DisClaimer: Delta Rae Deserves Country Radio Love

For a welcome change, women ruled this DisClaimer listening session.

We have a tie for the DisCovery Award, and both winners are female singer-songwriters with exceptional gifts. In addition to being brilliant writers, Heather Morgan and Tenille Townes are both awesome vocalists. I can’t wait for full albums from them.

Led by the sterling lead-vocal performance of Brittany Holljes, Delta Rae takes home a well-deserved Disc of the Day honor. This band deserves so much more love than country radio has given it so far.

SISTER HAZEL/Small Town Living
Writer: Ken Block/Patrick Davis; Producer: Sister Hazel & Ben Jackson; Publisher: Crooked Chimney/EMI Blackwood, BMI; Croakin’ Poets (track) (sisterhazel.com)
—This super-tight, five-man Florida band shot to fame in 1997 with with the No. 1 A/C smash “All for You.” The same guys have been together for 25 years, and my hat is definitely off to that. This ringing, tempo tune packs a triple whammy with a chesty melody, soaring guitars and a country-boy lyric. It comes from a Nashville-recorded EP titled Wind that drops tomorrow. Sister Hazel headlines the Clarksville Riverfest Celebration at 9 p.m. this Saturday night.

TENILLE TOWNES/Somebody’s Daughter
Writers/Publishers: Tenille Townes- Year of the Dog Music (ASCAP); Luke Laird- Sony/ATV Story Music Publishing/We Are Creative Nation (GMR); Barry Dean- Be Barry Quiet/Creative Pulse Music/Pulse Nation (BMI); Produced by Jay Joyce; Columbia Nashville
—Wow. This is pretty dang amazing, loaded with empathy and sensitivity. She sees a homeless girl at the side of the road and muses about fate and the luck of the draw. The lyric is simply brilliant, and her delivery of it is superbly heart tugging. The crunching, crashing production drives it home. Sign me up for the fan club.

Writers and publishers: Ryan Hurd – Universal Music Corp./Lake Allegan Pub Club (ASCAP); Nathan Spicer – Red Like the Sunset Music/Spicer and Everything Nicer (ASCAP); Laura Veltz – Big Music Machine/Never Veltz So Good Publishing (BMI); Produced by Dann Huff & Aaron Eshuis; RCA Nashville (download) (ryanhurd.com)
—That’s his sweetie, Maren Morris, singing harmony with him throughout this cleverly written love letter. It has a coy, cuddly and super romantic flavor that’s as tasty as a candy bar.

BRIANA RENAE/Chasin’ Trouble
Writer: Briana Renae/Will Hopkins/Steve Mitchell; Producer: Jason Wyatt; Publisher: BR/Fogg Mountain Breakdown/Grin Like a Dog, no performance rights listed; BR (brianarenae.com)
—She’s a bad girl, so watch out. Her snarky vocal is backed by a furiously rocking track. Get on board or get run over.

DELTA RAE/Do You Ever Dream
Writer: Brittany Hölljes, Eric Hölljes, Ian Hölljes; Producer: Dann Huff; Publisher: Brittany Hölljes Publishing (ASCAP)./ WB Music Corp. / Eric Hölljes Music (ASCAP). All rights o/b/o itself and Eric Hölljes Music administered by WB Music Corp./ Ian Hölljes Music (ASCAP). Administered by Kobalt Songs Music Publishing; The Valory Music Co. (download) 
—In a word, gorgeous. The dazzling, glittering track swirls like a dreamy-hypnotic force while Brittany’s lead vocal aches with abandonment and thwarted desire. This ridiculously talented band has set up a “Delta Rae Revival” residency of Wednesday-night shows all season long at The Basement. It is promising “special guests” and “a show unlike any you’re ever seen in Nashville” every week from now through Dec. 19. Be there or be square.

Writer: Heather Morgan; Producer: Paul Moak; Publisher: none listed; HM (download) (facebook.com/HeatherMorganMusic)
—Best known on Music Row for penning tunes sung by Kenny Chesney, Brett Eldredge, Keith Urban and more, Heather steps out as an artist, herself, with this stunning, bruised, heartache power ballad. Her singing voice is a revelation, an arrow of emotional honesty that pierced my heart. Her trills and embellishments sent shivers up and down my spine. The thudding, oomphy, echoey production is awesome, too. Please, please, please play this.

Writer: Jaron Boyer/Josh Miranda/Michael Tyler; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Peermusic/Warner-Chappell, no performance rights listed; BBR (download) ()
—Since it sounds like much of the other sounds he’s released, this should please his many fans. It bored me.

THE STRYKER BROTHERS/Charlie Duke Took Country Music to the Moon
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Scriptorium Rex/Thirty Tigers (track) (strykerbrothersmusic.com)
—Twelve men have walked on the moon, but astronaut Charlie Duke is the country fan who took his favorite music to La Luna. The light-hearted song celebrating him is introduced by the late Merle Haggard. The romping, talking-blues number contains lively guitar picking and name-drops Porter, Dolly, Buck, Chet and more. Cute.

Writer: Hunter Hayes; Producer: Hunter Hayes; Publisher: none listed; Atlantic (download) ()
—A catchy, clickety-clack rhythm track underscores a bopping ditty about having fun that you can’t remember, because you blacked out. A dandy comeback single.

JOSH WARD/All About Lovin’
Writer: Terry McBride/Chris Stapleton/William Brice Long; Producer: Greg Hunt & Drew Hall; Publisher: none listed; Smith Entertainment (track) (joshwardmusic.com)
—Solidly country, complete with a Texas accent and twangin’ guitars. The upbeat mood, rollicking track and party-time lyric are all radio friendly, if rather unexceptional.


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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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