It’s an all-female country roundup in this edition of DISClaimer.
Tanya Tucker, Brandy Clark and Joydyn Shellhart have the best songs. There are memories of Tina Turner and Olivia Newton John lingering in the air. Hannah Dasher, Harper Grace and Morgan Wade sound like stars in training.
If there’s a downside to all of this, it’s that this stack of releases is way ballad heavy. The two ear catching tempo tunes belong to Runaway June and to Carrie Underwood, who wins the Disc of the Day award.
To our list of DisCovery winners, add the name of the HuneyFire duo. They have all the spark needed to start a fire.
HARPER GRACE / “Oh Say Can You See”
Writers: Harper Grace/Alex Kline/Scott Stepakoff; Producers: Alex Kline/Tedd T; Label: Curb Records
– I am wild about her “Sparkle” debut single. This autobiographical ballad track is promise fulfilled. It’s an anti-bullying lyric addressed to her hurting, 11-year-old self. She tells herself that she’ll get off her knees and sing to crowds one day.
BRANDY CLARK & BRANDI CARLILE / “Dear Insecurity”
Writers: Brandy Clark/Michael Pollack; Producer: Brandi Carlile; Label: Warner Records
– Clark is firing on all cylinders this year. She is Tony nominated for the Shucked Broadway musical, and she has a new album produced by Americana superstar Brandi Carlile, who is her duet partner on this lilting ballad. Strings soar while the brilliant song craftswoman weaves her magic spell. Have I mentioned I also think that she is an awesome singer?
HUNEYFIRE / “Too Late for Sorry”
Writers: Cheaza Figueroa/Jason Pennock; Producers: Cheaza Figueroa/Jason Pennock; Label: Double Decades Entertainment
– This is an Afro-Latina mother-daughter country act. Both women sing the fire outta this torrid heartache ballad. They swap verses powerfully, but don’t actually harmonize, which is a disappointment. Mom Cheaza Figueroa is the daughter of former Ikette Barbara Cook, who danced and sang backing the late, great Tina Turner. Daughter Marriana Nevarez’s father Alfred Nevarez is a founding member of the hit pop group All-4-One (”I Swear,” “I Can Love You Like That”).
CARRIE UNDERWOOD / “Out of That Truck”
Writers: Carrie Underwood/David Garcia/Lydia Vaughan; Producers: David Garcia/Carrie Underwood; Label: Capitol Nashville
– Carrie rocks out on this defiant stomper addressed to her ex. She vows that no matter how hard he tries, he’ll never erase her memory from his truck, because they shared so much in it. A winner.
HANNAH DASHER / “Ugly Houses”
Writers: Hannah Dasher/Robert Arthur; Producer: Ilya Toshinskiy; Label: HD
– Delightful. I dig everything about this bodacious artist. What’s not to like? She has wit and charm and is as country as grits. She even has her own YouTube channel.
TANYA TUCKER / “When the Rodeo Is Over”
Writers: Billy Don Burns/Craig Dillingham/Brandi Carlile; Producers: Shooter Jennings/Brandi Carlile; Label: Fantasy
– Sad and wistful. Tucker pushes emotional buttons as she unspools the tale of a broken-down, wino cowboy who used to be a rodeo champ. This downbeat narrative ballad is what country music does best. Bless her for always having her heart in the right place. The new album is titled Sweet Western Sound. And it is.
MORGAN WADE / “Psychopath”
Writer: Morgan Wade; Producer: Sadler Vaden; Label: Ladylike Records/RCA Nashville
– The title tune of Wade’s sophomore album doesn’t sound like you might expect, given that it is such a emotionally charged word. Rather, it’s a lilting love song. Listen for yourself. I think you’ll dig it.
KELLY LANG & OLIVIA NEWTON JOHN / “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart”
Writers: Barry Gibb/Robin Gibb; Producer: Kelly Lang; Label: Primary Wave Music
– The late Olivia’s swan song was this duet with the lustrous Nashville vocalist Kelly Lang. The ultra melodic 1971 Bee Gees oldie sounds shimmering when they harmonize.
JORDYN SHELLHART / “Maybe Someday You’ll Have a Daughter”
Writers: Jordyn Shellhart/Courtney Dashe; Producer: Cameron Jaymes; Label: Warner Music Nashville
– When people ask me who I’m excited about these days, I tell them, “Jordyn Shellhart.” This extraordinary song is one reason why. In the lyric, she gives herself to a no-good guy who breaks her heart. Her loss of innocence, her abandonment and her pain spill out eloquently as she muses about his future. Her debut album is titled Primrose. I urge you to experience it.
KARLEY SCOTT COLLINS / “Hands on the Wheel”
Writers: Karley Scott Collins/Nathan Chapman/Natalie Hemby; Producers: Karley Scott Collins/Nathan Chapman; Label: Sony Music Nashville
– The title tune of her debut EP is a moody, bluesy and utterly compelling mid-tempo rush. Her gravely, aching voice grabs your attention and doesn’t let go. She’s drivin’ and cryin,’ trying to keep it between the lines as she speeds to heal a broken heart.
LORI McKENNA & HILLARY LINDSEY / “Killing Me”
Writers: Lori McKenna/Hillary Lindsey/Luke Laird; Producer: Dave Cobb; Label CN Records
– This has a charming, jingle-jangle quality. The track rumbles along merrily, but the lyric is anything but merry. “Would it kill you to be happy?/Because trying to make you happy is killing me.” She’s pretty miserable, folks, no matter what the rhythm section says.
RUNAWAY JUNE / “Make Me Wanna Smoke”
Writers: Jason Sellers/Ella Langley/Bobby Hamrick; Producer: Mickey Jack Cones; Label: Quartz Hill Records
– Jennifer Wayne, Natalie Stovall and Stevie Woodward romp their way through this thumping urban rocker with sass to spare. The relationship might be wrong, but she’s going for it anyway.
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