Country’s big boys are strutting their stuff in today’s edition of DisClaimer.
And at what better time, with the ACM Awards set to air on Sunday night? So Luke Bryan, Lanco, Brian Kelley of FGL, Thomas Rhett and Jameson Rodgers are on tap with new songs. They are all bested by a superstar veteran, Tim McGraw, who nails down the Disc of the Day award.
This is a male-dominated stack of sounds, but there are three female voices worth your attention this week. One of them is the enduringly great Miranda Lambert, singing with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall and recorded in the great outdoors. Secondly, don’t miss the fiery Maggie Rose performance.
Third is our DisCovery Award winning duo Kat & Alex. Kat Luna sings lead on “Heartbreak Tour.” Partner Alex Garrido shines just a brightly on “You and the Radio.” Here’s a sweet touch: The eliminated American Idol alumni were married in January.
JAMESON RODGERS / “Good Dogs”
Writers: Jameson Rodgers/Hunter Phelps/Jake Mitchell/Brent Anderson; Producer: Chris Farren/Jake Mitchell; Label: River House Artists/Columbia Nashville
— For doggie lovers everywhere. It’s a raspy-voiced, slow meditation on life and mortality that concludes “good dogs don’t live long enough.”
THOMAS RHETT / “Country Again”
Writers: Thomas Rhett/Zach Crowell/Ashley Gorley; Producer: Dann Huff/Jesse Frasure; Label: Valory Music Co.
— He went Hollywood, but now he’s back to drinking beer, hunting, fishing, wearing boots, going to church, loving his honey, sitting at a campfire and hanging out in Tennessee. Ho hum.
KARISSA ELLA / “Maybe It Was Memphis”
Writers: Michael James Anderson; Producer: Zach Farnum & Karissa Ella; Label: Orchard/117 Entertainment
— The acoustic production is admirable. But her vocal performance is sharp and pitch-y. It doesn’t help that she’s asking for comparison to a Pam Tillis oldie that was a dang-near perfect record the first time around.
KAT & ALEX / “Heartbreak Tour”
Writers: Alex Georgia/Kat Georgia; Producer: Brad Hill; Label: Sony Music Nashville
— They are billed as “Country-Latin disrupters,” whatever that means. All I know is that the sound is very cool. Their harmonies are stellar. The production is echoey-groovy. The chorus is one massive hook. Turn it up. I’m in. Also check out their super rhythmic and equally hooky “You and the Radio.”
MANNY BLU / “Train”
Writers: Jessi Alexander/Ryan Beaver/JT Harding; Producer: Aaron Eshuis; Label: MB
— It’s a frothing rocker with loads of energy and sizzle. He’s asking for her love to “hit me like a train.” The rhythm section and electric guitar kick serious butt behind his youthful wail.
TIM McGRAW / “God Moves the Pen”
Writers: James Slater/Tony Lane; Producer: Byron Gallimore/Tim McGraw; Label: Big Machine Records
— Awesome. This man is a superstar for a reason. Is there anyone else in country music who chooses superb songs this consistently? This brisk tempo outing is a string of terrific lines about love and the act of writing. What a wonderfully satisfying country artist.
JACK INGRAM, MIRANDA LAMBERT, JON RANDALL / “Am I Right or Amarillo”
Writers: Jack Ingram/Miranda Lambert/Jon Randall; Producer: Jack Ingram/Miranda Lambert/Jon Randall; Label: Vanner Records/RCA Records Label Nashville
— Acoustic bliss with outdoor trio harmonies. It’s a honky-tonk cheatin’ song dressed up like a folk tune. Lovely listening. The Marfa Tapes album by these three stellar tunesmiths drops on May 7.
LANCO / “First Beer”
Writers: Brandon Lancaster/Tripp Howell/Jaren Johnson; Producer: Dann Huff; Label: Arista Nashville
— I fell in love with this right away. The nostalgic lyric is extremely well written, and the echoey, upbeat audio setting is perfect for the wistful mood. This act never disappoints.
BRIAN KELLEY / “Beach Cowboy”
Writers: Blake Redferrin/Brian Kelley/Jake Rose; Producer: Brian Kelley/Corey Crowder/Jake Rose; Label: Nashville South Records Inc/Warner Music Nashville
— Mellow, like summer in the Southern sun. The repetitive song is slim pickin’s, but this outing is all about the groove. Get baked and lay back stoned.
LUKE BRYAN / “Waves”
Writers: Zach Crowell/Ryan Hurd/Chase McGill; Producer: Jeff Stevens/Jody Stevens; Label: Capitol Records Nashville
— Highly evocative. It will bring back memories of every beach-spent summer of your youth while the swirling rhythm and anthemic production dazzle your brain today. Bryan’s vocal is one of the most passionate of his career.
CARL RAY / “I Can See Clearly Now”
Writers: Johnny Nash; Producer: none listed; Label: CRW
— Black country singer Carl Ray (Williams) was mentored by the late Johnny Nash, who gave him his start. Ray takes Nash’s million-selling 1972 reggae-tinged pop chart topper, adds his own lyric contributions and reinterprets the tempo to become a country rocker. Intriguing. And the message of hope is timeless.
MAGGIE ROSE / “What Are We Fighting For”
Writers: Alex Haddad/Larry Florman/Maggie Rose; Producer: Ben Tanner; Label: Starstruck
— I remain a massive fan of this blue-eyed soul stylist. This torrid, slow-burn performance is equal parts gospel emotion and blues ambiance. The woman should be some kinda superstar.