Variety is the spice of life.
This is an adage that all country radio programmers should take to heart, because back in the day, their stations’ playlists were a lot more diverse than they are today. And everyone liked terrestrial radio a whole lot more than they do now.
So in today’s column we have everything from bluegrass to pop, from neo-rockabilly to hardcore honky tonk, from tender emotionalism to party-hearty romps. Sample them all.
The Disc of the Day goes to Kane Brown, who has the sweetest song about fatherhood that I’ve heard in ages. Give Mike Alan Ward a DisCovery Award.
STEPHANIE QUAYLE/Whatcha Drinkin’ ‘Bout
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed, ASCAP/BMI; Rebel Engine
-A sprightly barroom anthem, delivered with verve and abetted by some dandy guitar twanging. I’m in.
Writers: Dallas Davidson/Rodney Clawson/Ashley Gorley; Producers: Noah Gordon/Shannon Houchins; Publishers: Big Red Tow/EMI Blackwood/Round Hill Compositions/Round Hill Works/Shirt at Work/Two Chord Georgia/Copyright Control Ashley Gorley, BMI/ASCAP; Average Joes
– Nicely thumping and sung with conviction. The topic isn’t exactly news — it’s the one about partying in the countryside after work with a honey. “Heartland,” “ball cap,” “hot girl in a t-shirt,” “red dirt,” “cold beer” “simple life,” it’s all here.
MIKE ALAN WARD & DIERKS BENTLEY/No Getting Over You
Writers: Ward/Bentley; Producers: Carl Jackson/Randy Kohrs/Ken Triphan; Publishers: Colonel Rebel/Wooteeny/Blue Nugget/Big White Tracks/Sony-ATV, ASCAP; Twang-Gang
– If you ask me, every country playlist needs a splash of bluegrass. The two voices are the calling cards of this dandy toe-tapper, but the picking will dazzle you just as much. The supporting cast is a who’s-who of instrumentalists. Ward’s album is titled Whiskey, Trains and Lonesome, and it is simply stellar from top to bottom.
KANE BROWN/For My Daughter
Writers: Kane Brown/Tom Douglas/Chase McGill; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; RCA
– Kane became a first-time Daddy on Oct. 29, and he’s wasted no time in celebrating the event in song. “I grew up without a dad/I’m gonna be the best one I can be.” That’s just one of the honest lyrics in this heart-tugging mini-masterpiece. A lump-in-throat performance of a song packed with truth and beauty.
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; BMLG
– Drawn from the Charlie’s Angels soundtrack, this sounds like a big bid for pop stardom. The echoey atmosphere, stately keyboard work, crashing rhythms and layered, multi-part vocals all are very, very involving. There’s a richness of vocal tone here (reminiscent of Sia) that’s a long way from her days as a contestant on The Voice.
CLINT BLACK/This Old House
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; CB
– Clint enlists eight buddies as vocal collaborators here — Trace Adkins, Dierks Bentley, Sara Evans, Cody Jinks, Michael Ray, Darius Rucker, Travis Tritt and Steve Wariner. The song is a ballad about nostalgia for a homeplace. It’s solidly country, but the tempo plods a bit. There’s an extremely effective music video that equates the “house” with the Grand Ole Opry, with memories coming alive off the photos on the walls, in visions in dressing rooms and hallways and via historic clips on the storied stage. Recommended.
Writers: Adam Doleac/Andy Skib/Bobby Hamrick; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Arista Nashville
– Smooth. His gently persuasive vocal is right on the money in this pop-country slow jam. The overall vibe is a kinda bland, yet kinda pleasant.
HOOTIE & THE BLOWFISH/Hold On
Writers: Jim Beavers/Chris Stapleton; Producer: Frank Rogers; Publishers: Sony-ATV Tree/Dontcallmebrett/WB/Ken Tucky, BMI/ASCAP; Capitol
– Despite the seeming hopelessness of our modern world, this jaunty ditty advises us that love will see us through. Optimistic and upbeat. The band “gang” vocals as the song reaches its finale are just the right touch.
GRANGER SMITH/That’s Why I Love Dirt Roads
Writers: Chris DeStefano/Jon Nite/Brad Rempel/Granger Smith; Producers: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Wheelhouse/BBR
– Stirring and anthemic. It’s hard to produce an up-tempo tune with this much crispness, while maintaining its rushing forward momentum. This does all that and more. Charisma on the hoof.
Writers: Charles Mead/Paul Cebar; Producer: Matt Ross Spang; Publishers: Pagan Idol/Groovesburg Joys, BMI; Plowboy
– The latest single from Chuck’s fine Close to Home CD is a swampy, groove-a-minute outing with dollops of blues, rockabilly and roots-rock in its countryboy DNA. This guy is a one-of-a-kind talent, and more power to that.
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