DISClaimer: Newcomer Hits From Logan Brill, Abby Anderson, Jimmie Allen, Morgan Wallen, Zac Clifton

Today’s listening session belongs to country’s up-and-comers.

Despite the presence of proven hit makers Thomas Rhett, Jennifer Nettles, The Randy Rogers Band and pop stars A.J. McLean and Danny Woods, the winning sounds in today’s DisClaimer column belong to artists with less marquee power.

In fact, I loved the baby acts so much that I’m dishing out three Disc of the Day prizes. The Female winner is Logan Brill. The Male winner is Morgan Wallen. The Group honoree is the duet by Jimmie Allen & Abby Anderson. Play them all.

The DisCovery Award winner is a revelation. I can’t remember the last time I was so blown away by a young talent as I am by Zac Clifton. If you love real country music, by all means lend him your ears.

A.J. MCLEAN/A Boy and a Man
Writers: Rob Crosby/Dave Fenley; Producer: Jason Massey; Publishers: none listed; InTune
– This Backstreet Boy tosses his hat into the country winner’s circle with this lilting come-on. He’s going to be her best lover because he’s gonna show her the difference between a boy and a man. A mid-tempo charmer with a lovely, wafting production.

DANNY WOOD and JESSIE CHRIS/Bodyguard
Writers: Danny Wood; Producer: Dow Brain; Publisher: none listed; JC
– New Kids on Block vet Danny teams up with new country soprano Jessie on this would-be power ballad. The anti-bullying song falls flat, and they lack chemistry as a vocal team.

JIMMIE ALLEN & ABBY ANDERSON/Shallow
Writers: Lady Gaga/Mark Ronson/Anthony Mossomando/Andrew Wyatt; Producer: Ash Bowers and Doug Johnson; Publishers: Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, House Of Gaga Publishing LLC, Concord Copyrights, Songs Of Zelig; Downtown DMP Songs, Downtown DLJ Songs, Warner-Barham Music, LLC and Warner-Olive Music, LLC; BBR
– This ballad won the Oscar as Best Movie Song and is a proven pop favorite. Jimmie and Abby’s acoustic version shimmers with the tension and finesse that only two vocalists of outstanding ability can deliver. These country kids sing their hearts out here. An undeniable winner.

LOGAN BRILL/Walk of Shame
Writers: Logan Brill/Nathan/Chapman/Chad Carlson; Producer: Jason Lehning; Publishers: WB Music Corp./Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp/Eight Nine 89 Music/Cabana Publishing; ASCAP/BMI/SESAC; LB
– I dig this. She sounds wise and bruised. Booze can lead you to regret and recrimination. The chiming production gives oomph to every line of her tale of feeling dirty after spending a night of weakness with an old flame.

LOCKWOOD BARR/I’m Not Crazy
Writers: Lockwood Barr/Ryan Youmans; Producer: Ryan Youmans; Publishers: Barr None Entertainment
– It begins with an ear-catching hesitation in her delivery and a deliberate, halting quality in the production. The tempo and the sonic complexity increase as she gets to the hook. The contrast between her rippling banjo notes and her sultry singing is oddly pleasing. Although I think this is a terrifically creative record, it’s probably a mite too meditative, atmospheric and hook-challenged to succeed on country radio.

MORGAN WALLEN/Chasin’ You
Writers: Craig Michael Wiseman/Jamie Moore/Morgan Cole Wallen; Producer: Joey Moi; Publishers: Kobalt/Warner-Chappell/BMG Rights Management, no performance rights listed; Big Loud
– I think this guy is a superstar in the making. I have loved everything he has issued, including this airy, open-road ode to a romance that has its taillights fading off in the distance. Great vocal, great song.

THOMAS RHETT/Look What God Gave Her
Writers: Thomas Rhett, Rhett Akins, Julian Bunetta, JKash, Ammar Malik, John Henry Ryan; Producers: Dann Huff, Julian Bunetta, and Thomas Rhett; Publishers: 2019 EMI Blackwood Music Inc. /Cricket On The Line. All rights o/b/o EMI Blackwood Music Inc. and Cricket On The Line administered by Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, 424 Church Street, Suite 1200, Nashville, TN 37219./ Ritten by Rhettro / Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI). All rights o/b/o itself and Ritten by Rhettro administered by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp./ Music of Big Family / Dragon Bunny Music / Don Wyan Music (BMI). Administered by Words & Music./Maru La La /Maru Songs LLC (BMI). Administered by Songs Of Kobalt Music Publishing./Rap Kingpin Music /Prescription Songs (ASCAP). Administered by Kobalt Songs Music Publishing; Valory Music
– This thumpy toe tapper has a light-hearted innocence that’s infectious. Highly listenable.

RANDY ROGERS BAND/Crazy People
Writers: Brad Clawson/Jamie Paulin/Will Weatherly; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publisher:© 2019 Mandy’s Favorite Songs/Five Miles West/Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp (BMI), Songs of Universal, Inc./Songsfortatum Publishing (BMI), Mandy’s Favorite Songs/Track House Worldwide Entertainment/Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp (BMI); Thirty Tigers
– I’d have mixed the lead vocal a little hotter. But the band remains a total groove governor. And you have to give props to an outfit that has retained the same membership for 20 years. This is an endearing and enduring country treasure.

JENNIFER NETTLES/I Can Do Hard Things
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Big Machine
– Sung from the point of view of a woman who has endured much, but who perseveres through it all with joy, gratitude and wisdom. Sung with force and believability, this ballad has the power to become an anthem.

ZAC CLIFTON/Honky Tonk Heaven
Writer: Zac Clifton; Producer: Bobby Flores; Publishers: Rain In Spain, BMI; RD
– This 17-year-old Texan is a breath of fresh air. He’s a hard-country, honky-tonk throwback with a penetrating vocal delivery and a delightful, fiddle-and-steel production. The title tune of his album salutes Lefty, Paycheck, Merle, Patsy, Waylon, Hank, Johnny & June, Mel, Jones, Tammy, Kitty and your other gone-away country favorites in a place where “heroes spread their wings and fly.” Yee-Haw! from this corner. Not only does he sing like a bird, he wrote every song on the collection.

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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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