DISClaimer Single Reviews: Ray Wylie Hubbard, Billy Ray Cyrus, Dolly Parton, Zach Williams, And More

Ray Wylie Hubbard. Photo: Alan Messer

Nostalgia for ’90s country seems to be everywhere.

Let’s not forget that many of those legacy acts are still making music today. This special edition of DisClaimer collects some of their efforts. With concert, nightclub and casino bookings kaput while we all social distance, some of these artists have lost their day-to-day livelihoods. So lend them all the support that you can.

Leading the way with the Disc of the Day is Ray Wylie Hubbard. But there are several other worthy candidates, namely Dolly, Billy Ray, Rosanne and Mark Chesnutt.

Joe & Martina have been in this column before, under their old billing of Terra Bella. Since this is their first appearance using their own names, give ’em a DisCovery Award, as well as a tip of the hat for throwing a spotlight on veteran John Berry.

BILLY RAY CYRUS, AKA MAMA KUSH/Ballad of Jed
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: WMG/BMG Rights Management, no performance rights listed; BRC
– Wonderfully wacky. It’s a rewrite of the theme song of “The Beverly Hillbillies” with references to Granny firing up some weed. This is tied in with the fact that Billy Ray now has his own pot blend, “Midnight Special.” Ya gotta love this guy.

RAY WYLIE HUBBARD/Bad Trick
Writers: none listed; Producer: Ray Wylie Hubbard; Publisher: none listed; Big Machine
– Dark, bluesy and smoky….. and way, way cool. The hypnotic, minor-key groove is great enough, but the dancing-with-the-devil lyric is just as good. Texas legend Hubbard is best known for “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother,” but his songwriting and stage presence have always been light years better than that timeless gem. His profile was raised recently by his songwriting collaborations with Eric Church (“Desperate Man,” etc). His backup band here consists of Ringo Starr, Joe Walsh, Don Was and Chris Robinson of The Black Crows. Are those credentials good enough for ya? Play and believe.

MARK CHESNUTT/I Found Another You
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Nada Dinero
– Chesnutt remains one of our most underrated honky-tonk vocal stylists, and this audio delight demonstrates that he has lost none of his talent. A country-rock tempo churns this tune relentlessly while a chicken-pickin’ guitar stutters and a steel sizzles along. The punch line is hilarious: “I found another you, and she hates me, too.” Keepin’ it country, bro.

CLINT BLACK/America (Still In Love With You)
Writers: Clint Black/Steve Wariner; Producer: Clint Black; Publisher: none listed; CB
– A snooze. The ballad’s tempo plods, and the message sounds instantly trite.

CLAY WALKER/Easy Goin’
Writers: Clay Walker/Adam Wheeler/Paul Sikes; Producer: Paul Sikes; Publishers: Espiritu de Leon Music (BMI), Sony/ATV Accent / Pedal Down Music (ASCAP), Oven Music, Inc. (BMI); CW
-It has the gently rolling atmosphere you might expect, given the title. The gal was here and gone on the highway, to his regret. Heartache with a breezy vibe.

ZACH WILLIAMS & DOLLY PARTON/There Was Jesus
Writers: Jonathan Smith/Casey Beathard/Zach Williams; Producer: none listed; Publishers: Little Louder/Be Essential/Seven Ring Circus, BMI; Provident/Essential
-Indomitable Dolly lets no grass grow under her feet. She won a Grammy last year for her “God Only Knows” collaboration with For King & Country and began 2020 singing a five-week No. 1 smash on the dance charts along with the Swedish electro-duo Galantis on a tune titled “Faith.” Now she is dueting with Dove and Grammy-winning CCM star Zach Williams. As fiery a singer as he is, she matches him lick for vocal lick until the two of them built to a goosebump-raising crescendo. This is audio superstardom.

JOHN PAUL WHITE & ROSANNE CASH/We’re All In This Together
Writers: John Paul White/Rosanne Cash; Producer: John Paul White; Publisher: none listed; Single Lock
– Set in an acoustic-guitar setting, this shimmering duet is an artistic lyric that reflects our pandemic-plagued world. The ballad’s proceeds benefit Music Health Alliance. Its video shows news footage of just how harrowing this all is.

TRACY LAWRENCE/When The Cowboy’s Gone
Writers: Carson Chamberlain/Wyatt McCubbin/Tracy Lawrence; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Sony/ATV; Steadfast
-We’ve heard this worn-out sentiment many times before, but Tracy refreshes it a little because of his still-distinctive voice.

HOT COUNTRY KNIGHTS & TERRI CLARK/You Make It Hard
Writers: Dierks Bentley/Brett Beavers/Jim Beavers/Mary Hilliard Harrington/Jon Randall/Luke Wooten; Producer: Dierks Bentley; Publisher: none listed; Capitol Nashville
-I guess the bordering-on-lewd lyric is supposed to be a so-bad-its-good parody. To me, it just sounds dumb. She deserves better.

JOE & MARTINA WITH JOHN BERRY/Give Me Back The ’90s
Writers: Joe Costa/Johnny Garcia; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; JM
-The video (shot outside the iconic Nashville Palace) has visual references to Wynonna, Alan, Strait and Yearwood. Joe Costa takes the lead with his wife Martina Costa providing harmony while they wax nostalgic for the ’90s. John Berry pops up about 2/3 of the way through. Pleasant. Jaunty.

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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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