DISClaimer: Luke Combs Tops New Tracks

Luke Combs. Photo: David Bergman.

It’s Diversity Day here at DisClaimer.

I have always said that country music is a bigger tent than most people realize. Gathering under the Big Top today are representatives from New Zealand, Norway and Ireland. Two of the genre’s emerging African-American stars are here. The gay country community is represented, too. Exactly half of our entries today are by women, which is as it always should be.

There’s no denying the mighty Luke Combs as our Disc of the Day winner. The newly-minted Opry star is a worthy standard bearer for the entire genre.

Former New Zealand pop star Jamie McDell has migrated both geographically and stylistically. She’s now living in Toronto and is making country music in Nashville. Give her a DisCovery Award.

ERIN ENDERLIN/Whatever Gets You Through The Night
Writers: Erin Enderlin/Jimmy Melton; Producer: Jim “Moose” Brown/Jamey Johnson; Publisher: none listed; Blaster
– This indie artist is definitely picking up steam. Her Faulkner County CD includes a bevy of high-profile supporters in its cast — Alison, Vince, Jon Randall, Terri Clark, Cody Jinks, Melonie Cannon and co-producer Jamey Johnson, for starters. The collection’s lead-off single is a midnight ballad of loneliness and longing. Dillon Carmichael provides a perfectly shaded harmony vocal as she recites a litany of cold comfort — bourbon, Haggard songs, the motel Bible, TV, lousy coffee, a truck stop. Languid and poetic.

SAM HUNT/Kinfolks
Writers: Sam Hunt/Zach Crowell/Jerry Flowers/Josh Osborne; Producer: Zach Crowell; Publisher: Universal/Between the Pines/Spirit Two Nashville/Miller Crow/Kyler’s Kinda Night/Twelve6 Dogwood/JFlo Records & Tapes/Downtown DLJ/Sony-ATV Accent/Smackborne, ASCAP; MCA
– Welcome back. This pretty much picks up where he left off — the whispery, semi-spoken verses with a hip-hop flavor followed by a hooky, sung chorus. Also as before, it’s a come-on, this time to a gal he likes so much that he wants her to meet his family.

MALIN PETTERSEN/Alonesome
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Die With Your Boots On (track)
– It says here that she is, “widely known for possessing one of Norway’s greatest country voices.” Okay, you’ve got my attention. Truth to tell, this newcomer has already won the Norwegian equivalent of a Grammy. Her six-song EP’s title and lead-off track is a lilting heartbreak tune. It’s quite spare, featuring only her catch-in-throat soprano and an acoustic guitar. Somebody hook her up with a producer.

LUKE COMBS/What You See Is What You Get
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; River House/Columbia
– Luke’s sophomore CD drops on Nov. 8. This is its title tune and the theme song of his road tour. It’s a solid thumper with plenty of grinding guitar. But what stays with you is his extraordinarily relatable singing. Vocalists that sidle up next to you and get under your skin are so rare, and this guy is one of ‘em. I remain a gigantic fan.

JAMIE MCDELL/Botox
Writer: Jamie McDell; Producer: Nash Chambers; Publisher:peer, no performance rights listed; Essence
– I have to admit, I was immediately intrigued by the title, alone. The back story here is that she is an award winning New Zealand pop star who has fallen under Nashville’s spell. She and Oz producer Nash Chambers have crafted a three-song EP with this as its title track. It’s kinda wordy, and the garage-country track crowds the vocal. But the gist of it is that she’s willing to do Botox or whatever it takes, “so you can get your manhood back.” Yikes.

BLANCO BROWN/Honeysuckle & Lightning Bugs
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; BBR/BMG
– I loved his dancefloor sensation “The Git Up.” Now to prove he’s not a novelty, one-hit wonder comes this genuine heartache lament with cool looped audio effects. It takes him awhile to get to the full production, but the wait is worthwhile. Super soulful.

LANCO/What I See
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Arista
– I dig Brandon Lancaster’s whole thang — the always-melodic hooks, the plaintive vocal, the crunchy band. I love the way this new single builds from simplicity to epic grandeur. Ear candy.

KAREN & THE SORROWS/Guaranteed Broken Heart
Writer: Karen Pittelman; Producer: Pittelman; Publishers: Ocean Born Mary, ASCAP; KS (track)
– They’re billed as “queer country trailblazers…creating space for people who love country music, even if country music doesn’t always love them back.” The band runs the Gay Ole Opry festival and the Queer Country Quarterly in New York. The title tune of their album, which drops tomorrow, is a twangy ditty featuring Karen’s twee, Dolly wanna-be voice backed by steel guitar and plenty of reverb.

MATT STELL & JIMMIE ALLEN/Home in a Hometown
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Pubisher: none listed; RECORDS/Arista Nashville
– Very sweet. It’s lovely word portrait of contented, small-town life with nostalgia and gentility to make you smile. Their voices brush up against each other comfortably, sounding terrific at every turn of phrase.

MAGS/Emotional Honesty
Writers: David M. Ross/Steve O’Brien; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Mags
– Mags is an Irish fiddler/singer who resides and records in Music City. Her throaty, clear delivery of this love plea is spot-on. “Emotional honesty” isn’t a phrase that “sings” easily, but she pulls it off.

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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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