What a dandy day—so many favorite artists all in one playlist.
I’ve been smiling throughout this listening sessions as I sample the latest from Rodney Crowell, Ashley McBryde, Marty Stuart and our Disc of the Day winners, Brothers Osborne.
The icing on the cake was the presence of several of my new faves—Jordyn Shellhart, Tyler Booth, Ian Munsick and Alex Hall.
Offering his disc debut is Jake Ybarra, who earns a DisCovery Award.
TYLER BOOTH / “Bring on the Neon”
Writers: Tyler Booth/Jamey Johnson/Jeremy Popoff; Producer: Beau Bedford; Label: Sony
– Superb. This instant-classic country weeper simmers in piano and steel while Booth’s always-awesome baritone delivers the emotional goods. Regret and heartache have seldom sounded better. I remain a fan.
CIMARRON 615 / “High Lonesome Stranger”
Writers: Michael Alan Ward/Richard Alan Lonow; Producer: Cimarron 615; Label: KZZ
– Comprised of Bill Lloyd (of Foster & Lloyd, solo outings and Sky Kings fame) with former Poco members Tom Hampton, Rick Lonow, Michael Webb and Jack Sundrud, this all-star group takes its name from one of Poco’s best albums, Rose of Cimarron. The sound is stunningly accomplished, featuring creamy, SoCal, country-rock harmonies with bluegrassy instrumentation and heart-pumping rhythm. The lyric salutes country greats who were gone too soon. Hearty listening.
BROTHERS OSBORNE / “Nobody’s Nobody”
Writers: John Osborne/TJ Osborne/Mike Elizondo/Kendell Marvel; Producer: Mike Elizondo; Label: EMI
– Stately, stomping, scintillating, searing and sensational. The moody, drama-laden vocal unspools a message of inclusion for both sinners and saints. Meanwhile, the band flavors the piping-hot track with buzz-saw guitars, chant-like harmonies and pounding percussion. These guys always deliver in spades.
JORDYN SHELLHART / “When Something’s Gotta Give”
Writers: Jordyn Shellhart/Marc Beeson/Allen Shamblin; Producer: Cameron Jaymes; Label: Warner
– A wistful soprano vocal wafts in an echoey atmosphere while soft steel, brushed percussion and tinkling piano provide a gentle background. A sad, dreamy ballad that wraps you in a cooling blanket of melancholy mist.
BRETT YOUNG / “Dance With You”
Writers: Brett Young/Joran Minton/Jimmy Robbins; Producers: Dan Huff/Jimmy Harnen; Label: BMLG
– Presenting the wedding-dance song of 2023. Ultra romantic, but with just the right touch of rhythmic undertow. A keeper.
KARLEY SCOTT COLLINS / “Brain on Love”
Writers: Karley Scott Collins/Summer Overstreet/Cameron Bartolini/Liam Kevany; Producer: Dann Huff; Label: Sony
– Bluesy and very cool. The minor-key melody is a swirling pleasure. Her darkly compelling, drawling voice will stop you in your tracks. The lyric’s hook is wicked clever. I’m in.
MARTY STUART & HIS FABULOUS SUPERLATIVES / “Sitting Alone”
Writers: Marty Stuart; Producers: Marty Stuart/Mick Conley/Chris Scruggs/Harry Stinson/Kenny Vaughan; Label: Snakefarm
– Hall of Famer Stuart is poised to release his first album in six years next month. The collection’s advance tracks, so far, are its “Altitude” title tune, the jingle-jangle “Country Star” and this Byrds-y country rocker. It’s a rhythmic rural blacktop roller with a joyous and contemplative atmosphere. An audio carnival ride.
ALEX HALL / “Side Effects of the Heart”
Writers: Alex Hall/Pete Good/AJ Babcock/Josh Osborne; Producers: Alex Hall/Pete Good; Label: Monument
– Happiness, loneliness, crying, laughing, hurt, bliss. Yes, all of these are “Side Effects of the Heart,” as Mr. Hall so eloquently explains in this highly listenable outing. The guitar slinger takes some dandy extended solos, but on this go ‘round, his expressive singing is equally in the spotlight. This could be a star-making single.
ASHLEY McBRYDE / “The Devil I Know”
Writers: Ashley McBryde/Jeremy Stover/Bobby Pinson; Producer: Jay Joyce; Label: Warner
– The dynamic production brilliantly alternates crashing rock with processed, a cappella vocal passages. Snarling electric guitar, slapped percussion, nervous acoustic strumming, chant-like support vocals and wild audio frothing make this a heart-stopping listening experience. The lyric is just as riveting—she’s a bar fly who resists changing her wayward ways. This woman rules.
JAKE YBARRA / “BloodFire”
Writer: Jake Ybarra; Producer: William Gawley; Label: Charlotte Avenue
– Kinda rumbling, kinda rockabilly, kinda outlaw, kinda groovy. It’s a tempo tale of a hard-headed devil who’s running down the wrong highway. This promising single is from Ybarra’s debut album, Something In the Water, which dropped last week.
IAN MUNSICK / “White Buffalo”
Writers: Ian Munsick/Jeremy Spillman/Randy Montana; Producers: Jeremy Spillman/Ian Munsick; Label: Warner
– Very open-spaces and “Out West” sounding with an unmistakably ghostly vibe. This title tune of Munsick’s new album is a haunting heartbreak lament that soars. I love the falsetto coyote yips.
RODNEY CROWELL / “Loving You Is the Only Way to Fly”
Writers: Rodney Crowell/Sarah Buxton/Jedd Hughes; Producer: Jeff Tweedy; Label: New West
– One of our consummate songwriting craftsmen returns with an album titled The Chicago Sessions and this lilting, ear-catching, yearning single/video. Tweedy’s pristine production is marvelous, with layered acoustic instruments, “answering” backing vocals by cowriter Hughes and perfectly shadowed soprano harmony by cowriter Buxton. In addition, Crowell remains an enormously expressive singer. Yet another feather in an already much decorated cap.
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