Rockers and ballads share equal space in this edition of DISClaimer.
In the former category is Gabby Barrett, who earns a Disc of the Day with her toe tapper. But not without strong competition from Dierks Bentley and Brandy Clark.
In the ballad column, you’ll find our DISCovery Award winner, Ben Goldsmith. He’s joined by strong slow-song mavens Rebecca Lynn Howard and The War and Treaty. Play ‘em all.
JAKE OWEN / “On the Boat Again”
Writers: Willie Nelson/Devin Dawson/Kyle Fishman/Rocky Block/Blake Pendergrass; Producer: Joey Moi; Label: Big Loud
– Country’s resident Beach Boy heads back to the shore with this lively retooling of Willie’s “On the Road Again.” Boppy, goofy, summer-sunshine fun.
BRANDY CLARK / “Northwest”
Writers: Brandy Clark/Jessie Jo Dillon; Producer: Brandi Carlile; Label:Warner Records
– Clark sings of the majesty, beauty and space of her Pacific Northwest homeland on this punchy country rocker. Producer Carlile is also from that area, and maybe that’s why this has an extra touch of magic. There is simply no one in country music who is making music that is more consistently excellent than this awesome singer-songwriter.
LARRY FLEET / “Layaway”
Writers: Larry Fleet/Josh Miller/Mark Trussell; Producer: Joey Moi; Label: Big Loud
– This blue-collar anthem depicts a hard-working man who struggles to make ends meet while finding solace with those who love him. The steel licks are as cool as his vocal drawl. A winner.
DIERKS BENTLEY / “Something Real”
Writers: Dierks Bentley/Ross Copperman/Michael Hardy/Ashley Gorley/Luke Dick; Producers: Dierks Bentley/F. Reid Shippen/Jon Randall/Ross Copperman; Label: Capitol Nashville
– The deep bass rumble and chiming guitars frame a darkly dramatic vocal performance that yearns for authenticity and emotion in life. “I’m just looking for some truth,” he sings in a surprise, stark, blank passage amid the crashing, rocking track. Well done, son.
BEN GOLDSMITH / “Flowers in Your Hair”
Writers: Ben Goldsmith/Marshall Altman; Producer: Ben Goldsmith/Brad Jones; Label: Sony Music Nashville
– Different and intriguing. He possesses a piercing tenor voice that conveys sincerity in every note. The arty, poetic ballad is accompanied by simple piano playing and a lovely string quartet. Send more.
VINCE GILL & PAUL FRANKLIN / “Kissing Your Picture (Is So Cold)”
Writers: Ray Price/Mel Tillis/Wayne Walker; Producer: Vince Gill/Paul Franklin; Label: MCA Nashville
– Vince’s next collection, Sweet Memories, is a tribute to the music of Ray Price & The Cherokee Cowboys. It’s a collaboration with steel-guitar great Paul Franklin, who answers the singer’s phrases with silvery instrumental passages. Price was the king of the country shuffle, so naturally this advance track is a dandy one. Country trends might come and go, but I will always love me some Vince Gill.
GABBY BARRETT / “Glory Days”
Writers: Gabby Barrett/Emily Weisband/Seth Mosley/James McNair; Producers: Gabby Barrett/Ross Copperman; Label: Warner Music Nashville
– This youngster is a queen of catchy hooks, as this rapid, rushing rocker underscores. She savors the simple joys of everyday love while beats thump all around her. “I Hope,” “The Good Ones” and “Pick Me Up” were the country-pop gems that propelled her debut album. This lead-off track of her sophomore collection suggests that she’s only just begun. Barrett heads to her home turf on Aug. 11 for a post-game concert when the Pirates play the Reds at PNC Park, which is baseball’s most perfect venue.
LEWIS BRICE & LEE BRICE / “Product Of”
Writers: Lewis Brice/Josh Gallagher/Taylor Goyette/Mark Addison Chandler; Producer: Ben Simonetti; Label: Digitally Sound Records
– This rousing, upbeat ode to small-town romance reflects the brothers’ South Carolina upbringing. It’s a terrific audio rush with an emotional core of honesty.
REBECCA LYNN HOWARD / “I Am My Mother”
Writers: Rebecca Lynn Howard/Jamie Floyd/Rachel Thibodeau/Carolyn Dawn Johnson; Producers: Elisha Hoffman/Lee Brice/Rebecca Lynn Howard; Label: Pump House
– I remain an enormous fan of this lady. She remains one of country’s superior singers. Howard hits an emotional bullseye with this powerful ballad connecting her to her mother. “I look in the mirror expecting me/But her reflection is all I see.” Spine tingling stuff.
JELLY ROLL / “Need a Favor”
Writers: Jelly Roll/Rob Ragosta/Austin Nivarel/ Joe Ragosta; Producer: Austin Nivarel; Label: BBR
– “I only talk to God when I need a favor.” It has other lyrics, but those 10 words are repeated so often that it’s all you remember about the song. It and the ballad “She” have been on the market for a few months, but are now joined by the release of their parent album Whitsett Chapel.
ROBYN OTTOLINI / “Katie’s Song”
Writer: Robyn Ottolini; Producer: Mark Schroor/Erik Fintelman; Label: Aleu Records
– Timed to Pride Month, Robyn’s lively new song celebrates her sister, “Sometimes girls and girls can fall in love….Katie’s got a girlfriend/Love is love, it is what it is/And they’re both happy as shit.” Alrighty then.
THE WAR AND TREATY / “Dumb Luck”
Writer: Beau Bedford; Producer: Michael Trotter Jr.; Label: Mercury Nashville
– It seems like the label releases a new track by this titanically talented duo every week. Which is fine by me. In this case, it’s a performance video of a thrilling, to-God-the-glory power ballad. If your spirit needs a lift, play it now. Then shout, “Amen.”
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