We’re mixing it up with hard country, pop country, blues, rock and folk-pop in this edition of DISClaimer.
For real meat-and-potatoes country music, I prescribe Brennen Leigh, Thompson Square, Chase Matthew and Colby Acuff.
We have two excellent entries by Black country stylists this week. One is from a previous favorite, O.N.E. The Duo. The other comes from our DISCovery Award winner, Tae Lewis.
Towering above everybody else is the sublime single by Lee Brice, which earns the Disc of the Day prize.
TAE LEWIS / “Summer of 21”
Writers: Brian Alexander/Mary Kutter/Chris Sligh/Heath Warren/Tae Lewis; Producers: Taylor Bias/Lukas Scott Klingensmith; Label: Tae Lewis Music
– Nostalgia for that summertime beach romance with oomphy production to match his sterling, range-y, tenor-vocal performance. Best debut disc I’ve heard in ages. Lewis is one of the Black Opry talents.
JD DARLING / “1995”
Writer: Jonathan Darling; Producers: John Kennedy/JD Darling; Label: JD Darling
– He has an honest, slightly pitchy baritone, and the spare production is attractive. His song is kinda simplistic, sing-songy and overly wordy, but the overall listening experience goes down smoothly. He’s still on the amateur side of things. But keep him writing. He’s on the path.
LEE BRICE / “Save the Roses”
Writers: Lee Brice/Joe Leathers/Kyle Jacobs; Producers: Ben Glover/Kyle Jacobs; Label: Curb Records
– I love this man. He’s a song magnet who gets to me every time. Brice is a superb country singer who delivers a lyric like no one else in this business. In this case, it is a powerful, chesty elegy to the late songwriter Kyle Jacobs, and I promise it will hit you in your heart.
BRENNEN LEIGH / “I Ain’t Through Honky Tonkin Yet”
Writers: Brennen Leigh/John Scott Sherrill; Producer: Chris Scruggs; Label: Signature Sounds
– I’ve been a fan of this talented Texan for years. She is unashamedly country down to her fingertips, unafraid to bask in fiddles and steel while delivering songs of beers & tears. This is the title tune of her Nashville album, which drops June 16. On board in the CD’s cast are Rodney Crowell, Chris Scruggs and Marty Stuart. This exquisitely retro tune will make you want to grab a partner and two-step across that dance floor. To coin a phrase—This is music to my ears.
CHASE MATTHEW / “Where There’s Smoke”
Writers: Rodney Clawson/Alysa Vanderheym/Josh Miller/Jordan Reynolds; Producer: Alysa Vanderheym; Label: Warner Music Nashville/Chase Matthew Music
– Matthew’s new 25-song album arrives on June 9, but there’s already a lot to preview. Its single is “Love You Again.” The collection’s title tune is “Come Get Your Memory.” There’s a video of “County Line.” Yet another advance is this track marrying heartache and doubt with driving, top-down energy. Modern country with a twang.
DOLLY PARTON / “World on Fire”
Writer: Dolly Parton; Producer: Kent Wells; Label: Big Machine Records, LLC
– Dolly premiered this stomping, apocalyptic, thunderous call for love and unity on last week’s ACM awards show. She’s channeling Queen, U2 and Springsteen as she introduces us to her new rock personna. The chanted barn burner will be found on Rockstar, her 30-track, star-studded rock collection coming this fall. An audio revelation.
O.N.E. The Duo / “Hearts Like Mine”
Writers: Tekitha Washington/Prana Supreme Diggs/Rebecca Lynn Howard/Elisha Hoffman/Lincoln Morris; Producer: Dann Huff; Label: Visionary Media Group
– The mother-daughter team displays a glossy, melodic, pop-ish sound on this outing. Their wafting, gently harmonized, feminine bopper is simply lovely. It joins the video of “Feels Good” and last year’s “Stuck in the Middle” as advance tracks. All three songs are drawn from Blood Harmony, O.N.E. The Duo’s debut album, which drops Aug. 11.
RILEY GREEN & LUKE COMBS / “Different ‘Round Here”
Writers: Randy Montana/Jonathan David Singleton/Riley Green; Producer: Dan Huff, Jimmy Harnen; Label: BMLG Records
– Let’s see: So far, Mr. Green has released duets with Justin Moore, Thomas Rhett and Dustin Lynch. Now here’s another. This redneck anthem features country king Combs. It pre-supposes that their hometown is “different” because it can tell “right is right and wrong is wrong.” Unlike the rest of us?
THOMPSON SQUARE / “Without You”
Writers: Tim Nichols/Anthony Olympia/Brent Rupard; Producers: Derek George, Mickey Jack Cones; Label: Quartz Hill Records
– Rippling banjo notes set the merry mood as the husband-wife duo rolls out of the driveway and out onto the open road with this zesty, made-for-summer ditty. Keifer sings lead and Shawna shadows him in perfect harmony. The electric guitars soar as the track hits its stride. Highly recommended.
LINDSAY ELL / “Sweet Spot”
Writers: Lindsay Ell/Mark Campbell/Pete Groenwald; Producers: Mark Campbell/Peter Groenwald; Label: WM Canada
– The Canadian guitar-slinging country troubadour unleashes a punchy, pop production that motors along steadily with relentless beats in an echoey atmosphere. Breezy and pleasant. North of the border, she’s the host of Canada’s Got Talent. In a recent People magazine story, she revealed that she has been battling an eating disorder.
GRIFFEN PALMER / “Put Me Through Hello”
Writers: Griffen Palmer/Geoff Warburton; Producer: Joey Moi; Label: Big Loud Records
– He lets her put him through “Hell-oh” every time his ex calls him and reels him back in. The rapid-fire delivery is expertly done, and the production has just the right touches of electric instrumentation, thumping rhythm and swirling atmosphere. This is drawn from Palmer’s debut album, the recently released Unlearn. Nicely done, bro.
TRACY NELSON & WILLIE NELSON / “Honky Tonkin’”
Writer: Hank Williams; Producers: Roger Alan Nichols/Tracy Nelson; Label: BMG
– On her new Life Don’t Miss Nobody album, timeless Nashville blues diva Tracy Nelson dips into the catalogs of Ma Rainey, Willie Dixon, Chuck Berry, Sonny Boy Williamson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Gene McDaniels, the Nevilles and Stephen Foster. Among the highlights is her reunion with Willie. The two last scored a blazing duet success with “After the Fire Is Gone” in 1974. On this upbeat. loosey-goosey rendition of the Hank Williams classic, the two are equally charming. The hot harmonica licks by Mickey Raphael don’t hurt a bit. Throughout the collection, producer Roger Nichols’ tracks are brilliantly imaginative.
COLBY ACUFF / “Playing God Again”
Writers: Colby Acuff/Dwight Baker; Producer: Eddie Spear; Label: Sony Music Nashville
– This Idaho singer-songwriter has issued three self-penned indie albums. For his Sony debut, he trots out a fiddle-led romper that tells us to “sit back and let the future unfold” and don’t try to control what you can’t. His energy and his reedy, heartfelt voice are infectious. Also check out the lilting folkie ballad that is his album’s title tune, “Western White Pines.”
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