Here in Country Music Land, heartache is what we do best.
Nursing busted romances today are Dylan Scott, Ashland Craft, Cash Creek & Larry Stewart, Travis Denning and Chris Young. The Hobbs Sisters, Cadillac Three and Jake Hoot are trying to keep the country party going, but their efforts are drowned out by the more traditionalist crowd.
And it is from that crowd that all of our award winners are drawn this week. Ashland Craft lands the DisCovery Award, while Chris Young and Dylan Scott finish in a dead heat, tying for the Disc of the Day prize.
DUSTY BLACK & GARY LEVOX / “Somebody’s Mama”
Writers: Monty Criswell/Derek George/Houston Phillips; Producer: Colt Ford/Noah Gordon; Label: Black Label Country
— It’s an openly sentimental ode to a father’s love for his daughter. Very sweet and very country. Dusty delivers with restraint and nuance. Gary offers theatrical, high-tenor acrobatics.
CHRIS YOUNG / “Break Like You Do”
Writers: Anthony Smith/Chris DeStefano/Chris Young/Matt Rogers; Producer: Chris DeStefano/Chris Young; Label: RCA Nashville
— He’s such a superb singer. The rapid-fire construction of these lyrics doesn’t phase him one bit. Following their breakup, she’s doing fine. But he’s not, and he splatters his heartache all over this tempo tune. An unmistakable hit.
ASHLAND CRAFT / “Make It Past Georgia”
Writers: Ashland Craft/Reid Isbell/Willie Morrison; Producer: Jonathan Singleton; Label: Big Loud
— I saw her open for Ian Munsick, and she’s a real spitfire. She kicks up some serious dust with a sandpapery delivery of this fierce heartache-on-the-road scorcher. Crank it up, and let her wail.
DYLAN SCOTT / “New Truck”
Writers: Hardy/Hunter Phelps/Ben Johnson/Ashley Gorley; Producer: Will Weatherly/Matt Alderman/Curt Gibbs/Jim Ed Norman; Label: Curb Records
— This barn burner is a terrific showcase for this guy’s oomphy delivery. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with his vehicle, except for the fact that it reminds him of her every time he drives it. Dylan roars his way through the busted-heart lyric like a man possessed.
THE HOBBS SISTERS / “Turn It Up”
Writers: Hannah Hobbs/Lauren Hobbs/Joey Ebach; Producer: Ben Jackson/Joey Ebach; Label: THS
— They are twins, and the ultra close-knit harmonies sure reveal it. This fizzy, frothy ditty sounds exactly like a summertime party. Very tasty.
JASON ALDEAN & CARRIE UNDERWOOD / “If I Didn’t Love You”
Writers: Kurt Allison/Tully Kennedy/John Morgan/Lydia Vaughan; Producer: Michael Knox; Label: Broken Bow Records
— It’s a power ballad with all the boxes checked. Carrie’s harmony part is flawless, and both singers turn up the heat when they’re in solo spotlights.
RESTLESS ROAD / “Hometown Tonight”
Writers: Colton Pack/Garrett Nichols/Jacob Durrett/Zach Beeken; Producer: Jared Keim; Label: RCA Nashville/1021 Entertainment
— “Bar Friends” remains the single, but the trio has issued a new video to go with this romantic, zesty country rocker. All three men sing it with gusto.
THE CADILLAC THREE / “Get After It”
Writers: Jaren Johnston/Neil Mason/Zach Kale; Producer: Jaren Johnston; Label: Big Machine Records
— I still don’t hear this rock band as a “country” act.
JAKE HOOT / “Night Left”
Writers: Jake Hoot/Danny Myrick/Kylie Sackley; Producer: Danny Myrick; Label: INgrooves/Deluge Music
— The Voice winner tries on some Southern-rock duds, and they fit him just fine. Deep fried guitars and soulful shouting characterize this raising-hell party stomper.
CASH CREEK & LARRY STEWART / “Hard Time”
Writers: Larry Stewart/Michael Noble/Tim DuBois; Producer: none listed; Label: MCM
— I like the steady thump and the catchy melody of this, but the mix is weird with the vocals sounding strangely muffled.
TRAVIS DENNING / “Jack and Coke”
Writers: Travis Denning/CJ Solar/Chris Stevens; Producer: Jeremy Stover; Label: Mercury Nashville
— The lyric has fun mixing the name of a cocktail with a nursery rhyme (Jack and Jill). The track rolls along sympathetically while Travis emotes expressively about a failed relationship. The super clever “ABBY” remains the single, but if you want another sample of his fine upcoming album, here ya go.
CHARLEY CROCKETT / “I Need Your Love”
Writers: Charley Crockett/Mark Neill; Producer: Mark Neill; Label: Son of Davy/Thirty Tigers
— This could be from the soundtrack of American Graffiti. It’s an old-school r&b slow dance, complete with brass accents, bluesy guitar and triplet rhythms. All served up with a countrified Texas accent. This guy is the Real Deal.