This seems to be a day for group harmonies and vocal collaborations.
Darlinghurst, Track45, Jesse & Noah and the Dirt Band comprise our duo/group entries. The last named is collaborating with The War & Treaty, Steve Earle, Rosanne Cash and Jason Isbell. Our other collabs include The Bellamys with John Anderson, and Ryan Hurd with Maren Morris.
The DisCovery Award belongs to Track45. Ryan Hurd & Maren Morris ride off with the Disc of the Day.
ROBYN OTTOLINI / “F-150”
Writers: Robyn Ottolini/Erik Fintelman/Mark Schroor; Producers: Erik Fintelman/Mark Schroor; Label: Warner Music Nashville
— She’s doing fine getting over him until she sees a certain brand of truck and remembers. Her vocal delivery has lots of emotional resonance, even if the lyric is somewhat monotonous. I hope she’s getting a kickback from the Ford Motor Company.
WALKER HAYES / “I Hope You Miss Me”
Writers: Walker Hayes/Shane McAnally/Sam Summer/Nick Ruth/Sean Smalls; Producers: Shane McAnally/Walker Hayes/Nash Overstreet; Label: Monument Records
— His compressed vocal is ear catching, as are all the little details in the verses. The layered production also scores points for creativity. Poppy and catchy.
TAYLOR SWIFT / “Love Story (Taylor’s Version)”
Writer: Taylor Swift; Producers: Christopher Rowe/Taylor Swift; Label: Republic
— Billed as “Taylor’s Version,” this remake of her chart-topping 2008 smash has a ear-tickling crispness and nice ebb-and-flow audio dynamics. Needless to say, it’s still a cool little song.
TRACK45 / “Met Me Now”
Writers: Ben Johnson/KK Johnson/Jenna Johnson/Jonny Price/J Har; Producer: Byron Gallimore/Track45; Label: Stoney Creek Records/BBR Music Group
— I’m in. This is fresh and youthful sounding. The female lead singer is charming, but the track really takes off when the whole trio harmonizes. The punchy percussion scores points, too.
RYAN HURD & MAREN MORRIS / “Chasing After You”
Writers: Brinley Addington/Jerry Flowers; Producers: Teddy Reimer/Aaron Eshuis; Label: Arista Nashville
— I love a good duet, and this certainly is one. The ballad manages to be both powerfully romantic and emotionally complex, and the couple sings the fire out of it.
NITTY GRITTY DIRT BAND & FRIENDS / “The Times They Are A-Changin’”
Writer: Bob Dylan; Producer: Ray Kennedy; Label: none listed;
— Go to nittygritty.com or Bandcamp to consume this and donate to Feeding America. It’s worth the visit. The classic, 57-year-old song remains as pertinent and timely as ever. The band’s compatriots taking turns on the verses are Jason Isbell, Rosanne Cash, Steve Earle and The War and Treaty. The audio result is simply thrilling. Applause, applause.
RORY FEEK / “The Times They Are A-Changin’”
Writer: Bob Dylan; Producers: Ben Isaacs/Matt Johnson; Label: Gaither Music Group
— In this unexpected and unlikely entry of “Who Wore It Best?” Rory Feek comes out stronger than you might expect. His production is a gorgeous, moody pastiche of acoustic instrumentation, chorale support and stately, meditative rhythm. His folkie, earnest, emotional delivery is right on the money, too. Stirring and stunning.
BRETT ELDREDGE / “Good Day”
Writers: Daniel Tashian/Ian Fitchuk/Brett Eldredge; Producers: Daniel Tashian/Ian Fitchuk; Label: Warner Music Nashville
— He’s such a wonderfully hearty vocalist. I love the uplifting outlook in these lyrics. The weather might be gloomy and the times might be troubled, but nevertheless he greets the day with a positive attitude. Well done, as usual. An emotional bullseye.
TYLER RICH / “Better Than You’re Used To”
Writers: Alysa Vanderheym/Corey Crowder/Tyler Rich; Producer: Alysa Vanderheym; Label: The Valory Music Co.
— Your current boyfriend is no good, and Mr. Rich is here to show you how much better things could be. I wish his fine vocal was hotter in the mix, because the production fights for attention rather than being supportive.
THE BELLAMY BROTHERS & JOHN ANDERSON / “No Country Music for Old Men”
Writer: David Bellamy; Producer: none listed; Label: none listed
— Lilting and nostalgic, the song fondly recalls the days of Hank, Lefty, Patsy, Buck, Dolly, Merle, Loretta & Conway, Jones & Wynette, Cash and more. A rippling rhythm track soaked with steel floats you along while everyone sings with gusto and affection. A dandy disc.
JESSE & NOAH / “The Vision”
Writers: Jesse D. Bellamy/Noah Frank Bellamy; Producer: none listed; Label: Usonia
— Very cowboy. It has an open-spaces, spaghetti-western vibe, with lots of echoey electric-guitar work. They are David’s sons—Uncle Howard Bellamy adds a third harmony part.
DARLINGHURST / “Gotta Go Rodeo”
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Label: Helium Records
— I am told that this male-female country quartet is a big deal in Australia. This sprightly tune has rhythm to spare. The lead vocals overly dominate, to the point that you can barely hear the harmonies. The background crowd cheering is meant to make the song sound “exciting.” It does nothing for me.