The winners here are all gentle persuaders.
Country music makers often make the mistake of believing that listeners need to be hit over the head to get them to pay attention. Defying that mindset today are the subtle and charming Brittney Spencer, Ernest, Jameson Rodgers and our Disc of the Day winner, Brad Paisley. Our Fourth of July superstar drops his “City of Music” tomorrow. Get ready to be impressed.
Our DisCovery Award winner comes to us from Sony, a busy company that accounts for four of our DisClaimer entries this week. It’s Tyler Booth with his dandy “Beautiful Outlaw.”
TYLER BOOTH / “Beautiful Outlaw”
Writers: Buddy Owens/Phil O’Donnell/Tyler Booth; Producer: Phil O’Donnell; Label: Villa 40/Sony Music Nashville
— The solid “outlaw” beat and the drawling, personality-plus vocal draw you in at once. The clever lyric does the rest of the work. I’m in.
ROSS ELLIS / “I Wish You Would”
Writers: Dan Fernandez/Michael Whitworth/Ross Ellis; Producer: Brandon Hood/Dann Huff; Label: RCA Nashville
— It’s well produced, and his pleading vocal is on the money. The song seems kinda masochistic to me.
KYLIE MORGAN / “Shoulda”
Writers: Kylie Morgan/Shane McAnally/Ben Johnson; Producer: Shane McAnally/Ben Johnson; Label: EMI
— Rocking and sexy. She has a pert, saucy vocal style. The stomping, guitar-screaming track is mixed a little too high, threatening to thoroughly overwhelm her. Tone it down.
BRAD PAISLEY / “City of Music”
Writers: Brad Paisley/Lee Thomas Miller/Ross Copperman; Producer: Ross Copperman/Luke Wooten; Label: Arista
— It’s a musical love letter to Nashville. A wonderful song, delivered by one of our greatest artists.
ERNEST / “American Rust”
Writers: Ernest/Rodney Clawson/Jordan Reynolds; Producer: Joey Moi; Label: Big Loud
— This new artist is an award-winning songwriter (as Ernest Keith Smith), having been behind hits by FGL, Sam Hunt, Morgan Wallen and Chris Lane. On disc, he is a marvelously evocative story teller. Over a shuffling beat, he softly sings of heartland America in a lyric loaded with vivid imagery. A superb debut.
RAY STEVENS / “Gas”
Writers: Barry Smith; Producer: Ray Stevens; Label: MCC/Curb
— Pun after pun after pun after pun … about farting. Goofy and maybe a little crass, but awfully clever. His legendary zaniness remains intact.
JAMESON RODGERS / “When You Think of Mississippi”
Writers: Jake Mitchell/Jameson Rodgers/Josh Miller/Smith Ahnquist; Producer: Chris Farren/Jake Mitchell; Label: River House/ Columbia
— Beautifully done. Heartfelt, wistful, dreamy and country all the way. This guy is the bomb and should be a star.
CLAY WALKER / “You Look Good”
Writers: Clay Walker/Jaron Boyer/Michael Tyler; Producer: Michael Knox/Jaron Boyer; Label: Show Dog Nashville
— She looks attractive to him no matter the setting. It’s a simple sentiment, simple production and simple performance. A little too simple. I liked his last single better. Pass.
BRITTNEY SPENCER / “Sober & Skinny”
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Label: BS
— Very nice. Over a gently rolling rhythm, she plaintively sings of the little failings we all have. Most especially, she relates to the imperfections in a relationship—“when you get sober, I’ll get skinny.” There is magic in her voice, an instrument of lovely nuances and beautifully turned phrases. Open the door and let her in.
TRACY LAWRENCE & EDDIE MONTGOMERY / “Price of Fame”
Writers: Tracy Lawrence/Brad Arnold/Rick Huckaby; Producer: Tracy Lawrence/Flip Anderson; Label: TL
— These two veterans sound completely authentic on this rolling anthem about the cost of living your life on the country-music highway. Produced with clarity and sung with finesse.
BRELAND & KEITH URBAN / “Throw It Back”
Writers: Daniel Breland/Keith Urban/Sam Sumser/Sean Small; Producer: Sam Sumser/Sean Small; Label: Bad Realm/Atlantic
— It’s a thumpy, banjo-laced banger that combines Urban’s soaring tenor with Breland’s droll, dry, quasi-rapped electronically-processed baritone. It’s quite repetitive, but that’s the way pop and hip-hop are, right?
NOAH SCHNACKY & JIMMIE ALLEN / “Don’t You Wanna Know”
Writers: Noah Schnacky/Joshua Wade Dorr/Dylan Guthro; Producer: Dylan Guthro; Label: Big Machine
— Noah brings youthful verve to this, and Jimmie rides along gamely. Electronic burbles of sound, synth beats and a murky hip-hop vibe are all deployed. But the whole thing sounds aimless and vague. I think the gist of the “song” is talking a city girl into loving a country boy, but beyond that, I find no real point to it.