good thing the vocals are so strong, because the production isn’t much.

KELLY WILLIS/Don’t Step Away
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Premium/Thirty Tigers
– Love it! The r&b backbeat, steady throb and sensuous groove push alla my buttons. As always, her Texas-country vocal phrasing, slightly saucy tone and gentle confidence are utterly charming.

SARAH LAWTON/Sticks and Stones
Writers: none listed; Producer: Kenny Zaridar; Publishers: none listed; SL
– This has plenty of sass and attitude. But the song does nothing for me, and there’s not much about the irritating production that I would characterize as “country.”

CASSADEE POPE/One More Red Light
Writers: Cassadee Pope/Kelly Archer/Emily Shackelton; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; CP
– Punchy and propulsive. Loaded with energy and drive.

BAILEY JAMES/Kiss Me Goodbye
Writers: Bailey James Koehler/Jeannie McQuinn/Shelby Lee Lowe; Producer: Jeffrey Teague; Publishers: none listed, ASCAP/BMI, BJ
– She sings with moxie. The song is too wordy. The arrangement just lays there.

Writers: none listed; Producer: Jay Joyce; Publishers: none listed; Warner Bros.
– I love this Nashville band. I liked ‘em when they were rockers, and I think it’s very cool that they’ve shifted gears into country. This thing has more hooks than a tuna boat. If the track doesn’t make you want to get up and bop around the room, you need a rhythm injection. Ridiculously catchy.

R.J. Comer/One Last Kiss
Writers: R.J. Comer; Producer: Shawn Byrne; Publishers: Pack of Three, SESAC; Growling Moon
– The title tune of Comer’s new CD is a doomsday dirge of despair. But it was so compelling that I couldn’t turn away. Death has seldom sounded more fascinating. Recommended, especially at midnight.

RUNAWAY JUNE/Buy My Own Drinks
Writers: Hannah Mulholland, Jennifer Wayne, Naomi Cooke, Hillary Lindsey, Josh Kear; Producer: Dann Huff; Publishers: 2018 BMG Platinum Songs (BMI) admin by BMG Rights Management (US), LLC, BMG Silver Songs (SESAC) admin by BMG Rights Management (US), LLC, BMG Gold Songs (ASCAP) admin by BMG Rights Management (US), LLC, Rezonate Music (ASCAP) admin by BMG Rights Management (US), LLC, BIRB Music (ASCAP) admin by BMG Rights Management (US), LLC, Champagne Whiskey Pub (ASCAP) admin by Downtown DLJ Songs, Downtown DLJ Songs (ASCAP). All rights reserved. Used by permission.; BBR/Wheelhouse
-Feisty and frisky. She’s got a busted heart, but she’s going out to the neon lights to party all by herself. The rollicking tempo, triple harmonies and deliciously crunchy production are all just fabulous. Make this a smash.



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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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