This week, DISClaimer feels warm and nostalgic.
On hand are such monumentally gifted old friends as Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton, Lacy J. Dalton and Marty Stuart. The youngsters are keeping pace, because we also have Brittney Spencer, Maren Morris, Dustin Lynch and Joy Oladokun with Chris Stapleton playing at the top of their games.
The Disc of the Day goes to the stardust sprinkled collaboration between Old Dominion and Megan Moroney.
ANNE WILSON / “Rain in the Rearview”
Writers: Anne Wilson/Matthew West/Zach Kale/Jaren Johnston; Producers: Jeff Pardo/Jonathan Smith/Zach Kale; Label: UMG
— Wilson is a major Christian-music star, but this is her bid to cross over into country music. Vocally, she’s got the goods. The crashing, echoey production of this anthem sounds like ‘70s rock, which means she should fit right in.
BRAD PAISLEY / “Son of the Mountains”
Writers: Brad Paisley/Dan Tyminski/Jerry Douglas; Producers: Luke Wooten/Brad Paisley; Label: EMI Records Nashville
— This is a splendid country rocker, packed with Paisley guitar runs and wailing vocals. The lyric is an ode to his gorgeous West Virginia homeland. Dan Tyminski provides tenor vocals and Jerry Douglas offers slippery Dobro licks. Dandy listening.
LACY J. DALTON / “Devil By a Different Name”
Writers: Lacy J. Dalton; Producers: none listed; Label: StarVista
— Accompanied by a chugging rhythm track and some scampering fiddle and guitar picking, Dalton offers a timely message of inclusion and togetherness. She’s unafraid to confront our racial, gender, political and sexual differences and to urge tolerance. More power to her.
ZAC BROWN BAND / “The Way You Look Tonight”
Writers: Dorothy Fields/Jerome Kern; Producers: Zac Brown/Matt Mangano; Label: Home Grown Music
— Are you ready for a finger popping, jazzbo outing by these guys, complete with punctuating horn blasts? The Great American Songbook number was introduced by Fred Astaire in the 1936 film Swing Time and won the Best Song Oscar. The Lettermen made it a big pop hit in 1961, and it is associated with singers ranging from Frank Sinatra to Rod Stewart. It has nothing to do with country music, but it’s always a pleasure to hear it.
BRITTNEY SPENCER / “Bigger Than the Song”
Writers: Tofer Brown/Brittney Spencer/Jennifer Anne Wayne; Producers: Marcus “Marc Lo” Lomax; Label: Elektra
— The ballad’s electro track beats steadily behind her while she vocally strolls through a pithy lyric. Along the way, she drops the names of her inspirations—Reba, Aretha, Whitney, Dolly, Alannis, Janis, Johnny & June, Latifah, Beyonce…. Anyhow, it’s ear catching as all get out.
OLD DOMINION & MEGAN MORONEY / “Can’t Break Up Now”
Writers: Emily Weisband/Tofer Brown/Matthew Ramsey/Trevor Rosen; Producers: Old Dominion/Ross Copperman; Label: Columbia Nashville
— Country’s new “it girl” teams up with the genre’s top band to create a little audio magic. The power ballad features primo picking and dynamic vocal harmonies. Matthew Ramsey and Moroney portray a troubled couple who have too much invested in one another to call it quits. As you might guess where this group is concerned, the melody is luscious.
GIRLS NEXT DOOR / “When the Water’s Down”
Writers: TW Hale/Leslie Satcher; Producers: TW Hale/Tom Harding; Label: Girls Next Door 2.0
— Each member of the quartet gets a lead vocal on the verses, then they join in for rousing harmonies on the Dobro-laced choruses. The song has a cool Southern-gothic lyric about a hypocritical small town whose dark secrets emerge during a drought when lowered river water reveals all.
MAREN MORRIS / “The Tree”
Writers: Jimmy Robbins/Laura Veltz/Maren Morris; Producers: Greg Kurstin; Label: Columbia
— Morris apparently bids farewell to country music by releasing her strongest performance in years. The empowerment song finds freedom by exiting a toxic relationship, and it soars with powerful harmonies and audio dynamics. I’m totally into this marvelously written and produced outing.
JOY OLADOKUN & CHRIS STAPLETON / “Sweet Symphony”
Writers: Joy Oladokun/Ian Fitchuk/Shae Jacobs; Producers: Joy Oladokun/Mike Elizondo/Ian Fitchuk; Label: Republic Records/Verve Forecast
— This was originally issued at this time last year. A new version pairing the folkie conversationalist with the fire-breathing soulman is even more thrilling than the original. The ultra romantic ballad remains a great song to snuggle to. This deserves massive attention.
DUSTIN LYNCH / “Honky Tonk Heartbreaker”
Writers: Dustin Lynch/Hunter Phelps/Zach Crowell/Ben Johnson; Producers: Zach Crowell/Ben Johnson; Label: Broken Bow Records
— A good-time party banger with a romping beat and countryboy lyrics. Tap yer toes.
MARTY STUART AND HIS FABULOUS SUPERLATIVES / “Altitude”
Writers: Marty Stuart; Producers: Mike Conley/Chris Scruggs/Harry Stinson/Kenny Vaughn/Marty Stuart; Label: Snakefarm
— Beautifully country, drenched in steel guitar and drawled vocals. The title tune of this outfit’s latest is like a splash of cool water on the desert. To put in culinary terms, this is palate cleansing, so play it and chill. Love at first listen.
DOLLY PARTON & LINDA PERRY / “What’s Up”
Writers: Linda Perry; Producers: Kent Wells/Dolly Parton; Label: Butterfly Records
— The latest advance track from Parton’s forthcoming Rockstar mega, 30-track collection is a 4 Non Blondes cover that was originally a hit in 1993. The ballad begs for a better day. It’s essentially a Dolly solo with songwriter Perry providing a soft harmony vocal.
TOBY KEITH / “Don’t Let the Old Man In”
Writers: Toby Keith; Producers: Toby Keith/Reid Shippen/Arturo Buenahora; Label: Show Dog
— Keith stopped the show with this during last week’s debut People’s Choice Country Awards. His powerful performance of a lyric facing mortality was an emotionally gripping moment that electrified us all. The undertone of his cancer struggle was unmistakable and heart wrenching. The video of it shot to No. 1 on iTunes in the days following the telecast. If you didn’t catch it, do so now.
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