The dudes are dueling on the country music scene today.
Cody Johnson, Dalton Dover, Alex Miller, Vince Gill and Darius Rocker all vied for the Disc of the Day award. Taking the subtle, sad, emotionally shaded route, Jordan Davis wins it.
The ladies were not without firepower. Ashley McBryde and Priscilla Block, in particular, are essential. Colorado native Sophia Scott wins the DISCovery Award.
DALTON DOVER / “Night to Go”
Writers: Cole Taylor/Trea Landon/Shane Minor/Michael Carter; Producer: none listed; Label: Mercury Nashville
– This youngster has already proved himself to be a masterful country balladeer, a story-song teller, a heartache prince and a heart-tugging sentimentalist. Well, whaddya know? He can also spit out a country rocker with the best of ‘em: this kicks hillbilly butt. More proof that stardom should knock on his door.
CODY JOHNSON / “The Painter”
Writers: Benjy Davis/Kat Higgins/Ryan Larkins; Producer: Trent Willmon; Label: Warner Music Nashville/COJO Music
– Beautifully country. Kinda poetic, kinda romantic, kinda stirring, kinda cool. He remains a supreme vocal stylist, and the gently thumping bass undertow gives this all the juice it needs. An instant favorite.
ALEX MILLER / “Girl, I Know a Guy”
Writers: Walt Aldridge/Tim Rushlow/Danny Orton; Producer: Jerry Salley; Label: Billy Jam Records
– This perfectly marries bluegrassy instrumental touches with baritone honky-tonk vocal phrasing. All the pieces fit—top-notch production, stellar songwriting, heartfelt hillbilly vibe. Sweet yet twanging. Alex strikes again.
PRISCILLA BLOCK / “Fake Names”
Writers: Priscilla Block/Alysa Vanderheym/Summer Overstreet/Audra Mae; Producers: Robbie Artress/Justin Johnson/Jake Curry; Label: UMG/InDent
– The weekend pseudonyms allow her to go “bat-shit crazy.” Meanwhile, the track rocks with gusto behind her. This party princess always delivers the goods. If you haven’t done so, also check out her cheeky “Thick Thighs.”
SOPHIA SCOTT / “Lipstick On You”
Writers: Sophia Scott/Adam Yaron/Blake Hubbard/Zack Dryer/Jarrod Ingram/Malia Civetz; Producer: Adam Yaron; Label: Empire
– Sultry and soul-tinged, she sings with a husky, throaty and totally ear-catching manner. Add some blues to your playlist with this dandy, stately lament.
JORDAN DAVIS / “Tuscon Too Late”
Writers: Jordan Davis/Jacob Davis/Josh Jenkins/Matt Jenkins; Producer: Paul DiGiovanni; Label: MCA Nashville
– Quite well written. The gently rolling tempo and his expressively resigned delivery sell this busted-heart song like gangbusters. I love a good, sad, country tune, and this one’s a pip. Classic, classy stuff.
DENNIS QUAID / “Fallen”
Writer: Dennis Quaid; Producers: David Ferguson/Ben Isaacs/Chris Lindsey; Label: Gaither Music Group
– He’s famous for being an actor, but Quaid remains a Texan through and through. The title tune of his new gospel album has a dusty, earthy, bluesy quality. The minor key melody allows him to express its “riding with the Devil” vibe dramatically. A gripping and compelling prodigal-son’s journey through substance abuse and redemption.
NATALIE GRANT & DOLLY PARTON / “Step By Step”
Writers: Annie Lennox; Producers: Bernie Herms; Label: Curb Records
– Gospel queen Grant and country goddess Parton try on some soul-sister clothes for this pop outing. It’s a Whitney Houston oldie. They both sound like they are trying a bit too hard to measure up.
VINCE GILL & PAUL FRANKLIN / “Sweet Memories”
Writers: Mickey Newbury; Producers: Vince Gill/Paul Franklin; Label: MCA Nashville
– This is the title tune of this team’s tribute album to Ray Price. Franklin’s steel is poetry on the ballad, and Gill’s vocal is, as usual, awesome. The gorgeous weeper became a country classic thanks to a 1969 Dottie West/Don Gibson duet and a 1979 top-10 hit for Willie. Now is its time to shine for a new generation of listeners.
DARIUS RUCKER / “Have a Good Time”
Writers: Bobby Hamrick/Darius Rucker/Derek George/Monty Criswell; Producer: Frank Rogers; Label: Capitol Nashville
– Built-in smiles are on the menu of this jaunty ditty. The message is to enjoy today, because we’re not guaranteed tomorrow—sunsets, brewski’s, lovin,’ relaxin,’ back-porch chillin’ and taking life as it comes in the here-and-now.
DAVID J / “Traffic on a Backroad”
Writers: David J/Beau Bailey/Lukas Klingensmith; Producer: Danny Majik; Label: Grey Area Entertainment/Sony Music Nashville
– He wants to steam up the windows with the car in Park and the seats tilted back. It has an electronic pop track and hip-hop beats. Fine. Now can someone tell me what is “country” about this?
ASHLEY McBRYDE / “Cool Little Bars”
Writers: Ashley McBryde/Trick Savage/Lainey Wilson; Producer: Jay Joyce; Label: Warner Music Nashville
– This woman is driving me crazy with anticipation of her The Devil I Know collection. It isn’t due until next month, and she keeps teasing it with dynamite advances. In addition to the brilliant “Light on in the Kitchen,” they include this wonderful ode to the dirty little dives we love. These “holes in the wall for lost souls” with their jukeboxes, shuffleboards, cigarettes, carved-up tabletops, tip jars and two-for-one drink specials need to be cherished. As if her singing and the songwriting weren’t brilliant enough, this has the most marvelous, crunchy, rocking-acoustic track on God’s green earth.
RESTLESS ROAD / “Roll Tide Roll”
Writers: Zach Beeken/Garrett Nichols/Kyle Sturrock; Producer: none listed; Label: RCA Nashville/1021 Entertainment
– Football season can’t come soon enough for this trio on its harmony-soaked ballad. They need “Roll Tide Roll” to wash away the heartache. The debut Restless Road album, Last Rodeo, is coming on October 20. Judging by what I’ve heard from these guys so far, it’s bound to be a grand listening experience.
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