DISClaimer: Willie Nelson Is The Heart And Soul Of Country Music

Willie Nelson by Ed Rode

Nashville’s country performers are as hot as our summer skies today.

In a rare occurrence, every record here is mini masterpiece. I was also in heaven because the listening session combined living legends, terrific newcomers and current superstars in equal portions.

Master stylist Willie Nelson has the Disc of the Day with his rendition of a Guy Clark/Roger Murrah song about America’s illustrious immigrant heritage. Long may he sing.

In a field crowded with such excellent new talents as Sam Williams, Erik Dylan and Donovan Woods, I’m handing a DisCovery Award to Sundance Head. If you don’t know who Head’s producer and label head Dean Dillon is, you do not belong in country music.

Writers: Mickey Guyton/Nathan Spicer/Victoria Banks; Producer: Forest Glen Whitehead; Publishers: none listed; Capitol Nashville
– She’s wailing from the heart on this anthem to enduring female friendship. A snappy backbeat, cool piano notes and some synth-y wooshing frame her powerful performance. This is hot stuff.

THOMAS RHETT/Remember You Young
Writers: Thomas Rhett/Jesse Frasure/Ashley Gorley; Producer: Dann Huff/Jesse Frasure/Thomas Rhett; Publishers: EMI Blackwood/Cricket on the Line/Sony-ATV/Warner Tamerlane/Telemitry Rhythm House/Songs of Roc Nation/Combustion Engine/WB/Round Hill Songs II/Caleb’s College Fund, BMI/ASCAP; Big Machine (track)
– Warm, uplifting, touching and lovely. If you can’t relate to this, your heart is made of lead.

Writers: none listed; Producer: Todd Lombardo; Publishers: none listed; INgrooves
– Juno Award winning Woods and Nashville star-on-the-rise Tenille Townes are tender and touching on this gently strummed acoustic ballad. Guitar notes ripple around them as they harmonize sweetly. Dreamy and delicious.

WILLIE NELSON/Immigrant Eyes
Writers: Guy Clark/Roger Murrah; Producer: Buddy Cannon; Publishers: none listed; Legacy
– This poignant melody was written about those coming to Ellis Island 100 years ago, but it couldn’t be more timely than it is today. And the song’s video makes it quite clear that the abuse of asylum seekers is immoral. America’s greatness is built on its immigrants, and Willie’s strong singing here is just the reminder we need. This man is the heart and soul of country music.

SUNDANCE HEAD/Close Enough To Walk
Writers: none listed; Producer: Dean Dillon; Publishers: none listed; Wildcatter
– “You don’t have to drive me crazy/I’m close enough to walk.” How cool is that? But the clever songwriting is just the start. Wait until you hear this guy’s soulful singing. He’s a hoss of a vocalist, and the jaunty, pinpoint production shines a spotlight directly on that. I’m so definitely into this.

Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: noen listed; Big Machine
– Wildly catchy. Jangly and bopping, with plenty of feisty femme feelings. All three women are on fire as vocalists here. WSM is already playing this, and I can certainly hear why. Clap yer hands and sing along.

Writers: Sam Williams/Jaida Dreyer; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Get It Done
– Piercing and potent, this guy sings with uncommon ferocity and passion. Here, he describes the darkness and light that coexist inside him while doomy, boot-stomping drums pound beneath. He’s the son of Bocephus, the brother of Holly and the grandson of Hank, and he carries his family’s legacy forward with startling creativity. Send more.

ERIK DYLAN & LUKE COMBS/Baseball On The Moon
Writers: Erik Dylan/Douglas Waterman/Michael Reaves; Producer: Erik Dylan; Publishers: none listed; Iddy Biddy (track)
– This came out last year, but with Combs-mania now at its height, it seems right to revisit this duet. And it also gives me the opportunity to praise the talents of super- promising singer-songwriter Erik Dylan. His works have been recorded by Kip Moore, Eric Paslay, Thompson Square, Trisha Yearwood, Riley Green and Eli Young Band. But as this illustrates, he’s a fine record maker himself. He and Combs scale to the top of inspiration on this ode to holding fast to your dreams, no matter what the nay-sayers say. Both of them have that rumpled, regular-guy vocal thang, so its a thoroughly endearing outing.

VINCE GILL/When My Amy Prays
Writer: Vince Gill; Producers: Gill/Justin Niebank; Publishers: none listed; MCA
– Goosebump raising. In a career already dazzled with stunning vocal performances, this stands out as a spectacular pinnacle of his power. A ballad that will stop you in your tracks. Listen and believe.

Writers: Kane Brown/Brock Berryhill/Matthew McGinn/Taylor Phillips; Producer: Dann Huff; Publishers: Songs of Universal/Kane Brown/Warner-Tamerlane/Don’t Be a Gypsy/Smackworks/Smack BLue/Kobalt/Top, BMI/SESAC; RCA
– If home is where the heart is, then he’s homesick for the one he loves. It’s a cool idea for a song, and the yearning performance with a spare production sells it right to you. I can hear this being adopted by military folks who are far from their families, but we can all relate to its loneliness.


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About the Author

Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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