Ashley Gorley Tops MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart

Ashley Gorley hits the top of the MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart this week. He is a co-writer on the following charting songs: “Country Again” by Thomas Rhett, “Give Heaven Some Hell” by Hardy, “Sand In My Boots” by Morgan Wallen, “Single Saturday Night” by Cole Swindell, and “You Should Probably Leave” by Chris Stapleton.

Corey Crowder, who spent seven weeks atop the MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart, shifts down one to No. 2, with credit on “Drinkin’ Beer. Talkin’ God. Amen.” by Chase Rice and Florida Georgia Line, “Famous Friends” by Chris Young and Kane Brown, and “Minimum Wage” by Blake Shelton.

Nicolle Galyon moves up one to round out the top three.

The weekly MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart uses algorithms based upon song activity according to airplay, digital download track sales and streams. This unique and exclusive addition to the MusicRow portfolio is the only songwriter chart of its kind.

Click here to view the full MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart.

ACM Party For A Cause 2021 Set To Make Nashville Debut

The Academy of Country Music has announced the return of its annual ACM Party for a Cause benefiting ACM Lifting Lives on Tuesday, Aug 24, debuting for the first time ever in Nashville at the Ascend Amphitheater.

This year’s ACM Party for a Cause will be hosted by SiriusXM’s The Highway host Storme Warren, with live performances by Lee Brice, Brett Eldredge, Mickey Guyton, Sam Hunt, Old Dominion and special guests Tenille Townes, Trisha Yearwood, and more to be announced.

“ACM Lifting Lives is thrilled to be back and celebrating Party for a Cause with a historic debut in Nashville,” says Lyndsay Cruz, ACM Lifting Lives Executive Director. “ACM Lifting Lives has worked tirelessly this year in finding innovative ways to raise funds virtually for the ACM Lifting Lives COVID-19 Response Fund – successfully distributing more than $3.5 million to members of the country music community in need. While we are proud of the aid we have been able to provide, we are excited to rock Nashville and to once again lift lives with the power of music. Party for a Cause is a terrific celebration of live music and charitable giving and we look forward to bringing it to Music City for the first time while welcoming back all our fans.”

Proceeds from ACM Party for a Cause will benefit ACM Lifting Lives, the charitable arm of the Academy, which works to lift lives through the power of music. Additional details regarding the event, including performances, will be announced in the coming weeks. Tickets for the event will be available beginning Tuesday, July 20.

DISClaimer Single Reviews: Cody Johnson, Charlie Worsham, Boy Named Banjo

Cody Johnson

The country singers are out in full force this week.

We have stellar vocal performances from Charlie Worsham, Jon Langston, Lily Rose, Conner Smith and Jimmie Allen with Chris Tomlin. Our Disc of the Day winner is another vocal powerhouse, Cody Johnson. He’s offering a double dose of his talent with “God Bless the Boy” and “Stronger.”

The DisCovery Award goes to a band dubbed Boy Named Banjo. The group sounds like it is really onto something.

JON LANGSTON / “Try Missing You”
Writers: Jon Langston/Jody Stevens; Producer: Jody Stevens; Label: EMI/32 Bridge
— He has one of those good-buddy country voices, and it is used to great effect on this honky-tonk ballad. He’s on the road doing shows, but missing his lover desperately. A steel guitar sighs sympathetically.

THE BELLAMY BROTHERS & DENNIS QUAID / “I Can Help”
Writers: Billy Swan; Producer: none listed; Label: BB
— They sound like they are singing in a tin can. The mix is awful. Quaid sounds like getting out every note is struggle.

BOY NAMED BANJO / “Circles”
Writers: William Reames/Oscar Charles/Jon Sherwood; Producer: Oscar Charles; Label: Mercury
— Packed with pep, this country rocker ramps up the energy with hearty vocals, relentless percussion and ripples of banjo notes beneath wafting electric guitar. Very zesty indeed. This quintet is going places.

CHRIS YOUNG / “One of Them Nights”
Writers: Chris Young/Rhett Akins/Chris DeStefano; Producer: Chris Young/Chris DeStefano/Jeff Braun/Taylor Bray/Scott Johnson; Label: RCA Records
— One of them raucous, rocking, tuneless country-party songs.

CONNER SMITH / “Learn From It”
Writers: Conner Smith/Daniel Ross; Producer: Zach Crowell; Label: The Valory Music Co.
— Youthful and innocent sounding. He reflects back on all the crazy, silly, dangerous, wild stuff he did as a kid. Promising.

