There is fascinating diversity in this latest roundup of country music releases.
Riding atop the stack is Sam Hunt, who wins the Disc of the Day award. His strongest challengers are Dion & Carlene Carter, Catie Offerman, newcomer Bryce Leatherwood and the awesome Tony Jackson, all of whom have completely un-alike approaches to the genre.
This week’s DISCovery Award goes to Camille Parker, from whom I expect big things to come.
CATIE OFFERMAN / “OK Cowboy”
Writers: Catie Offerman/Matt Dragstrem/Adam Jones/Joe Clemmons; Producer: Dann Huff; Label: MCA Nashville
– She sings so splendidly well that it really doesn’t matter how unrealistic the lyric is. The underlying emotional message is kinda feisty and relatable. It’s a late-night, boot scootin’ thang.
SAM HUNT / “Came The Closest”
Writers: Sam Hunt/Josh Osborne/Shane McAnally; Producers: Sam Hunt/Zach Crowell; Label: MCA Nashville
– The guy tried to play it straight for her sake. He cut his hair, shaved, acted nice around her parents, took a 9-to-5 job, quit drinking whiskey and tried settling down. But he’s a rambling man at heart, so they never married and he moved on. The airy production is terrific, and Hunt’s vocal is as warm as a hot toddy. Absolutely, yes.
DYLAN MARLOWE & DYLAN SCOTT / “Boys Back Home”
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Label: Sony Music Nashville
– Missing the old buddies, so raise a glass in their honor. Rousing, if extremely repetitive and rather inconsequential.
REYNA ROBERTS / “Miranda”
Writers: Reyna Roberts/David Mescon/Kendall Brower; Producers: Reyna Roberts/David Mescon; Label: ReynaRed Records/Empire
– All attitude. No melody.
BILLY GILMAN / “Delta Queen”
Writers: Billy Gilman/Dan Murph/Philip Douglas; Producer: none listed; Label: Pinecastle Records
– It’s a guitar-and-fiddle acoustic track about a mysterious murder aboard a paddle wheeler. The drama is undercut by his somewhat bland vocal delivery.
DOLLY PARTON & MILEY CYRUS / “Wrecking Ball”
Writers: Henry Russell Walter/Kim Kiyani/Lukasz Gottwald/Maureen Anne McDonald/Sacha Skarbek/Stephen Mocccio; Producer: Dolly Parton/Kent Wells; Label: Butterfly Records
– Parton’s Rockstar collection, due next month, will contain this duet with her rocking goddaughter. Cyrus’ low harmony work and step-out vocals are outstanding, and I’ve always loved her song. When it first hit in 2013, it sold nine million units. It’s well worth a revival. Solid work.
BRYCE LEATHERWOOD / “The Finger”
Writers: Randy Montana/Jeremy Spillman/Brett Sheroky; Producer: Will Bundy; Label: Republic Records/UMG Nashville
– The winner of NBC’s The Voice steps into country music with a clever, twanging lament. “My ex moved on with her next…..she got the ring and I got the finger.” The track is loud and rocking, but his singing is firmly in control. Worth your spins.
JESSI COLTER / “Angel in the Fire”
Writer: Jessi Colter; Producer: Margo Price; Label: Appalachia Record Co.
– Colter’s comeback album drops tomorrow (Oct. 27). This touching ballad is one of the tunes that made Price want to produce it. It’s written for Lisa Kristofferson with compassion and understanding. Sweet and gentle, with a lovely acoustic guitar solo as the icing on the cake.
CAMILLE PARKER / “After the Whiskey”
Writers: Camille Parker/Jessica Cayne/Karen Kosowski; Producer: Reid Sorel; Label: CP
– “Is a party still a party if it’s happening every night?” She’s a “barstool baby” who questions the grip that alcohol and questionable romantic choices have on her. The echoey, swirly track perfectly captures the mood of impending doom. It’s the title tune of her debut EP and is a fine showcase for a promising new talent.
SUZY BOGGUSS / “It All Falls Down to the River”
Writers: Suzy Bogguss/Doug Crider; Producers: Suzy Bogguss/Doug Crider; Label: Loyal Duchess Records
– Bogguss lends a behind-the-beat alto vocal to this swampy, minor-key outing. The lyric describes the blood on American racial history, and The McCrary Sisters add haunting harmonies. Captivating. The album it is drawn from, Prayin’ For Sunshine (due Nov. 3), is her first fully self-composed and self-produced collection.
TONY JACKSON / “Do You Remember Country Music”
Writers: Bobby Tomberlin/Mo Pitney/Aaron Bowlin; Producers: Chuck Rhodes/Buddy Hyatt/John Sebastian/Jim Della Croce; Label: BFD/Audium Nashville
– What a vocal. Jackson stakes a claim as a true inheritor of the Lefty/Hank/George honky-tonk tradition with this masterpiece of a vocal. He bends the notes of this barroom ballad like a master. Steel, bounced twin-fiddle bows and hillbilly harmonies abound. At the finale, Randy Travis sings, “Amen.” I rest my case. In the name of all that is holy, play this.
DION & CARLENE CARTER / “An American Hero”
Writers: Dion DiMucci/Mike Aquilina; Producers: Dion DiMucci/Wayne Hood; Label: KTBA Records
– The ageless Rock & Roll Hall of Famer sounds as strong and soulful as ever on this country ode celebrating everyday people who respond to tragedies, fight for the nation, farm the fields, work the factories, teach our children, tend to the sick and stand for good. Carter, of course, is her everlasting vibrant vocal self. They harmonize beautifully together as fully equal partners on this inspiring duet. Highly recommended.
CHARLEY CROCKETT / “Killers of the Flower Moon”
Writers: Charley Crockett/T-Bone Burnett; Producer: Charley Crockett; Label: CC
– The song was inspired by the true tale told in David Grann’s 2017 book and Martin Scorsese’s new film of the same title. The Osage Native-American people grew wealthy in Oklahoma because of the oil on their lands. In the early 1920s, White businessmen murdered dozens of tribal leaders and stole their land, which led to an FBI investigation. To the accompaniment of a thumping, jittery track, Crockett revives country music’s folk-ballad tradition and relays the story using real names and places in the song’s lyric. Gripping stuff. The Texas music great is currently on the road opening for Chris Stapleton.
- DISClaimer Single Reviews: Luke Grimes Releases ‘Relaxed, Thoughtful’ New Cover - December 7, 2023
- DISClaimer Single Reviews: Tim McGraw Delivers ‘Downright Inspirational’ New Track - November 30, 2023
- Hit Producer & MGM Exec Jim Vienneau Dies At Age 97 - November 20, 2023