DISClaimer: Morgan Wallen, Jason James Lead New Music Releases

Happy New Year, country-music fans.

Today, we have all kinds of contemporary country sounds, from rock-country to bluegrass-country, from rap-country to country-country.

In the last category, put your hands together for a Texas wonder named Jason James. He is country, country, country, and is my DisCovery Award winner, hands down.

The Disc of the Day belongs to that consistent charmer, Morgan Wallen.

TAYLON HOPE/Could’ve Been A Country Song
Writers: Bill DiLuigi/Taylon Hope; Producer: Kent Wells; Publisher: none listed; SESAC/BMI; GTR (track)
– She’s still a teen, but she sure knows her way around a song. This soaring rocker depicts rural romance with verve and panache. The nicely crafted lyric is married to a propulsive production that fires on all cylinders. Very promising.

SAM HUNT/Sinning With You
Writers: Sam Hunt/Paul DiGiovanni/Josh Osborne/Emily Weisband; Producer: Bryce Cain/Zach Crowell; Publisher: none listed; MCA Nashville
– I love the minimalism of this. The stark production throws all the emphasis on the ultra romantic, sensual lyric and the sincerity of the vocal performance. Excellent work.

SONG SUFFRAGETTES/The Man
Writer: Taylor Swift/Joel Little; Producers: Taylor Swift/Joel Little; Publisher: UNIAO BRASILEIRA DE EDITORAS DE MUSICA – UBEM, EMI Music Publishing, LatinAutor, Sony ATV Publishing, BMI – Broadcast Music Inc., CMRRA, LatinAutor – SonyATV, SOLAR Music Rights Management; Label: SS
– Awesome job, ladies — 17 members of the Nashville female, singer-songwriter collective have teamed up for this delightful “Me2” video and track. It’s a cover of a current Taylor Swift song that totally suits the group’s ethos. The Suffragettes have been challenging country’s gender discrimination for five years now, but never more forcefully than here. Check it out, because it is super bodacious. (For the record, the sisterhood-is-powerful voices assembled here belong to Chloe Gilligan, Sarabeth Taite, Reyna Roberts, Maddison Krebs, Tasji, Regan Stewart, Emily Brooke, Erin Grand, Caroline Marquard, Mia Morris, Michelle Pereira, Nora Collins, Gray Robinson, Raquel Cole, Stevie Woodward, Lexi Lauren and Carter Faith — that’s in the order of their appearance in the video).

BLAKE SHELTON & GWEN STEFANI/Nobody But You
Writers: Ross Copperman, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne, Tommy Lee James; Producer: Scott Hendricks; Publishers: Downtown/BMG Rights/Words & Music/Big Deal, no performance rights listed; Warner Music
– Lusciously romantic. The lyric is dynamite, and the echoey production shudders and thunders quietly behind Blake’s intense lead-vocal performance. Gwen’s harmony and soft interjections are mixed in a gently ear-tickling fashion. A dandy listening experience.

FLAT RIVER BAND/Every Dog Has Its Day
Writer: Chad Sitze; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Early Bird (track)
– Hillbilly charming. The sound is kinda bluegrass-with-a-beat. The fiddle and dobro make merry with the snappy drumming and deep bass while the three group members dish out their flannel-shirt, trio harmonies.

MORGAN WALLEN/This Bar
Writers: Morgan Wallen/Michael Hardy/Jackson Morgan/Jake Scott/Ernest K. Smith/Ryan Vojtesak; Producer: Joey Moi; Publisher: none listed; Big Loud
– I love everything about this. Love his stone-country writing, his roadhouse attitude, his drawling singing voice and the tempo, tempo, tempo production. I even love Morgan’s individualistic fashion sense. This man is a star.

JASON JAMES/Seems Like Tears Ago
Writer: Jason James; Producer: John Evans; Publisher; Jason James, BMI; Melodyville (track)
– Say “amen,” somebody. This guy is so country it hurts, and I mean, “hurts so good.” The spirit of George Jones hovers over this steel-drenched honky-tonk lament. If you love real country music, stop what you’re doing right now and spin this on YouTube. Sign me up for the fan club.

THE CADILLAC THREE/All The Makin’s of a Saturday Night
Writers: Jaren Johnston/Josh Dunne/Neil Mason; Producers: Jaren Johnston/Neil Mason; Publishers: none listed; Big Machine
– These guys continue to plow the ground between hard rock and country, this time adding a quasi-rap vocal performance. It’s not at all my cup of tea, but ESPN has been using the track during its college-football broadcasts.

MATT KENNON/Love Is Stronger
Writer: Mike Mobley; Producer: Paul Worley; Publisher: none listed; Roaddawg (track)
– It’s a power ballad with a potent message of recovery and triumph. He’s not the world’s greatest vocalist, but he gets the job done thanks to urgency and oomph.

HARDY, LAUREN ALAINA, & DEVIN DAWSON/One Beer
Writers: Hillary Lindsay/Jake Mitchell/Michael Wilson Hardy; Producer: Joey Moi/Derek Wells; Publishers: none listed; Big Loud
– Ya have a couple of brews, and the next thing ya know, yer in a trailer park with babies running around all over the place. Hick hop.

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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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