DISClaimer: Battle of the Bands

It’s a Battle of the Bands.

With new tracks by High Valley, Home Free, the Zac Brown Band, Little Big Town and Midland, this edition of “DisClaimer” is dominated by groups. Even Teddy Robb has found strength in numbers, by re-imagining his fine “Really Shouldn’t Drink Around You” as a duet.

At the end of the day, we have a dead heat between Home Free and the Zac Brown Band for the Disc of the Day award. Both are heart-stopping listening experiences.

As we had no room for newcomers today, there is no DisCovery Award winner.

SAM GROW/Drink About That
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Average Joes
– Superb. Guitars moan and sigh and crash around him as he aches for a lost love. His solidly country delivery is perfect. The song is a total gem. This is the lovesick blues for a modern generation. Also check out the video with its powerful, don’t-text-and-drive message.

LINDSAY ELL/I Don’t Love You
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Stoney Creek
– Her most expressive vocal to date. The downcast ballad finds her musing amid memories. The contrast between the intimate, hushed verses and the open-throated choruses is terrific. As usual, her searing guitar work adds zest. Very involving.

HIGH VALLEY/Your Mama
Writers: Ben West/Josh Miller/Troy Verges/Tyler Hubbard; Producer: none listed; Warner
-Mellow family values.

MIRANDA LAMBERT/Bluebird
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; RCA/Vanner
– She sounds strikingly winsome, touching and youthful here. The tune has verve and hooks a-plenty. The track is at once spare and deeply complex. The lyric has a lovely, self-portrait quality that’s poetic, introspective and hopeful. All in all, a highly addictive listening experience.

TEDDY ROBB & MEGHAN PATRICK/Really Shouldn’t Drink Around You
Writers: Shane McAnally/Josh Osborne/Trevor Rosen; Producers: Shane McAnally/Ben Fowler/Matt McGinn; Monument
– The groove is great, and both vocals are loaded with warmth and personality. The lyrics are packed with cool little lines — “gin and platonic,” “gettin’ back to where we left the past at,” “wine is gonna turn into why-not.” I have liked Teddy in the past, and I remain a fan. Canadian-country award winner Meghan is a worthy duet foil for him. In short, this sounds an awful lot like a hit record.

ZAC BROWN BAND/Leaving Love Behind
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Wheelhouse/BBR
– Soulful, heartfelt and richly satisfying. The uplifting ballad production is gorgeous yet understated. As always, the vocal harmonies are thrilling. They are a one-of-a-kind group, and I love them so much for that.

MORGAN EVANS/Diamonds
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Warner
– “I love you like a diamond, and diamonds are forever.” There you have it, complete with one-man-band burbles, beats and loops.

MIDLAND/Cheatin’ Songs
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Big Machine
– These guys need to come up with melodies that are a little more original sounding.

HOME FREE/Love Me Like That
Writers: Austin Brown/Jeffrey Joseph East/Stephen Martinez; Producers: Darren Rust/Home Free; Publishers: Calhoun Enterprise/peermusic; Home Free
– One thing’s for certain, these guys can sure ‘nuff sing. Tenor lead vocalist Austin Brown turns in an absolutely stunning, sky-high performance here. The group’s a cappella roots are still showing, but there’s a rhythm track, too. And that drives this thing straight into the stratosphere. My ears were definitely pinned back.

LITTLE BIG TOWN/Sugar Coat
Writers: Josh Kerr/Jordyn Shellhart/Lori McKenna; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Capitol
– Intense and heartbreaking. Smiling through betrayal and infidelity burns with pain. The track is pretty much a Karen Fairchild solo, but the all-consuming female lyric is so brilliant that maybe that was the best choice. The ‘60s retro video starring Kate Bosworth is a dynamite mini movie.

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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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