DISClaimer: Little Big Town Offers “A Song For The Ages”

Little Big Town

What is country music?

That is the question posed by the entries in today’s DisClaimer column. Is it a musical style or is it merely a marketing term?

Is it Trisha Yearwood with strings? Is it the chirpy hip-hop of Tegan Marie? Is it the glossy productions of Clare Dunn and Fairground Saints? Is it the bluegrassy vibe of High Valley? Most importantly and significantly, is it Lil Nas X with Billy Ray Cyrus?

I’ll tell you one thing it is. It’s “The Daughters” by Little Big Town, our Disc of the Day.

RILEY GREEN/In Love By Now
Writers:Riley Green, Rhett Akins, Marv Green, Ben Hayslip; Producer: Dann Huff; Publishers: Riley Green Publisher Designee / Ritten by Rhettro / All Night Linda Music / Goes Something Like This Music / Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp. (BMI). All rights o/b/o itself, Riley Green Publisher Designee, Ritten by Rhettro, All Night Linda Music and Goes Something Like This Music administered by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp./ Pinetucky Road Publishing / Thankful For This Music / WB Music Corp. (ASCAP). ; BMLG
– Upbeat, in a heartbreak kinda way. His vocal is country, country, country. The country-rock production is pedestrian and ordinary, so it’s radio ready in an instantly-familiar kinda way.

DIERKS BENTLEY/Living
Writers: Ashley Gorley/Dierks Bentley/Jon Nite/Ross Copperman; Producer: Ross Copperman/Jon Randall Stewart; Exec. Producer: Arturo Buenahora Jr.; Publishers: Sony-ATV/Warner-Chappell/Kobalt, no performance rights listed; Capitol Nashville
– He’s so reliably terrific. This manages to be both thoughtful and catchy. His warm vocal rasp and the thumping undertow in the production propel the listening experience.

FAIRGROUND SAINTS/California
Writers:Marshall Altman, Dylan Altman, Anna Vaus; Producer: Marshall Altman; Publisher: none listed; Sony/Orchard
– The trio has moved from L.A. to Music City. They still have a sunny, West Coast vibe in their sound, but have definitely moved more toward country and away from their pop roots. This lovelorn ditty asks, “What’s so great about California/If California don’t have you?” Less “process” on the vocals, please.

LITTLE BIG TOWN/The Daughters
Writers: Karen Fairchild/Sean McConnell/Ashley Ray; Producers: Little Big Town; Publisher:Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp./Self Made Entertainment, admin. by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp./Silent Desert Music/BMG Platinum Songs, admin. by BMG Rights Management (US) LLC; BMI; Capitol Nashville
-Stunning. Powerful. True. Emotional. A song for the ages. I can’t remember any female lyric in the history of country music that hits quite this hard. The performance is equally riveting. Male or female, this will touch you deep in the heart.

LIL NAS X & BILLY RAY CYRUS
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Columbia
-I actually welcome this, due to the fact that it has spawned a healthy discussion of “What is country music?” If “Cruise” is a country song, if Golden Hour is a country album, then why not this? The country industry has brought this on itself. Mindless banjo gangsta hip-haw.

CLARE DUNN/My Love
Writers: Clare Dunn/Eric Paslay/Jesse Frasure; Producers: Clare Dunn/Jesse Frasure; Publisher: BMG Gold Songs/Leer Jet 87 Publishing, admin. by BMG Rights Management (US) LLC/BMG Platinum Songs/For The Kids Platinum/Legitimate Efforts Music, admin. by BMG Rights Management (US) LLC/WB Music Corp./Songs of Brett, admin. by WB Music Corp.; ASCAP/BMI; MCA Nashville
– She’s so talented. I love that her vocal goes from a low alto to a soprano shout in this torrid barn burner. There’s passion and fire in every note. As before, the production leans way more pop than country. But she is undeniable as an artistic force.

HIGH VALLEY/Single Man
Writers: Brad Remple/Derrick Southerland/Jordan Schmidt; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Atlantic
– This brother duo has made consistently fine records during the past few years. This toe-tapper contrasts a loving relationship with the relative emptiness of bachelorhood. The tempo is lickety split, but their voices ride it with aplomb. Absolutely play this.

TRISHA YEARWOOD/For The Last Time
Writers: Trisha Yearwood/Garth Brooks; Producer: Don Was; Publisher: Dining Room/Major Bob/No Fences, ASCAP; Gwendolyn
– Yearwood’s Let’s Be Frank album of Sinatra covers includes this one original tune. It’s a gorgeously arranged, string-embellished and superbly crafted pop ballad. As always, her voice is a thing of luminous wonder.

MADDIE & TAE/Die From A Broken Heart
Writers: Maddie Marlow/Taylor Dye/Jonathan Singleton/Deric Ruttan; Producers: Jimmy Robbins/Derek Wells; Publishers: Super Big/Seven Red Birds/Big Machine/Big Music Machine/Jehovah Nissi/WB/Thankful For This/Doc and Maggie, ASCAP/BMI; Mercury
– She calls Mama for advice on getting a red wine stain out of a favorite dress and to ask if she’s going to survive getting her heart busted. The tune is utterly addictive and the vocals are as shimmering and sweet as can be. Feminine and frilly.

TEGAN MARIE/I Don’t Know What Is
Writers: Tegan Marie/Nathan Chapman/Nelly Joy/Jason Reeves; Producers: Scott Hendricks/Nathan Chapman; Publishers: 2019 Warner-Tamerlane Pub. Corp; Tegan Thomas pub designee; Eighty Nine 89 Music (BMI); MRMD Music (BMI); Songs from Outer Space Music/All rights administered by Warner-Tamerlane Publishing Corp.; BMI; Warner Bros.
– A little funky and swampy, but she still sounds like a kid. I think the hip-hoppy tone is meant to push at country music’s boundaries, but instead sounds like a white chick trying and failing to sound “street.”

 

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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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