Music City’s major labels yield to feisty, independent artists this week.
Despite the presence of strong singles by George Strait, Jon Langston, Maddie & Tae, Kassi Ashton and The Cadillac Three, the Lone Star State’s perennially popular Wade Bowen nails down the Disc of the Day award.
Also coming from indie left field is our DISCovery Award winner, the duo Muscadine Bloodline.
MUSCADINE BLOODLINE / “Dispatch to 16th Ave.”
Writers: Charlie Muncaster/Gary Stanton; Producer: Charlie Muncaster/Gary Stanton; Label: MB
— The duo sings of a country hopeful on Music Row who fails because he wouldn’t make conformist music. The harmonies are tight, and their band sounds sprightly. Recommended.
KASSI ASHTON / “Heavyweight”
Writers: Kassi Ashton/Luke Laird/Hillary Lindsey; Producer: Luke Laird/Kassi Ashton; Label: MCA Nashville/ Interscope
— Sultry and moody. She says she can take whatever heartbreak he wants to dish out. She won’t cry. She’ll fight. She’s tough. The whole thing is kinda cool, in a pop-country way.
THE CADILLAC THREE / “Devil’s Lettuce”
Writers: Jaren Johnston/Neil Mason; Producer: The Cadillac Three; Label: Big Machine
— In a word, strange. Is there such a thing as country psychedelia? This choppy, wacky, rhythm-soaked ditty waxes enthusiastic about homegrown weed. It’s more spoken than sung, and the drum track is more prominent than anything else. I have no idea what to do with this.
JON LANGSTON / “When You’re Lonely”
Writers: Jon Langston/Jody Stevens; Producer: Jody Stevens; Label: EMI
— This toe-tapping country rocker rolls along righteously as Langston unspools his bitter yarn. She calls him at 3 AM when she’s got nobody else to love her…. even though she already told him they have no future together. Radio ready.
JETT HOLDEN / “Taxidermy”
Writers: Jacques Landell Holden; Producer: none listed; Label: JH
— The arty lyric meanders somewhat on this wordy, passionate, heartbreak ballad. He sings with immense, intense fire. Vocally promising, but the songwriting needs to get tighter.
GEORGE STRAIT / “The Weight of the Badge”
Writers: George Strait/Bubba Strait/Dean Dillon; Producer: Chuck Ainlay/George Strait; Label: MCA
— Today is National First Responders Day. King George has the commemorative song, a lustrous ballad in a lovely production that mixes sighing fiddles and aching steel with heartfelt singing. Meditative and memorable.
WADE BOWEN / “When Love Comes Around”
Writers: Wade Bowen/Eric Paslay/Heather Morgan; Producer: Paul Moak; Label: Thirty Tigers
— This dirt-road Texas honky-tonker can always be counted on for country excellence. What he doesn’t usually do is upbeat, happy love tunes. Well, he does that here, and the result is splendidly uplifting, joyous and clap-hands catchy. Get up and twirl around the room.
MADDIE & TAE / “Madness”
Writers: Maddie Font/Taylor Kerr/Jessie Jo Dillon/Zach Kale; Producer: Jimmy Robbins/Derek Wells; Label: Mercury
— Airy and wafting, this audio dreamscape is about the enduring power of true love. Relaxing and gentle. Caressed by their sweet, close vocal harmonies.
JIMMY YEARY / “Angeline”
Writers: Jimmy Yeary/Billy Droze/Chris Myers; Producer: none listed; Label: RBR Entertainment
— Yeary is a big hit songwriter via such accomplishments as “I Drive Your Truck” (Lee Brice), “I Called Mama” (Tim McGraw), “I’m Gonna Love You Through It” (Martina McBride), “Till It’s Gone” (Kenny Chesney) and more. He’s also the lucky devil who’s married to the divine Sonya Isaacs. As if that’s not enough, he is a dandy bluegrass record maker. This frothy, lickety-split, dobro-laced, scampering-fiddle ditty is a hillbilly delight.
RAY STEVENS / “Hoochie Coochie Dancer”
Writers: C.W. Kalb, Jr.; Producer: Ray Stevens; Label: Curb
— The master of the novelty single is back with a charming outing about getting mugged after falling for a carny gal. Loved the backup ooohs and the talking-blues delivery. Cute and amusing.
ABBY ANDERSON / “Bad Posture”
Writers: Abby Anderson/Anna Vaus; Producer: Marshall Altman; Label: AA
— She’s singing with more guts than ever on this stately saga of a survivor: “Since you’ve been gone, I stand up straight.” In the ebb-and-flow production, the rippling piano notes are gradually augmented by an echoey, marching rhythm track. Definitely ear catching.
LILLI LEWIS / “My American Heart”
Writers: Lilli Lewis; Producer: none listed; Label: Louisiana Red Hot Records
— She sings marvelously, with a pleading soprano that can dip to a throaty, chesty tone. The wordy, well-meaning song wanders around in search of a hook.
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