DISClaimer: Lennon Stella Graduates To Pop Princess On “Feelings”

Music City is rocking into the New Year.

In addition to established favorites like Bill Lloyd, Kelly Clarkson and Ashley Cleveland, there’s a heaping helping of new talent in this week’s DisClaimer pop/rock roundup.

The Disc of the Day unquestionably belongs to one of these up-and-comers. Lennon Stella has graduated from TV ingenue to full-fledged pop princess with “Feelings.”

Other fresh faces here include Blank Range, Rayland Baxter, The Steel Woods and our DisCovery Award winners, Fuel on Fire.

COIN/I Want It All
Writers: Rick Foster/Isom Innis; Producer: Rick Foster, Isom Innis & Rich Costey; Publishers: none listed; Columbia
– This Nashville trio bops with a moody vibe on its latest Columbia single. The song comes from Foster the People folks, but the delivery is the group’s own churning, burbling, frothy and punchy audio stew. Coin’s alterna-pop sound has accumulated 100 million Spotify streams to date. Tour starts next month. This comes from its forthcoming third album.

 

BILL LLOYD/Working The Long Game
Writers: Bill Lloyd/Buddy Mondiock; Producer: none listed; Publishers: Fourel Songs/BMG/Chrysalis/Fire of Change, BMI/ASCAP; Spyderpop
– Veteran Lloyd returns to his melodic pop/rock roots on his new collection. The title tune kicks off with his chopping guitar riffs, then locks into a juicy, hooky bopper. It’s a relationship song about perseverance in love. But mostly you can smile and bob your head in sonic pleasure. This man is a Nashville treasure.

LENNON STELLA/Feelings
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Columbia
– Wow. We watched her grow up on the six seasons of TV’s Nashville. Now she’s a fabulous pop presence. This ultra addictive jam is luscious, lustrous and as deliriously dazzling as anything I’ve heard in months. Little sister Maisy is among the backup singers. Absolutely play this. EP is out now. Tour starts in March.

 

RAYLAND BAXTER/Casanova
Writers: Rayland Baxter; Producer: Butch Walker; Publisher: Japanese Rainbow, BMI; ATO
– Shot through with wry humor, this clomping, rhythm-soaked track comes from this Nashvillian’s excellent Wide Awake album. There’s something instantly endearing about his rootsy rocking sound. Think updated Kinks. Baxter plays Saturday at Marathon Music Works.

KELLY CLARKSON/Never Enough
Writers: Benj Pasek/Justin Paul; Producers: Pasek/Paul; Publishers: none listed; Atlantic
– This comes from that Greatest Showman Reimagined soundtrack spinoff phenom. It’s an absolutely epic performance of a power ballad. By contrasting trembling emotion with show-stopping soprano pyrotechnics, she makes this song her own. The woman can sing like nobody’s bizness.

 

ASHLEY CLEVELAND/Way Out Of No Way
Writers: Ashley Cleveland; Producer: none listed; Publishers: Sole Sister/BMG/Chrysalis, BMI; 204
– Grammy winner Ashley is the subject of an excellent new documentary film titled Who’s the Girl as well as a memoir, Little Black Sheep. Her triumphant current CD, One More Song, features this swampy, slithering, blue-eyed blues slow burner. In addition to her smoldering originals, it also includes standards like “Down By the Riverside,” “Walk in Jerusalem” and “Take Me to the Water.” This soul sister’s style of rocking gospel makes me want to shout “Hallelujah.”

THE SHADOWBOXERS/Telephone
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Sony/Villa 40
– Why aren’t these guys superstars yet? Coming across like a triple-whammy Bruno Mars on stage, good lookin’ and boosted by Justin Timberlake, they also deliver the goods on disc. From neo-funk (”Finding a Problem”) to throbbing pop-rock (”Runaway,” featuring Timberlake in its video) and sizzling dance-pop like this, they have a sound made for America’s airwaves.

 

THE STEEL WOODS/Old News
Writers: Jason Cope; Producer: Jason Cope/WEs Bayliss; Publisher: Rowdy Woods, SESAC; Woods Music/Thirty Tigers
– This Nashville rock band salutes Gregg Allman with a version of “Whipping Post,” Black Sabbath on “Changes,” Townes Van Zandt on “The Catfish Song” and Tom Petty in a rendition of “Southern Accents” on its new CD. The title tune ballad showcases the searing, Dixie-fried lead vocal of Wes Bayliss as well as the thought provoking songwriting of fellow bandmember Jason Cope. Its lyric draws on our current political malaise to bring a message of hope.

BLANK RANGE/Change Your Look
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Shady Girl
-Jangling, shuddering rock electric guitars; happy, garage-y production values plus boyish and faintly Brit-inspired pop vocals characterize this catchy, tuneful outing. It comes from the East Nashville band’s album, In Unison, which drops on Feb. 1. Delightful, eccentric and promising. Next local date is at The Basement on Feb. 15.

FUEL ON FIRE/Heartbreak
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; FoF
– These four brothers relocated to Music City from Key West two years ago, and this comes from their first Nashville-recorded collection. It’s an astonishingly accomplished, super contemporary, wonderfully produced and super catchy jam. Crashing guitars, airy soaring singing, solid rhythm and tight arranging are the hallmarks here. A new EP titled Them features covers of tunes by the likes of U2 (”With Or Without You”) and The Beatles (”Eleanor Rigby”). It’s now getting airplay on Lightning 100.

 

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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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