There are so many bogus “artists” in the country format, but they are absent today.
It gives me so much pleasure in this week’s DISClaimer to review new music by such quality people as Miranda Lambert, HARDY, Eric Church, Alecia Nugent, Brett Eldredge and Chris Stapleton. They are the sort of folks who all current country artists should aspire to emulate.
In a stack of platters that is an embarrassment of riches, choosing a Disc of the Day is ridiculously hard. I’m going with Brett Eldredge, but the award could easily belong to any of the above.
The DISCovery Award goes to Matt Castillo.
LAINE HARDY/Tiny Town
Writers: Michael Tyler Spragg; Publisher: none listed; Sony-ATV/Pink Dog/Emileon/Little Louder/Songs of Kobalt/Wrucke For You/Songs of Universal, BMI; Producer: Michael Knox; LH
– As a former American Idol winner, he has an established fan base. What I like most about this is the clarity and simplicity of his delivery. It’s an acoustic-based production, so there’s plenty of room for his easy-going vocal presentation. The song is an okay, small-town salute that country listeners seem to love so well. By the way, Laine Hardy is a coronavirus survivor.
MIRANDA LAMBERT/Settling Down
Writers: Luke Dick/Miranda Lambert/Natalie Hemby; Publisher: none listed; Producer: Jay Joyce; RCA
– Congratulations to her for now being the most nominated female artist in CMA history. This spectacular little single is a total celebration of her voice, her songwriting and her personality. What a groove. This is the stuff of greatness.
MATT CASTILLO/Say It
Writers: Roger Brown/Tommy Conners/Don Rollins/Matt Castillo; Publisher: none listed; Producer: Roger Brown; MC
– It’s a toe tapper with stuttering guitar and steel. Hard to resist. Props to producer Brown and the relentless rhythm section.
LOCASH/Beers To Catch Up On
Writers: Jeremy Stover/Rhett Akins/Paul Charles Digiovanni; Publisher: Warner-Tamerlane/Anthem Entertainment/Universal/Ole Red Cape/Real Big Red Tunes/Ritten By Rhettro, BMI/ASCAP; Producer: none listed; Wheelhouse/BBR
– Buddy-buddy, warm and brotherly. A dandy sentiment about old friends, delivered with heart.
BRETT ELDREDGE/Sunday Drive
Writers: Barry Dean/Don Mescall/Steve Robson; Publisher: none listed; Producer: none listed; Warner
– Righteous and true. “It’s the ordinary things that mean so much.” The ballad takes him from his childhood riding with his folks to driving them himself when they get old. It choked me up, big time. During this pandemic, one of the things we do to keep our mental health is to go for drives with no destination. I guess partly because I remember my Dad taking us on Sunday drives. So Amen, to this song.
CHRIS STAPLETON/Starting Over
Writers: Chris Stapleton/Mike Henderson; Publishers: I Wrote These Songs/WC/Straight Six/Wixen, ASCAP/BMI; Producers: Dave Cobb/Chris Stapleton; Mercury
– He’s down, but hopeful. No matter how dark it seems, there is always a bright tomorrow and a shiny renewal. Strummy and upbeat, but grounded in gritty reality. A pure country-music delight.
ALECIA NUGENT/They Don’t Make ‘Em Like My Daddy Anymore
Writers: Alecia Nugent/Carl Jackson; Publishers: Hillbilly Goddess/Bluewater/Colonel Rebel/BMG, ASCAP; Producer: Keith Stegall; Hillbilly Goddess
– Known for her prior work in bluegrass, Nugent’s comeback CD The Old Side of Town is a move into mainstream country. She’s been off the radar for nearly a decade, and I have sorely missed her. Nugent remains an absolutely heart-stopping, old-school country singer. This lilting, nostalgic single is not the 1974 Loretta Lynn hit with the identical title (penned by Jerry Chestnut). It is a tribute to her childhood singing partner and pop, who has passed away. Sweet, endearing and totally autobiographical.
Writers: Eric Church/Luke Laird/Michael Heeney; Publisher: none listed; Producer: none listed; EMI
– Super creative. The songwriting here is just excellent. “Crazyland” is a tavern populated by characters named “Fool,” “Sorrow,” “I Told You So,” “Regret,” “All My Fault” and “Out of His Mind.” They hang out together in misery, singing the songs of a fellow named “Blues.” The shuffling percussion, piano notes and soft echo are just a few of the highlights in the airy production. This man is as good as contemporary country music gets.
Writers: Zach Abend/HARDY/Andy Albert; Publisher: none listed; Producer: none listed; Big Loud
– Love this. Love him. It shows a softer and super romantic side of this gifted writer-artist. His approach to country music always gives me hope for the future.
ARLO McKINLEY/Die Midwestern
Writer: Arlo McKinley; Publisher: none listed; Producer: Matt Ross Spang; Oh Boy
– A weaving honky-tonk band with a slippery fiddle are the loosey-goosey accompaniment to this love-hate ode to dead-end Ohio. It’s kinda like a mashup of The Band, John Prine and Austin country. He’s a Cincinnati native, and the video tours you through that city’s urban neighborhoods.
MITCHELL TENPENNY/Broken Up
Writers: Devin Dawson/Mitchell Tenpenny/Kyle Fishman/Ernest K. Smith; Publishers: Audium/Sony-ATV/Universal/Warner-Chappell; Producer: Jordan Schmidt; Riser House/Columbia
– A break-up song that’s also a solid banger. The “echo” answering vocals, rippling electronics and beats make this as much a jam as it is a lament. Recommended.