Sunday is Mother’s Day, and country music has its soundtrack.
Dalton Dover, Ernest, Veronique Medrano, Rebecca Lynn Howard and Honey County are all releasing singles that relate to this holiday. For her Tex-Mex entry, Veronique Medrano wins the DisCovery Award. I don’t understand Spanish, but she comes through loud and clear anyhow.
There are some pretty amazing performances in this week’s column. Luke Combs and the Shy Carter/Caitlyn Smith duet are both essential listening experiences. So is the extraordinary “21 Forever” by Chris Janson, Dolly Parton and Slash. It wins the Disc of the Day.
HONEY COUNTY / “Got It From My Mama”
Writers: Kalie Shorr/Dani Rose/Maks Gabriel/Hillary Reynolds/Sofie Lynn ; Producers: Maks Gabriel/John Spiker; Label: Honey County
– This manages the tricky feat of being trippy and danceable while also having heart and meaning. The swirling beats are charming, and the sentiment is poignant. Happy Mother’s Day, y’all.
SHY CARTER & CAITLYN SMITH / “How Did You Sleep”
Writers: Blake Anthony Carter/Caitlyn Smith/Bryan Simpson; Producers: Shy Carter/Caitlyn Smith; Label: Warner Music Nashville
– These two sound great together. Her soprano harmony voice is flawless, and he invests every note of his vocal with emotion. The lyric of bitter reproach is penetrating, and their duet delivery has you hanging on every line. I’m into this one.
LUKE BRYAN / “But I Got a Beer in My Hand”
Writers: Chase McGill/Matt Dragstrem/Geoff Warburton; Producers: Jeff Stevens/Jody Stevens; Label: Capitol Records
– This lively bopper is produced with rousing oomph. He should be broken hearted, but instead he’s in party-hearty mode. Sounds like summer energy.
REBECCA LYNN HOWARD / “I Am My Mother”
Writers: Rebecca Lynn Howard/Jamie Floyd/Rachel Thibodeau/Carolyn Dawn Johnson; Producer: Rebecca Lynn Howard; Label: Rebecca Lynn Howard
– I have always loved this artist. Her Mother’s Day sentiment is a heart tugger, as is attested by such celeb endorsers as Lee Brice, Patty Loveless, Ricky Skaggs and Charlie Worsham.
CHRIS JANSON, DOLLY PARTON & SLASH / “21 Forever”
Writers: Chris Janson/Tommy Cecil/Tom Douglas; Producers: Julian Raymond/Chris Janson/Scott Borchetta; Label: BMLG Records
– Yes, it’s a sensational collaboration. But the song is so awesome and powerful that it doesn’t need any guest stars at all. That said, Janson turns in the finest vocal of his career to date, and I’ll go to my grave loving Dolly. Hang on for the extended, breath-taking Slash guitar solo at the coda. A magnificent recording.
VERONIQUE MEDRANO / “Que Hueva!”
Writers: Veronique Michelle Medrano/Mariano Herrera; Producers: Veronique Michelle Medrano/Mariano Herrera; Label: Veronique Medrano
– This bi-lingual Tejano artist takes an aggressive feminist stance here, speaking out forcefully for self-determination and pro-choice and against our government’s war on women. The zippy, accordion-accented Mexicali track sounds happy, but she means business as a badass woman. Apparently, there’s an uncensored version coming, but I don’t speak Spanish, never mind understanding its cuss words. In this release timed for Mother’s Day, Medrano reminds us, “Ser una mujer es todo una guerra (Being a woman is constantly having to go to battle).” A joyous, Latina rallying cry.
LUKE COMBS / “Fast Car”
Writer: Tracy Chapman; Producers: Luke Combs/Chip Matthews/Jonathan Singleton; Label: River House Artists/Columbia Nashville
– Tracy Chapman won a 1988 Grammy with this timeless tune. Combs sets his usual belting-vocal style aside to give the song the folkie spin it needs. In doing so, he brings out the lyric’s blue-collar power. It’s one more reason why this guy deserves his superstardom.
DALTON DOVER / “I Wouldn’t Be Here”
Writers: Dalton Dover/Russell Sutton/Dan Isabell; Producer: Matthew McVaney; Label: Mercury Nashville
– Beautifully done. This is a heartfelt ode to the mother who loved him, believed in him, supported him and held him. “I am the man I am because you cared/And I wouldn’t be here, if you hadn’t been there.” It’s lump-in-throat time, folks. Partly because Dover, as always, is a brilliant country singer.
JASON ALDEAN / “Tough Crowd”
Writers: Kurt Allison/Marv Green/Tully Kennedy/Kelley Lovelace/Neil Thrasher; Partner: Michael Knox; Label: Broken Bow Records
– Lotsa volume and electric guitars here. Amid the noise, he sings of the throngs who pack his shows every night.
ERNEST / “Takes After You”
Writers: Ernest Keith Smith/Jordan Schmidt/Josh Thompson; Producer: Joey Moi; Label: Big Loud Records
– This Mother’s Day gift is a wish that his son will have the attributes of his mom, rather than the singer’s own imperfections. Very loving.
CODY BELEW / “Charlene”
Writer: Cody Belew; Producer: Dustin Ransom; Label: Visionary
– This forcefully sung, gospel-flavored ballad was written as a response to a woman who told him he couldn’t go to Heaven because he was gay. Belew is an outspoken member of country music’s LGBTQ community and wrote a Tennessean op ed last Sunday about religion being used as a weapon of intolerance.
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