This is a day for legends, comebacks and new beginnings.
In this country edition of DISClaimer, you’ll find old friends T.G. Sheppard, The Oak Ridge Boys, Travis Tritt, Exile, Beth Nielsen Chapman and Cindy (now Cidny) Bullens. They fit in just fine among tunes by Mitchell Tenpenny, William Michael Morgan, Cooper Alan, Megan Moroney and Darrell Scott.
The Disc of the Day prize goes to the Exile comeback single, “Rough Around the Edges.” This week’s DISCovery Award goes to Emily Ann Roberts.
EMILY ANN ROBERTS / “Infinity”
Writers: Emily Ann Roberts/Stephanie Chapman; Producer: Trent Willmon; Label: EAR
– She has a helluva voice and isn’t shy about pushing it into the stratosphere on this shimmering ballad. It’s a melodic vow of devotion that has definite wedding-song potential. Highly recommended.
MITCHELL TENPENNY / “Bigger Mistakes”
Writers: Mitchell Tenpenny/Chris DeStefano/Josh Kear/Michael Whitworth/Jeff Braun; Producers: Mitchell Tenpenny/Jordan Schmidt; Label: Riser House/Columbia Records
– Very clever. He’s not wallowing in heartbreak, because she really wasn’t The One, anyhow. “I’ve made bigger mistakes than you,” he sings defiantly to her. There’s a fine vocal performance here, and it’s wrapped up in a beautifully layered production. Nicely done, bro.
TRAVIS TRITT / “When God Dips His Love In My Heart”
Writer: Cleavant Derricks; Producer: Dave Cobb; Label: Gaither Music Group
– Country Chapel, Tritt’s debut gospel album, drops next month. Its lead track is also its advance single. The soulful stylist takes this 80-year-old chestnut out for a country-rock spin, cranking the tempo, adding a snappy electric guitar solo and featuring unmistakable quartet harmonies by The Oak Ridge Boys.
JON LANGSTON / “Heart On Ice”
Writers: Hunter Phelps/Jake Mitchell/Jordan Gray/Nick Columbia; Producers: Jody Stevens/Brad Wagner; Label: EMI Nashville
– You will seek in vain for a melody or any kind of lyric beyond the title phrase.
HARPER GRACE / “Down In My Hometown”
Writers: Alex Kline/Harper Gruzins/Kyle Jacobs/Michael Farren; Producers: Alex Kline/Cooper Bascom; Label: Curb
– This touches on most of the cliches—bonfire, open field, hometown, beer, party. She missed pickup truck, patriotism and swimming hole.
T.G. SHEPPARD WITH LORRAINE JORDAN & CAROLINA ROAD / “I Loved ‘Em Every One”
Writer: Bill Sampson; Producer: none listed; Label: Pinecastle Records
– Sheppard’s 1981 hit gets a pleasing bluegrass makeover. The two acts previously teamed up on a far better song of his, “Do You Wanna Go to Heaven.”
MEGAN MORONEY / “I’m Not Pretty (Acoustic)”
Writers: Megan Moroney/Ben Williams/Mackenzie Carpenter/Micah Carpenter; Producer: Kristian Bush; Label: Columbia Records
– I reviewed this dandy song a few months back. Now the fan favorite has a new, stripped-down version that brings out the mean-girl lyric even more. One of the first country songs to mention Instagram will be released to radio next week.
WILLIAM MICHAEL MORGAN / “In Walked You”
Writers: Shane McAnally/Josh Osborne/Ross Copperman; Producer: Keith Stegall; Label: ONErpm
– This stellar neo-traditionalist returns with another solidly country outing. Due on Aug. 11, this performance confirms him as a leading artist of this style. Check out the songwriting and production credits. Count me in, for sure.
REYNA ROBERTS / “One Way Street”
Writers: Reyna Roberts/Natalie Stovall/Aaron Wagner; Producer: Aaron Wagner; Label: ReynaRed Records/Empire
– The fiery stylist blazes brightly on this scorching number of romantic confusion. It is pitched slightly too high for her range.
COOPER ALAN / “Never Not Remember You”
Writers: Cooper Alan/Seth Mosley/Victoria Shaw; Producer: Victoria Shaw; Label: Cooped Up Records
– This man has over 10 million social media followers. They embraced this long before its official release date this week. The song manages to find uplift even in the midst of painful grief. We all go through loss at some point in our lives, and like all great country music, this helps you understand and accept it.
CIDNY BULLENS & BETH NIELSEN CHAPMAN / “Not With You”
Writers: Cidny Bullens/Beth Nielsen Chapman; Producer: Ray Kennedy; Label: Kill Rock Stars
– Bullens is known as a rocker, and Chapman is a pop artist. But together they found twang and a newfound country/Americana direction with this scintillating, romantic duet performance. Well worth your spins. It is a track from Little Pieces, the album coming-out for Bullens as a trans man. He’ll be showcasing at the Americana convention next month.
EXILE / “Rough Around the Edges”
Writers: Les Taylor/Larry Cordle/J.P. Pennington; Producers: J.P. Pennington/Sonny LeMaire; Label: Clearwater Records
– The band’s first new radio single in more than 30 years is a frothing rocker that shows the veteran act’s spit and fire are undimmed by time. The tempo is in overdrive, the guitars stutter mightily, keyboards sizzle and the vocals wail. And if you listen closely, the lyric is as cute as all get out. I love this.
THE DARRELL SCOTT STRING BAND / “Kentucky Morning”
Writer: Darrell Scott; Producer: Darrell Scott; Label: Full Light/The Orchard
– This is the story of the many who left the Bluegrass State in search of factory work in Detroit and Chicago, only to yearn for home. One of them leaves the assembly line in the middle of the graveyard shift to hop on a train headed south. It’s a soulful, bluegrassy ballad with gorgeous fiddle and mandolin work by Scott’s bandmates. Scott is a gifted songwriter with “You’ll Never Leave Harlan Alive,” “Born to Fly,” “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive,” “Long Time Gone” and more under his belt. And now this. The song teases Old Cane Back Rocker, his first album since 2016. It drops on Aug. 11. I can’t wait.
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