It seems that we salute our music-industry veterans today.
Deborah Allen, Sammy Kershaw and The Beach Boys are here with new sounds. So is Randy Houser, whose comeback wins our Disc of the Day prize.
Texas is well represented, with Ray Wylie Hubbard, Parker McCollum (singing Strait), Charley Crockett and Miranda Lambert all checking in with worthy new projects. That is also the home state of our DISCovery Award winner, Catie Offerman.
PARKER McCOLLUM / “Carrying Your Love With Me”
Writers: Steve Bogard/Jeff Stevens; Producer: Jon Randall; Label: MCA
–McCollum salutes his hero George Strait with this revival of a 1997 chart topper. The youngster’s tenor voice brings out the yearning in the lyric beautifully. The session musicians’ instrumental coda is an extra delight.
MIRANDA LAMBERT / “Strange”
Writers: Miranda Lambert/Luke Dick/Natalie Hemby; Producers: Jon Randall/Luke Dick/Miranda Lambert; Label: RCA
–We can all relate. “Times like these make me feel strange.” The unsettling verses give way to a rollin,’ rollicking chorus: “Have a smoke, buy a round/Get on a jet going anywhere bound/Pick a string, sing the blues/Dance a hole in your shoes/Do anything to keep you sane.” Amen, sister.
CHRIS JANSON / “Keys to the Country”
Writers: Chris Janson/Dallas Davidson/Ashley Gorley/Zach Crowell; Producers: Zach Crowell/Chris Janson; Label: Warner
–It’s a blazing, high-octane performance that totally rocks. This record screams, “Spring is here” and “Turn it up.” Spin it until ya get dizzy.
LOCASH / “Beach Boys”
Writers: Chris Lucas/Preston Brust/Dallas Wilson/Jared Mullins/Brian Wilson/Mike Love; Producer: Cory Crowder; Label: BBR/Wheelhouse
–The vocal guests are veteran Beach Boys Mike Love and Bruce Johnson. The song is a mash up of “I Get Around” with some LoCash redneck verses. It’s a bit of an audio mess, but they mean well.
CHARLEY CROCKETT / “I Feel For You”
Writer: Jerry Reed; Producer: Billy Horton; Label: Son of Davy/Thirty Tigers
–Moody, bluesy and utterly captivating. With spare snare drumming and acoustic strumming as the underpinning, Crockett gives the heartbreak tale a smoky vocal magic. I dig this guy’s “Gulf and Western” sound.
RANDY HOUSER / “Note to Self”
Writers: Randy Houser/Ross Copperman/Casey Beathard/Bobby Pinson; Producers: Randy Houser/Blake Chancey; Label: Empire/Magnolia
–This man remains one of country music’s very finest vocalists. His return is most welcome, especially with such a strong song of regretful hindsight. His extraordinary voice is absolutely fierce as this hair-raising pile driver reaches its climax. Houser is booked to play the Ryman on Sunday (March 20).
CATIE OFFERMAN / “Happyland Trailer Park”
Writers: Catie Offerman/Joe Clemmons/Rodney Clawson; Producer: Dann Huff; Label: MCA
–Lend this newcomer your ears. The Texas twanger takes us on a jingle-jangle, country-rock cruise on her disc debut. It’s a wind-in-your-hair pleasure trip. Tow an Airstream down the highway until you get to the title destination.
SAMMY KERSHAW / “Honky Tonk Boots”
Writers: Billy Don Bruns/Scott Blackwell; Producer: Buddy Cannon; Label: White Mustang
–Stone cold country, designed for two-stepping. Old-school, and proud of it.
MAGGIE ROSE / “Two Arms to Hold Onto”
Writers: Chris Gelbuda/Don Hart/Maggie Rose; Producers: Don Hart/Chris Gelbuda; Label: MR/Orchard
–Maggie is a dynamite talent as a blue-eyed soul singer. On this lustrous wish for love, she claims her turf as a country queen. The ear-tickling production sports strings as well as twang. She introduced the song at the Opry last Saturday, and charmed everyone in sight. I remain an immense fan.
ZAC BROWN BAND / “Out in the Middle”
Writers: Ben Simonetti/Jonathan Singleton/Luke Combs/Zac Brown; Producers: Ben Simonetti/Zac Brown; Label: Warner
–This band doesn’t know how to make a record that isn’t hooky. This song is another one of those redneck-fantasy lyrics about swimming holes, gravel roads and rural partying after a hard-working week. But they sing it with such gusto, you buy it all over again.
DEBORAH ALLEN / “Patsy Cline Crazy”
Writers: Deborah Allen/Margaret Phillips; Producer: Deborah Allen; Label: Audium/BFD
–Allen sings with oomph and passion on this clever ballad. The lyric name checks 25 country classics (I counted) and along the way manages to sound like an instant classic, itself. Very cool.
RAY WYLIE HUBBARD & BAND OF HEATHENS / “Desperate Man”
Writers: Eric Church/Ray Wylie Hubbard; Producer: none listed; Label: Big Machine
–Hubbard’s second album of collaborations drops tomorrow (March 18). It features the eclectic Texas troubadour warbling with Steve Earle, Willie Nelson, Wade Bowen, Wynonna, Randy Rogers and Hays Carll, plus such unlikely collaborators as Toto’s Steve Lukather, Heart’s Nancy Wilson, metal rocker Lizzy Hale, Ringo Starr and the Shiny Soul Sisters. The single is Hubbard’s drawling treatment of the 2018 hit he wrote with Eric Church. I’ve always loved this rumpled, honest fellow.
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