It’s a miracle.
There is not one, single, “bro country” song in this week’s stack of sounds. No pick-up trucks, no skinny dipping, no bonfires, no dirt roads, no rural fields, no beer. Okay, so I lied about that last one.
What we DO have is a flurry of artists who want you out on that dance floor. Beckoning you to trip the light fantastic are Kylie Morgan, Tim Dugger, Tyler Hubbard & Keith Urban, Willie Jones and our Disc of the Day winners, Old Dominion.
Not to worry: country music isn’t losing its sentimental side. For that, I refer you to the fine efforts by Drew Parker, Tyler Rich, Jameson Rodgers and our DisCovery Award winner, Micaela Kleinsmith.
OLD DOMINION / “I Should Have Married You”
Writers: Matthew Ramsey/Trevor Rosen/Whit Sellers/Geoff Sprung/Brad Tursi/Shane McAnally; Producers: Old Dominion/Shane McAnally; Label: Arista Nashville
– Enchanting. The rippling production, twirling melody, percussive effects and hearty vocals combine to weave a delightful tapestry of sound. The summertime vibe and merry tempo contrast with a lyric of regret. There’s a reason why this is the five-time ACM Group of the Year, and this is it.
OLD CROW MEDICINE SHOW / “Louder Than Guns”
Writers: Ketch Secor/Mike Harris; Producers: Old Crow Medicine Show; Label: ATO Records
– The Opry string band speaks out against gun violence in this rousing anthem. Leader Secor has carved the names of the six Covenant victims on his fiddle, is dedicating this song to them and has joined the 97Percent organization to work for sanity. Polls have repeatedly stated that the public wants gun reform, yet our legislators remain pawns of the NRA, rather than serving the people. Why is the U.S. the only country on earth with this problem?
DREW PARKER / “King of Country Music (with Mallory Parker)”
Writers: Allen Shamblin/Marc Beeson; Producers: Phil O’Donnell/Scott Hendricks; Label: Warner Music Nashville
– The rollicking “Middle of Nowhere Class” remains the flagship song of the EP, and you should definitely lend it your ears. Also check out this heart-tugging, newly released track. It’s a tender word portrait of a struggling country singer and the woman who has undying faith in him. He remains one of my favorite new country vocalists, because he makes me believe every word. That’s Drew’s wife Mallory singing harmony, by the way.
ALANA SPRINGSTEEN / “Twenty Something”
Writers: Alana Springsteen/Liz Rose/Trannie Anderson/AJ Pruis; Producers: Chris LaCorte/Alana Springsteen; Label: Columbia
– Moody and minor-key, this is an exploration of the complex, roller-coaster feelings of youth. It is well sung and produced with oomph. This is an advance track and title tune of the second installment of her “three-part album,” I am told.
JAMESON RODGERS / “Built for Heartbreak”
Writers: John Byron/Chris LaCorte/Hillary Lindsey; Producers: David Garcia; Label: River House Artists/Columbia Nashville
– He had me at hello: “My blood’s a whiskey reservoir with clouds of barroom smoke” are the song’s opening lines. And it gets better as it goes. “Get that hammer, raise it up and bring it down/I’m already a disaster…ain’t a swing of pain that I can’t take,” he sings, because he’s “Built for Heartbreak.” Talk about a song you wish you’d written…..
TEDDY ROBB / “Question the Universe”
Writer: Brad Tursi; Producer: Pete Good; Label: Teddy Robb
– He sings it expressively, but I don’t hear “hit” in this wordy, downbeat, meandering ballad.
WILLIE JONES / “Something to Dance To”
Writers: Cary Barlowe/Eric Arjes/Willie Jones; Producers: Willie Jones/Eric Arjes; Label: Sony Music Nashville
– Go ahead and lose yourself in the music, Jones advises. Amid the happy beats, he suggests that we all dance like nobody’s watching, whether it’s in the middle of a cornfield or a nightclub. This giddy, rhythmic ditty is a blast. It’s the hooky-as-heck title tune of his debut album, which drops on June 16.
TIM DUGGER / “Mary Wanna?”
Writers: Brad Warren/Brett Warren/Tim Dugger; Producer: Brandon Hood; Label: Curb Records
– This is a marvelous two stepper, loaded with banjo licks and fiddle filligrees. As usual, Dugger is a model country singer, and this goofy-fun, blue-collar romance lets him shine brightly. Tap your toes and sing along as he gets high on love.
TYLER HUBBARD & KEITH URBAN / “Dancin’ in the Country (Demo)”
Writers: Tyler Hubbard/Keith Urban/Ross Copperman/Jon Nite; Producers: none listed; Label: EMI Nashville
– Hubbard’s current hit remains a happy-feet bouncer. The original demo of the song features his cowriter Urban bopping right alongside him and taking his turn in the lead vocal spot during the bridge. The burbling beat makes ya smile, even in this unpolished, stripped-down version
TYLER RICH / “Heaven Is Your Hometown”
Writers: Corey Crowder/Tyler Hubbard/Tyler Rich; Producer: Jaren Johnston; Label: The Valory Music Co.
– I have always liked this guy’s singing. This rolling, easy-going track has some dandy pick-up lines as he approaches the new girl in town. She’s so beautiful that she must have fallen out of the clouds, he tells her. Go for it, buddy.
MICAELA KLEINSMITH / “Butterfly”
Writer: Micaela Kleinsmith; Producer: Tommy Sims; Label: Platoon
– Dreamy, bluesy and atmospheric. Her hushed vocal, the gently plucked guitar and the airy production cast a hypnotic pop spell. Hang with her as she invests the song with more and more vocal power as it progresses. Kleinsmith is a South African performer who won Reese Witherspoon’s “My Kind of Country” global competition with this performance. Very promising.
KYLIE MORGAN / “Sugar Daddy”
Writers: Kylie Morgan/James McNair/Seth Mosley; Producers: Seth Mosley/ Malcom “X” O’Connor; Label: EMI Nashville
– Thumping and propulsive, this imbeds her pert, youthful vocal in a feisty, driving ditty. “Be your own Sugar Daddy,” she advises her empowered sisters. “Get your own money, honey.” Sassy and fun.
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