The decisions were made before I ever typed a word.
All I had to see in my listening stack was the phrase “Luke Combs & Eric Church,” and I knew what the Disc of the Day would be. They didn’t disappoint. The song is a country masterpiece.
The advance hype on Randall King also made me predisposed toward him. He didn’t disappoint, either, although his phrasing is uncomfortably close to established superstar Strait. Give the boy a DisCovery Award.
RANDALL KING/Hey Cowgirl
Writers: Randall King/Brice Long/Mark Nesler; Producers: Bart Butler/Ryan Gore; Publishers: none listed: Warner
– Move over, George Strait, there’s a new cowboy in town. File this guy under, “Saving Country Music,” because he’s the Real Deal. Wistful heartache, honky-tonk blues and farewell affection all wrapped up perfectly.
EDDIE MONTGOMERY/Crazies Welcome
Writers: Brad Warren/Brett Warren/Lance Miller/Jessi Alexander; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Average Joes
– We’ve got enough “perfect” and “right things.” How about some off-center, troubled, nutso, loving, hurting, damaged compatriots in this bar? I’m with you on this ballad, buddy.
DELLA MAE/First Song Dancer
Writers: Celia Woodsmith/Kimber Ludiker; Producer: Dan Knobler; Publisher: none listed; Rounder
– This all-female band is back following a long hiatus. The gals have toughened up their sound, adding barroom attitude, thumping rhythm, roadhouse piano and some honky-tonk sass. Get out there and swing along.
OLD DOMINION/Never Be Sorry
Writers: Brad Tursi/Josh Osborne/Matthew Ramsey/Shane McAnally/Trevor Rosen; Producers: Old Dominion/Shane McAnally; Publisher: none listed; RCA Nashville
– Jittery rhythms, jaunty vocals, catchy hooks. The finger snaps are a nice touch, too.
BRENT SNYDER/Fight The Tide
Writer: Brent Snyder; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; BS
– It’s a pop power ballad with a tenor vocal that delivers with an earnest, whispery quality. The message is empowering survival.
ELEVEN HUNDRED SPRINGS/This Morning It Was Too Late
Writers: Matt Hillyer/Chad Rueffer; Producers: Steven Berg/Matt Hillyer/Chad Rueffer; Publishers: Canton Street/Cricket Lips, ASCAP/BMI; State Fair (track)
– Deliciously country. His remorseful heartbroken tenor vocal, the sighing steel, poetic guitar solo, bounced-bow fiddle and smoky honky-tonk atmosphere are all exquisite. This swirled around my head like a dream. Thank you, Texas. Thank you.
LUKE COMBS & ERIC CHURCH/Does To Me
Writers: Luke Combs/Ray Fulcher/Tyler Reeve; Producer: Scott Moffatt; Publishers: Big Machine/50 Egg/Straight Dimes/Larkin Hill/Works of RHA/I Know Songs/Warner-Tamerlane/BMI; River House/Columbia (track)
– I’m in heaven. Two of my ultimate favorites, together on disc. Not only that, the lyric is the heart-tugging testimony of a blue-collar average joe’s little victories and soul enrichers. Make this a Song of the Year, No. 1 smash and I just might believe in country music again.
CROSS ATLANTIC/Everybody’s Looking For Love
Writers: Karli Chayne/James Sinclair-Stott/Derek George/Tim Owens; Producers: Derek George/James Sinclair-Stott; Publisher: none listed; CA
– Missouri meets the U.K. in this male-female duo. Karli’s winsome soprano takes the lead with James’s soft harmony backing her flawlessly on this midtempo melodic breeze. Well produced and radio ready.
CHASE RICE/Lonely If You Are
Writers: Chase Rice/Hunter Phelps/Lindsay Rimes; Producer: none listed; Publishers: Warner Chappell/Sony ATV/no performance rights listed; BBR
– He gets serious demerits for being associated with trash like The Bachelor. And even more for this practically spoken, hip-hoppy, disposable ditty.