International Women’s Day occurred yesterday, so it’s fitting that the women of country music owned their genre in today’s DisClaimer.
Hitting it out of the park were Megan Moroney, Priscilla Block, Ashley McBryde and Kelsea Ballerini. The last two finished in a neck-and-neck finish for the Disc of the Day award with McBryde getting the edge because her track is a bona fide single, while Ballerini’s is a stunning TV performance. In any case, all four of these women are the Future.
That said, the DisCovery Award goes to a male singer-songwriter, Big Loud’s Larry Fleet.
JUSTIN MOORE / “Stray Dog”
Writers: Paul DiGiovanni, Randy Montana, Jeremy Stover, Justin Moore; Producesr: Jeremy Stover, Scott Borchetta; Label: Big Machine
– The duet with Priscilla Block remains the single. This is the title tune of the new album that contains it. It’s an “outlaw” anthem about being a free-spirit renegade. Electric guitars scream and drums pound, but it’s still as country as grits.
JOHN CARTER CASH / “Garden of Stone”
Writers: John Carter Cash; Producer: none listed, Label: JCC
– Somber, stately and meditative, this atmospheric ballad muses on death and the passage of time. Yet there is something warm and comforting about it. Cash’s soft, evocative delivery gets right up next to you.
ASHLEY McBRYDE / “Light on in the Kitchen”
Writers: Ashley McBryde/Connie Harrington/Jessi Alexander; Producer: Jay Joyce; Label: Warner Music Nashville
– Life advice, set to rippling guitars, shuffling percussion and tinkling mandolin. The singer carries strength and love with her everywhere, thanks to the support and wisdom of mama. Immensely tender and wonderfully listenable. I believed every word, and that’s the mark of a great country record.
RODNEY CROWELL, JEFF TWEEDY / “Everything at Once”
Writers: Rodney Crowell/Jeff Tweedy; Producer: Jeff Tweedy; Label: New West
– A gentle, hooky country rocker with an irresistible groove. The lyric asks us to stay sane in a world gone mad, or at least that’s what I got out of it. I do know one thing, if I made a record, I’d want Tweedy in the producer’s chair. A dandy listening experience.
WILLIE JONES / “No Tellin’”
Writers: none listed; Producers: none listed; Label: Sony
– It’s an invitation to a fling between two folks who are cheating on their significant others. With the assurance that they’ll keep it on the down low. The mood is country, the beats are hip hoppy and a melody is kind of suggested.
DAILEY & VINCENT / “If I Die A Drinkin’”
Writers: Vince Gill/Ashley Monroe; Producers: Paul Worley; Label: BMG
– The duo’s Let’s Sing Some Country! album finds them wandering off the bluegrass path and exploring honky-tonk territory, especially on this steel-soaked ballad. As always, Jamie Dailey’s vocal performance is simply breathtaking. He is one of the greatest country singers of this generation. This album is essential.
PRISCILLA BLOCK / “Couple Spring Breaks Back”
Writers: Priscilla Block/Randy Montana/Chris La Corte; Producers: Robbie Artress, Justin Johnson, Jake Curry; Label: UMG/InDent Records
– She recalls a happy drunken affair when they were young and free. The nostalgia is brilliantly conveyed in this extremely well written lyric. The oomphy production is a plus, as is her soaring delivery.
WILLIE NELSON / “I Don’t Know a Thing About Love”
Writers: Harlan Howard; Producers: Buddy Cannon; Label: Legacy
– Willie turns 90 next month, yet he’s still as vital a record maker as ever. His new album is I Don’t Know a Thing About Love, a tribute to the works of his songwriting contemporary Harlan Howard. Its title tune was a chart topper for Conway Twitty in 1984. Willie sounds totally at ease amid a stellar production of steel and thump in his remake. This is beyond cool.
MEGAN MORONEY / “Lucky “
Writers: Megan Moroney/Casey Smith/Ben Williams/David Mescon; Producer: Kristian Bush; Label: Sony Music Nashville
– This sprightly, barroom romp is the title tune of Megan’s debut album. It’s a two-stepper with a clever countrified take on loose morals. I have loved everything I have heard by this woman, and this is no exception
LARRY FLEET / “Daddy Don’t Drink”
Writers: Larry Fleet/Derek Bahr/Luke Laird; Producers: Joey Moi; Label: Big Loud Records
– Exquisitely written and sung with conviction. Daddy doesn’t drink anymore because the birth of his son turned his life around. Every line is a gem. Three chords and the truth, indeed.
PARKER McCOLLUM / “Rest of My Life”
Writers: Parker McCollum; Producers: Jon Randall; Label: MCA Nashville
– McCollum goes to the dark side in his scary, troubling video for this song about drug addiction. His depth as a writer seems to increase with every release. He’s an important artist. Lend him your ears.
KELSEA BALLERINI / “Penthouse”
Writers: Kelsea Ballerini/Alysa Vanderheym; Producers: Kelsea Ballerini/Alysa Vanderheym; Label: Black River Entertainment
– Ballerini’s appearance on Saturday Night Live last weekend was a triumph. On this post-divorce ballad she unveiled a dramatic, torchy side to her talent. Performing it with stark piano accompaniment, she owned the spotlight like never before. The song contains the line that named her new EP and its film short, Rolling Up the Welcome Mat.
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