Today’s country survey is dominated by our mainstream male up-and-comers, but the award winners come from left field.
From our enduringly creative songwriting community comes a stellar effort by Warner singer-songwriter Brandy Clark, who wins the Disc of the Day. Also representing this population is today’s Luke Laird release.
From outer space—or somewhere in Florida—comes Will Thompson, who is a triumphant DisCovery Award winner.
Also in the mix are two baseball tunes belonging to Bryan Ruby and Grant Gilbert, two star-confirming performances belonging to Randall King and Tyler Rich and two fine female-duo outings belonging to Tigirlily Gold and Rissi Palmer with Miko Marks.
WILL THOMPSON / “Checklist”
Writers: Ashley Watson/William Paul Grant Thompson; Producer: Will Thompson; Label: Will Thompson Music
– Full stop. Proceed no further. Go to YouTube. RIGHT NOW. This song and performance are priceless hilarity. It’s a brilliant satire of current country songwriting, the gist being that you can follow a checklist to write a hit. Ripe for skewering are hometown, boots, beer, county line, neon sign, dirt roads, bonfire, tailgate, back roads, whiskey, American flag, huntin’ & fishin,’ football game and more. “Sound just like a rap song,” Thompson advises. To write “The anthem of our lives….Words don’t even matter / Hit the chorus and they’ll sing along.” Furthermore, “Do auto tune / To make this a hit we need 10 writers in a room.” Oh, and wear sunglasses, get an accent, make your voice more gritty and “network in Nashville.” This thing is genius!
RISSI PALMER & MIKO MARKS / “Still Here”
Writers: Rissi Palmer/Miko Marks/Deanna L. Walker/Steve Wyreman/Justin Phipps; Producers: Steve Wyreman/Justin Phipps; Label: Rissi Palmer
– Palmer remains a shining light in the format with her “Color Me Country” radio series and a new American Masters: In the Making documentary on PBS. This anthem salutes the perseverance that her career illustrates. She’s been on the country scene since 2005, and as the song says, she’s still here. So is her duet partner, Miko Marks, who arrived around the same time. The two enduring country women of color are launching a historic tour together this year. They’ll be at City Winery on May 18.
BRANDY CLARK / “Buried “
Writers: Brandy Clark, Jessie Jo Dillon; Producer: Brandi Carlile; Label: Warner Records
– This is a stunning ballad of ache and loss by one of our greatest living country songwriters. Clark’s broken-hearted delivery is shadowed by gentle acoustic guitar plucking and soft vocal harmonies. Among the many brilliant touches in the writing is the artful placing of the song’s title as the song’s very last word. She is just so awesome. It’s an advance track from her forthcoming fourth album. With Shane McAnally, Clark is also the cowriter of the Broadway musical Shucked, which opens in New York on April 4. Last Sunday’s New York Times had an extensive piece about it.
BRANDON DAVIS / “Jesus and Jesse James”
Writers: Richard Brandon Davis, Clay Mills, Peter Daniel Newman; Producer: Daniel Agee; Label: Big Yellow Dog
– The country outlaw sentiment is fine, but the production is kinda thin. A little percussive bite would help.
TYLER RICH/ “I Know You Do”
Writers: Tyler Rich/Jaron Boyer/Micah Wilshire; Producer: Jaren Johnston; Label: The Valory Music Co.
– I like the reverb-twang guitar licks and the muffled thump in the percussion. As always, he’s a model country singer with plenty of heart-in-throat sincerity. The lyric of a loving yet complex relationship is a winner. In fact, it is his best yet.
ZAC BROWN BAND / “Paint It Black”
Writers: Mick Jagger/Keith Richards; Producer: Robert Deaton, Danny Rader; Label: Broken Bow Records
– The new Rolling Stones tribute CD Stoned Cold Country has a number of highlights. This is one of ‘em, since it gives this usually mellow band some rock edge. A beloved classic, thoroughly revived. Play it.
ANDREW JANNAKOS / “Meet My Maker”
Writers: Andrew Jannakos/Andrew Albert/Karen Kosowski/Emma-Lee; Producer: Derek Wells; Label: RCA Nashville
– “Ain’t no church like nature,” he sings in this wafting, lovely, pastoral ode. Amen, bro.
BRYAN RUBY / “Baseball Country “
Writers: Bryan Ruby/Chad Albert Sellers/Shane David Smith; Producers: Smith Curry; Label: Rubies In The Rough Music
– Play ball! Today is opening day in the major leagues. Ruby has crafted a rocking anthem designed for blasting over ballpark loudspeakers while teams take the field. He’s been professional ballplayer, himself, so he knows just how to get the dugout riled up.
GRANT GILBERT / “Take Me Out to the Bar”
Writers: Grant Gilbert/Brad Clawson/Blake Bollinger; Producers: Jonathan Singleton; Label: River House Artists
– Our second baseball-themed single of the week is just as dandy as “Baseball Country.” Gilbert’s got a busted heart, so he adopts the 1908 chestnut “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” as his new anthem, with re-written lyrics. The seventh-inning stretch was never so honky-tonking and fun.
RANDALL KING / “Green Eyes Blue”
Writers: Randall King/Randy Montana; Producers: Jared Conrad; Label: Warner Music Nashville
– One of my favorite current neo-traditionalists is back with a highly listenable romantic meditation. Deep-twang guitar and sighing steel back him as he muses about leaving his wild ways behind to fall in love. I remain a fan.
LUKE LAIRD, LORI McKENNA & BARRY DEAN / “Give Me Back My Hometown”
Writers: Luke Laird/Eric Church; Producers: Luke Laird/Lori McKenna/Barry Dean; Label: CN Records
– These three Music Row songwriting champs are issuing a collection called The Songwriter Tapes containing their versions of mega hits they’re written for others. The advance track is Laird’s gentle-voiced rendition of a hit he cowrote with the great Eric Church. He lacks the superstar’s fire and vocal charisma, but the soft, echoey production throws a real spotlight on the song’s marvelous lyrics.
TIGIRLILY GOLD / “Blonde”
Writers: Scott Stepakoff/Alex Kline/Kendra Jo Slaubaugh/Krista Jade Slaubaugh; Producers: Alex Kline; Label: Monument Records
– The feisty sister duo struts a sassy pace on the title tune of their new EP. Packed with delightful attitude, cool beats, tight harmonies, a Dolly shout-out and gal-pal sing-alongs. Highly recommended.
- DISClaimer Single Reviews: Tim McGraw Delivers ‘Downright Inspirational’ New Track - November 30, 2023
- Hit Producer & MGM Exec Jim Vienneau Dies At Age 97 - November 20, 2023
- DISClaimer Single Reviews: Mickey Guyton Gives ‘A Thrilling Take’ On Tina Turner Hit - November 16, 2023