DISClaimer: Sister Hazel, Niko Moon Top New Releases

As we continue to slog through the dog days of summer (even though it’s September), country music is doing its best to keep our spirits up.

Dolly and Vince are here with touching inspiration. Trisha and Garth are bringing the romance. FGL has family values in mind.

The Disc of the Day goes to the enduringly great Sister Hazel. These guys are bona fide survivors who have sold millions on their independent road.

Give Niko Moon a DisCovery Award. I don’t know much about him, except that he shows real promise.

SISTER HAZEL/Raising a Rookie
Writers: Andrew Copeland/Darius Rucker/Barry Dean; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Country Paper/Pulse Nation/Creative Pulse, no performance rights listed; Rock Ridge
– This five-piece Florida band has been at it for 25 years and continues to gather momentum since its move into country music in 2015. This lead track from its new EP finds the vocal harmonies in fine fettle. Lead singer Ken Block delivers with immense heart and charisma, and the power ballad about raising a boy to manhood is infused with truth and tenderness.

FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE/Blessings
Writers: Tyler Hubbard/Brian Kelley/Tom Douglas/Jessie Frasure/Jordan Schmidt/Keith Urban; Producer: Joey Moi & FGL; Publishers: Big Loud Mountain/T Hubb/Pranch Ringle/Round Hill Works/Sony-ATV Tree/Sony-ATV Countryside/Tomdouglasmusic/Warner-Tamerlane/Telemitry Rhythm House/Songs of Roc Nation/WB/Freshy/We-Volve, BMI/ASCAP; BMLG (track)
– I’ve been liking these guys more and more since they simplified things and got back to their country roots. The song is a lilting ode to home and family that glows with fireside comfort.

NIKO MOON/Good Time
Writers: Niko Moon/Anna Moon/Josh Murty; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Kobalt; RCA
– I like his country drawl laced with some r&b tones. The relaxed, back-porch vibe of this lazy-bones track is a little different, but decidedly ear catching. I could have done without the electronic loops.

KELSEA BALLERINI/Homecoming Queen?
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Black River
– All teens suffer from self-doubt and pain. Even homecoming queens. The new Opry member’s aching delivery of the ballad is perfect.

SEAN STEMALY/Back on a Backroad
Writers: Michael Hardy/Josh Kerr/Cole Taylor; Producer: Joey Moi, Lex Liptiz; Publisher: noen listed; Big Loud
– Processed vocal. Wall-of-electronics track. Cliche-cluttered, generic backroad lyric. This is contemporary “country” music.

JASON ALDEAN/We Back
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed: Publisher: none listed; Broken Bow
– His superstardom continues to mystify me. With its irritating rock instrumentation, his back-of-throat singing and the blue-collar lyric, this sounds like just about everything else he has put out. Very successfully, I might add.

CHELY WRIGHT/Say The Word
Writers: none listed; Producers: Jeremy Lister and Dustin Ransom; Publishers: none listed; Painted Red
– As refreshing as a splash of cool water. The echoey track swirls around her minor-key melody while she sings in a dreamy, distant whisper. Americana programmers take note.

FOR KING & COUNTRY WITH DOLLY PARTON/God Only Knows
Writers: Josh Kerr/Jordan Reynolds/J. Smallbone/L. Smallbone/Tjornhom; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Curb/Word
– I know, I know, it’s Christian pop. But I was overcome with curiosity to hear what Dolly sounded like with the Smallbone brothers. Guess what? She can be just as pop, pop, popping as those CCM rockers. In that genre, this has already been an award-winning No.1 smash in 2018. With her extraordinary voice on it now, I predict a revival.

TRISHA YEARWOOD & GARTH BROOKS/What Gave Me Away
Writers: none listed; Producer: Garth Fundis; Publisher: none listed; Gwendolyn
– Trisha’s new CD includes her newest collaboration with her hubby. It has a sexy, after-midnight, groove-soaked vibe. The stinging r&b guitar solo and simmering organ notes in the background give it some extra juice. It’s really Trisha’s performance, but Garth’s supportive harmony vocal shadows her at every turn.

VINCE GILL/Nothin’ Like A Guy Clark Song
Writer: Gill; Producers: Gill/Justin Niebank;Publishers: none listed; MCA Nashville
– Over a rippling guitar track, he quotes Guy’s song titles, even sounding a little like his hero as he sing-speaks the verses. The choruses drive home the homage eloquently. On the last verse, he asks, “What do you do when your heroes die?” and answers again in Guy’s “voice.” Vince’s new Okie CD also includes “A World Without Haggard,” which is another elegy gem that’s well worth your attention.

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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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