Today, we shower country record makers with a plethora of praises.
The award for Best Drinking Song goes to Adam Doleac. The honor for Best Comeback belongs to Pat Green. The Best Performance By a Superstar salute goes to Kenny Chesney. Best Production is Caitlyn Smith. Best Song is Tom Douglas. Elvie Shane gets the Best Rocker prize. Rayne Johnson wins the Best Topical Record award.
Returning to our traditional DISClaimer honors, the Disc of the Day goes to Eddie Montgomery & Tanya Tucker for their fiery duet. Happy listening.
CAITLYN SMITH / “High”
Writers: Caitlyn Smith/Miley Cyrus/Jennifer Erin Decilveo; Producer: Caitlyn Smith; Label: Monument
–Her earth-shaking vocal performance is backed by booming percussion, dancing fiddle and a celestial choir. Originally recorded by Miley on her Plastic Hearts CD, Smith reclaims the song by self-producing this whisper-to-scream epic. The definition of power ballad, this single confirms the widely admired songwriter’s status as a first-rate record maker. This gal has the goods in every department.
MORGAN WADE / “Run”
Writers: Morgan Wade/Sadler Vaden; Producer: Sadler Vaden; Label: Sony
–A repeated guitar figure and steady-state percussion hypnotize you. Then she lays on the drama of escaping from a bad relationship and finding freedom. Her hurtin’ vocal is an emotional bullseye. I remain a fan.
ELVIE SHANE / “County Roads”
Writers: Dan Couch/Elvie Shane/Oscar Charles; Producer: Oscar Charles; Label: Wheelhouse/BBR
–Elvie bites off a piece of snarling country rock, chews it well and sends it south. It’s about growing up wild and restless, learning about life and love on the streets. The pounding track will have you pumping your fist in the air, and his vocal performance will have you shouting, “Amen!” If this ain’t a smash, there’s no justice.
EDDIE MONTGOMERY & TANYA TUCKER / “Higher”
Writers: Jim “Moose” Brown/David Wade/Shane Grove/Erik Michael Westfall; Producers: Noah Gordon/Shannon Houchins; Label: Average Joes
–These two strike twin vocal matches and burn this duet to the ground. It sounds like neither one held anything back as they created this romantic inferno. Fierce and forceful from start to finish. Applause, applause, applause.
RAYNE JOHNSON / “Who-Dey Nation”
Writers: Eliot Sloan/Joe Jordan/Ronnie Vaughn/Kevin Fox/Michael Star/Greg Jackson; Producers: Mark Liggett/Jerry Lane/Ronnie Vaughn; Label: Mountain Road/Verge
–It’s official: The Bengals now have a bona fide anthem. It’s a smashing, crashing fusion of rock guitars, hip-hop beats and hillbilly sass. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I know where my heart is gonna be on Super Bowl Sunday. Rock on, Rayne.
BRANTLEY GILBERT / “How to Talk to Girls”
Writers: Brantley Gilbert/Brock Berryhill/Brian Wayne Davis/Brandon Day/Chase McGill/Josh Phillips/Michael Ray/Taylor Phillips; Producers: Brock Berryhill/Brantley Gilbert; Label: Valory
–Very nice. This artist has always excelled at the softer ballads, and this one is a pip. He knows how to ask for dates and how to use a good bar pick-up line. But when it comes down to the serious moment of asking her to be his bride, he’s tongue tied. And when it comes to talking to his daughter, he’s at a loss for words.
PAT GREEN / “Miles and Miles of You”
Writers: Jon Randall/John Scott Sherrill; Producer: Dwight A. Baker; Label: Empire
–Finally! This million-selling Texas fave hasn’t issued a new collection since 2015. Here’s the title tune of his comeback album, a gorgeous romantic ballad with wave-on-wave of echoey atmosphere and liquid ripples of mandolin. A welcome return.
KENNY CHESNEY / “Everyone She Knows”
Writers: Shane McAnally/Ross Copperman/Josh Osborne; Producers: Kenny Chesney/Ross Copperman; Label: Warner
–A steady thump and ringing guitars lead you into this toe-tapping ode of female independence. “She’s stuck between being 17 and everyone she knows.” This gal wants nothing to do with marriage, babies, sobriety and settling down. She enjoys the freedom of being single on Saturday night, even though the boys bore her and the men are too old. A portrait of a character you’re bound to love, sung by a master storyteller.
ADAM DOLEAC / “Drinkin’ It Wrong”
Writers: Adam Doleac/Cary Barlowe/Jordan Schmidt; Producer: Jordan Schmidt; Label: Arista
–This is a boatload of fun. The rump-shaking percussion and scampering banjo let you know you’re in for a good time on this rollicking rocker. If you’re still thinking about your worries and your work, you’re drinkin’ it wrong sez this hearty-sounding merry maker. The party anthem is a delightful change of pace for the newcomer.
IAN MUNSICK & CODY JOHNSON / “Long Live Cowgirls”
Writers: Ian Munsick/Aby Guitierrez/Phil O’Donnell; Producers: Ian Munsick/Jared Conrad; Label: Warner
–It’s a slow waltz with weaving fiddles and a languid mood. The singers swap verses in praise of the brave ladies of the west. Gently persuasive.
TOM DOUGLAS / “Van Gogh”
Writers: Tom Douglas/Allen Shamblin; Producers: Andy Skib/Alyson McAnally; Label: Monument
–This track teases a documentary titled Love, Tom that will start streaming on Paramount+ on Feb. 24. The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member is joined on its soundtrack album by some of the folks who have made his works come to life (Miranda, Tim, Collin, Lady A, Chris Janson). But he’s singing solo here. Accompanied by sighing harmonica, he advises courage in the face of adversity. When you pour your heart into your work and they reject you, persevere. Soul piercing, touching and true.