This productive listening session perfectly mixed country newcomers and stars.
In the latter category are fresh offerings from Blake Shelton, Dustin Lynch, Justin Moore, the Zac Brown Band and Dierks Bentley (with the James Barker Band). Also, our Disc of the Day winner, Luke Bryan.
Vying for newcomer attention are Walker County (again), Georgia Webster (again), Misty River, the James Barker Band and our DisCovery Award honoree Morgan Wade. Some folks might need to get over her tats-and-piercings visual presentation, but the proof is in the listening. The gal is gifted.
GEORGIA WEBSTER / “Box of Memories”
Writers: Georgia Webster; Producer: Paul DiGiovanni; Label: Sony/River House
— Audio heartbreak. Over steady, slow piano chords, she delivers a trembling, cracked, lovely ballad of loneliness and reflection. Promising.
LUKE BRYAN / “Up”
Writers: Jeremy Bussey/Taylor Phillips/Bobby Pinson; Producer: Jeff Stevens/Jody Stevens; Label: Capitol
—Beautifully produced, with airy, echoey space around Luke’s vocal. The melodic song holds snapshots of simple country living. Faith is the key. An endearing single with a new sonic direction for this superstar.
JAMES BARKER BAND & DIERKS BENTLEY / “New Old Trucks”
Writers: James Barker/Casey Brown/Hunter Phelps/Jordan Minton; Producer: Todd Clark; Label: Sony
—Rust, scratches, dents and debris are the patina that makes his ride special. A mid-paced country rocker with heart. Both artists sing with conviction here.
BLAKE SHELTON / “Come Back as a Country Boy”
Writers: Jordan Schmidt/Josh Thompson/Michael Hardy; Producer: Scott Hendricks; Label: Warner
—This redneck rocker is a stomping manifesto in that proud-to-be-country mode. Did I miss the chapter where it says that hillbillies believe in reincarnation?
MISTY RIVER / “Rain”
Writers: Carmen Phelan; Producer: Adam Morley; Label: MR
—This U.K. singer-songwriter-fiddler sings of better days to come on this sweet-sounding ditty. Her vocal is pitched too high, making her sound childlike and frilly.
ZAC BROWN BAND / “The Comeback”
Writers: Zac Brown/Wyatt Beasley Durrette III/Ray Fulcher/Ben Simonetti/Jonathan Singleton; Producer: Zac Brown/Ben Simonetti; Label: Warner
—I love how these guys are out there in their own musical space. Their harmonies slay me every time, as does Zac’s drawled countryboy phrasing. The band is enduringly great, and this uplifting anthem is directed at our collective love of our land.
MORGAN WADE/ “Wilder Days”
Writers: Morgan Wade/Sadler Vaden; Producer: Sadler Vaden & Paul Ebersold; Label: Arista
—A force to be reckoned with. I love the smoky quality in her voice and the smoldering ember of rock in the track. I wish she wasn’t compressed and double tracked, but this is a stunning debut nonetheless. There is a lot of truth in her younger-woman-older-man relationship lyric. She definitely has the “wow” factor and totally deserves instant stardom.
DUSTIN LYNCH & RILEY GREEN / “Huntin’ Land”
Writers: Dustin Lynch/Andy Albert/Hunter Phelps/Will Weatherly; Producer: Zach Crowell; Label: Broken Bow
—Really? He only loves her because her daddy has thousands of acres of hunting land in Kentucky? “Humor” delivered without humor.
WALKER COUNTY / “Liar”
Writers: David Garcia/Hillary Lindsey/Ivy Walker/Sophie Walker; Producer: David Garcia; Label: Warner
—This sassy sister duo (Ivy Dene and Sophie Dawn) is feisty and fierce on this cleverly written power waltz. She’s being saucy and devil-may-care, but it’s all an act because she’s still stuck on him. I love the rousing, in-your-face choruses. This rocks.
JUSTIN MOORE / “With a Woman You Love”
Writers: Justin Moore/Paul DiGiovanni/Chase McGill/Jeremy Stover; Producer: Jeremy Stover/Scott Borchetta; Label: Valory
—Delightfully country. Singing the praises of true love with twang to spare.
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