I sense that somehow we are in the midst of a big shift of the country landscape, with more new talent being injected into the format than is usual.
With that in mind, note that Kat & Alex, Mitchell Tenpenny, Robyn Ottolini and Morgan Evans continue to make sonic waves. Adding to the energy is the stone-country Randall King, who wins this week’s DisCovery Award.
The supremely gifted Eric Church has won more Disc of the Day awards in this column than any other artist. I’d give him another one today, but for the fact that it seems like he needs to share at this point. So give the prize to the lovely sentiments being expressed by Jordan Davis with Luke Bryan along for the ride.
KAT & ALEX / “You and the Radio”
Writers: Jordan Minton/Mark Trussell/Robyn Collins; Producer: Brad Hill; Label: Sony Music Nashville
— It’s a rockin’ country summer jam. Alex, a Puerto Rican, sings lead. Kat, a Cuban American, provides sprightly vocal harmony. You’ll tap your toes to the snappy beats.
MIDLAND / “Sunrise Tells the Story”
Writers: Jess Carson/Jessi Alexander/Aaron Raitiere; Producer: Dann Huff/Shane McAnally/Josh Osborne; Label: Big Machine Records
— A steel cries in the distance as the trio moans this slow honky-tonk waltz. The harmonies are solid and the mood is just right.
MITCHELL TENPENNY / “Truth About You”
Writers: Mitchell Tenpenny/Matt Alderman/Thomas Archer; Producer: Jordan M. Schmidt/Mitchell Tenpenny; Label: Sony Music Nashville
— It’s a breakup song with a hushed, whispery delivery that catches your ear and makes you pay attention. The screaming electric guitar on the backing track is distracting and unnecessary.
MORGAN EVANS / “Love Is Real”
Writers: Morgan Evans/Jordan Reynolds/Parker Welling; Producer: Dann Huff; Label: Warner Music Nashville
— This zippy, peppy, ultra-positive country rocker takes a page or two from the Keith Urban playbook. Which is to say, it is sugary ear candy.
ROBYN OTTOLINI / “Tell You Everything”
Writers: Robyn Ottolini/Jesse Slack; Producer: Erik Fintelman/Mark Schroor; Label: Warner Music Nashville
— The somewhat tedious “F-150” remains the single, but this new release from her EP suggests that she is holding back some of her best stuff. The bright, aware lyric has lots of verve, and the track boasts tempo shifts, cool echoey touches and a complex, layered mix that are all quite involving.
ERIC CHURCH / “Heart on Fire”
Writers: Eric Church; Producer: Jay Joyce; Label: EMI Records Nashville
— Oh yeah! A little Bruce, a little Elvis, a little Skynyrd, a little Seger and a whole lotta rump shakin’ goodness. This rollicking rocker is one more example why the Chief stands head and shoulders above just about everyone else in this format. Turn it up and lose yourself in its soulfulness.
RANDALL KING / “Record High”
Writers: Drake Milligan/John Pierce/Rodney Clawson; Producer: Bart Butler/Ryan Gore; Label: Warner Music Nashville
— This dude is a for-real country singer, and this rhythm-happy Texas honky tonker stakes a for-real claim to stardom.
JORDAN DAVIS & LUKE BRYAN / “Buy Dirt”
Writers: Jordan Davis/Jacob Davis/Josh Jenkins/Matt Jenkins; Producer: Paul DiGiovanni; Label: MCA Nashville
— Words of wisdom from a fictional octogenarian set to a shimmering, sterling-silver audio track. Terrific truthful lyric. The two voices blend beautifully. I’m in.
THE CADILLAC THREE / “Bridges”
Writers: Frank Rogers/Jaren Johnston/Neil Mason; Producer: The Cadillac Three; Label: Big Machine Records
— While certainly novel and ear catching, this has nothing to do with country music.
KANE BROWN & BLACKBEAR / “Memory”
Writers: Kane Brown/Matthew Musto/Andrew Goldstein/Joe Kirkland/Ernest Smith; Producer: none listed; Label: RCA
— Although Brown is coming off a No. 1 country hit (”Famous Friends” with Chris Young), this hip hopper is being correctly marketed as a Top-40, pop-music effort. Brown has previously successfully collaborated with Marshmello and with Swae Lee & Khalid, so this effort with Musto a.k.a. blackbear suits him just fine.
BILLY CRASH CRADDOCK / “Paint Your Toes”
Writers: Billy Crash Craddock/David Wade/Mary Beth Stone; Producer: David Wade; Label: ONErpm
— He’s 82 years old now, but this rockabilly veteran still has rhythm in his heart. Very much in the mode of his classic “Rub It In,” this is a very cute little outing.
FIREROSE & BILLY RAY CYRUS / “New Day”
Writers: Billy Ray Cyrus/Firerose; Producer: none listed; Label: Repost
— Firerose is an Aussie-born singer-songwriter now based in L.A. She and Billy Ray co-wrote this on Zoom during the quarantine. It’s a hypnotic, swirling, dreamy confection, underpinned by echoey synths and slow, thumpy beats. I can hear this becoming a big pop hit. After all, he’s done it before.
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