Diversity is the name of the game today at DISClaimer.
You’ll find soul singing, gospel energy, country ballads and pop boppers on the menu. Four Black performers and four women are here to defy country music’s white-male dominance.
Stars like Brett Young, Miranda Lambert and Thomas Rhett are mixed with the newer sounds of Karley Scott Collins, Fancy Hagood and our DISCovery Award winner, Jelly Roll.
The Disc of the Day goes to living legend Willie Nelson. If you’d rather give the honor to a different, authentically country Texan, you couldn’t do any better than Wade Bowen.
JELLY ROLL / “Son of a Sinner”
Writers: Ernest Keith Smith/David Ray Stevens/Jason Deford; Producers: Ilya Toshinskiy/Ernest Keith Smith; Label: Stony Creek/BBR
–Very compelling. He’s gripped by substance abuse, but still has a grasp on righteousness. The vocalist’s hoarse, urgent delivery grips you by the throat while the echoey, suppressed boil in the production creates an emotional undertow. This is magnetic, star-making stuff.
MIRANDA LAMBERT / “Actin’ Up”
Writers: Jon Randall/Luke Dick/Miranda Lambert; Producers: Jon Randall/Luke Dick/Miranda Lambert; Label: Sony
–This new track finds our female superstar indulging in some real audio creativity. The spare, loopy track wobbles in echo and twang while she drawls the artfully crafted lyric of rebellion. If this is any indication, her upcoming Palomino album is shaping up to be a monster. Anticipation builds.
FANCY HAGOOD / “Bored”
Writers: Fancy Hagood/Alysa Vanderheym; Producer: Alysa Vanderheym; Label: Concord
–Don’t be put off by the acoustic, underproduced beginning. As the band kicks in, he muses about all the things we do to keep from facing our realities. We might lose our way, but there’s always a way to come back. Nashville has a large recovery community, and this could be its anthem.
THE KENTUCKY GENTLEMEN / “Alcohol”
Writers: Brandon Campbell/Chris Sligh/Derek Campbell/Paul Wrock; Producer: none listed; Label: TKG
–Finger snaps and bluesy accompaniment are the underpinnings of this groove-soaked, semi-humorous heartbreak tune about numbing your pain with you-know-what. This twin-brother duo from the Blue Grass State continues to impress. Keep it coming, guys, I’ve loved all three tracks I’ve heard so far.
WILLIE NELSON / “Tower of Song”
Writer: Leonard Cohen; Producer: Buddy Cannon; Label: Legacy
–Beautiful and haunting. Cannon’s production is exquisite: A bass thumps softly, an electric guitar twangs gently and Mickey Raphael’s harmonica blows mournfully as the master vocalist unspools this stunning Leonard Cohen ballad. This poetic, breathtaking performance will stop you in your tracks. The album it is drawn from, A Beautiful Time, will be out on April 30, the date of Willie’s 89th birthday.
KARLEY SCOTT COLLINS / “Tattoos”
Writers: Karley Scott Collins/Brock Berryhill/Brett James; Producer: Nathan Chapman; Label: Sony
–Her burlap-and-velvet voice has a deliciously husky quality. This power ballad is punctuated by a searing electric-guitar solo, but it’s her riveting delivery of the scarred-by-love lyric that you’ll remember.
BRELAND & THOMAS RHETT / “Praise the Lord”
Writers: Daniel Breland/David Garcia/Jacob Durrett/Jessie Jo Dillon/Julian Bunetta/Kyle Fishman/Michael Hardy/Rocky Block/Thomas Rhett; Producers: Julian Bunetta/Kyle Fishman/Jacob Durrett; Label: Bad Realm/Atlantic/Warner
–Gospel energy abounds here. The burbling, hand-clapping track is a joyous banger, and Breland’s performance bursts with youthful exuberance. Rhett comes in with just as much enthusiasm.
CARL RAY / “Moments Like This”
Writers: Jacky Jack White/Carl Ray; Producer: Greg Cole; Label: Sucarnochee
–Previously noted for his “I Can See Clearly Now” tribute to his Houston mentor Johnny Nash and for his album Play That Country Music Black Boy in 2021, Carl Ray (Williams) offers a poignant ballad here. Steeped in steel guitar, it has a traditional country vibe, yet his performance has an unmistakably modern edge. The sweet, super-positive lyric is about savoring love, family and serenity.
ASHLEY COOKE & BRETT YOUNG / “Never Til Now”
Writers: Ashley Cooke/Matt Roy; Producer: Jimmy Robbins; Label: Big Loud
–Wonderfully romantic. This was previously an Ashley solo track, but the addition of Young lifts it into the stratosphere. Their vocal blend is extraordinary. The swirling song could easily find its way into wedding celebrations.
VALERIE JUNE / “Use Me”
Writers: Valerie June/Jennifer Decilveo; Producer: Jennifer Decilveo; Label: Fantasy
–The dreadlocked, genre-defying Valerie June mixes Memphis soul, jaunty pop, New Orleans brass and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” country quotes on this dazzling outing. She earned an Americana Grammy nomination last year, and this sounds like it could be on the same path. Marvelously eclectic.
WADE BOWEN / “Phones Don’t Work”
Writers: Wade Bowen/Aaron Raitiere/Rhett Akins; Producer: Paul Moak; Label: Thirty Tigers
–Here is a steadfast, real-country Texan I’ve always admired. This rolling, yearning track finds him on a quest to find someplace in the great outdoors where she can’t get to him. I got lost in its many pleasures. A perfect performance. Wade’s sold-out showcase last month in Nashville’s Exit/In featured guests Miranda Lambert, Leroy Parnell, Rhett Akins and Charlie Worsham. The rest of you need to get on board, too.
JAMESON RODGERS / “Porch With a View”
Writers: Jake Mitchell/Brent Anderson/Hunter Phelps/Jameson Rodgers; Producers: Jake Mitchell/Chris Farren; Label: Sony
–This track from Jameson’s album Bet You’re From a Small Town is a country boy’s dream of buying a place in the country. As always, he’s as country as grits.