CHARLIE WORSHAM / “Half Drunk”
Writers: Charlie Worsham/Jay Knowles; Producer: Jay Joyce; Label: Warner Music Nashville
— He’s such a complete music man. Everything works here: The shuffling, loose-limbed rhythm, his sincere tenor-vocal swoops, his lead guitar passages, the young-crazy-in-love lyric. A delightful audio experience.

LILY ROSE / “Villain”
Writers: Kyle Clark/Lily Rose/Mackenzie Carpenter; Producer: Joey Moi; Label: Big Loud / Republic Records
— This is for everyone who has ever been through a messy breakup. She says they can make her out to be the bad guy in the story if that makes it easier for them. The muffled percussion touches in the mix are mesmerizing, and her voice is extraordinarily compelling. More, more, more.

CHRIS TOMLIN & JIMMIE ALLEN / “Love People”
Writers: Chris Tomlin/Tyler Hubbard/Corey Crowder/Dave Barnes; Producer: Corey Crowder/Chris Tomlin/Tyler Hubbard; Label: Sparrow
— CCM star Tomlin again teams up with country celebs on his new EP. In addition to tracks with FGL, Thomas Rhett and Russell Dickerson, the collection includes this anthemic, super-positive message song about universal brotherhood. “Faith, hope and love; and the greatest of these is……”

CHASE BRYANT / “Think About That”
Writers: Chase Bryant/Lance Miller/Brad Warren/Brett Warren; Producer: Jon Randall; Label: Green Iris
— Nostalgia set to melody. His expressive vocal is placed in an exquisite audio setting of echoey guitars and steady percussive thump. There is an unadorned passage where you get to hear him really emote. Very involving.

CODY JOHNSON / “God Bless the Boy”
Writers: Barrett Baber/Terri Jo Box/Scott Sean White; Producer: Trent Willmon; Label: CoJo Music/Warner Music Nashville
— He adores his daughter so much and wishes the very best for the boy who’ll fall in love with her. Cody is one of my very favorites of the country newcomers, and he sings the fire outta this ballad. It’s half of an innovative “double single” that also includes the terrific tempo romance tune “Stronger,” which he also sings like a man possessed. Next month, he stars in a biographical documentary titled Dear Rodeo that traces his rise from the arena dirt to singing for millions.

AARON LEWIS / “Am I the Only One”
Writers: Aaron Lewis/Ira Dean/Jeffrey Steele; Producer: Aaron Lewis/Ira Dean; Label: The Valory Music Co.
— Someone is “taking all the good we got and turning it into bad” and he’s pissed off about it. Whatever it is. Evidently “the threads of Old Glory are coming undone” and “statues are coming down” and he’s the only one who sings along to Springsteen and is willing to die for his country. Really?

MUSTANGS OF THE WEST / “T-Shirt From California”
Writers: Suzanna Spring/Wes Hightower; Producer: George Landress/Sherry Rayn Barnett; Label: Blue Elan
— This is a five-piece female band with a lilting, sunny sound featuring creamy three-part vocal harmonies, lovely fiddle work and a wistful, heartache lyric. Refreshing.

MusicRow Awards Voting Begins Today, July 14

Voting for the 33rd annual MusicRow Awards begins today, Wednesday, July 14 and runs through Friday, July 23 at 5:00 p.m. CT.

This year’s honors will be announced virtually among multiple MusicRow platforms on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021. Presenting Sponsor of the 2021 MusicRow Awards is City National Bank.

To receive a ballot to vote in the MusicRow Awards, become a MusicRow subscribed member here.

The nominees for the MusicRow Awards were revealed yesterday. Click here to view the full list.

Nominees for the MusicRow Awards are determined by committee, with outside nominations being considered for Breakthrough Songwriter and Breakthrough Artist-Writer. Male and Female Songwriter nominees are based on data from MusicRow’s Top Songwriter Chart. Eligible projects were active between June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021.

Top 10 Album All-Star Musician Awards for Bass, Drums, Engineer, Fiddle, Guitar, Keyboards, Steel, and Vocals will also be announced on Thursday, Aug. 19, recognizing the studio players who performed on the most albums reaching the Top 10 of Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart during the eligibility period.

Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame Reveals 2021 Inductees

The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame has announced that the inductees for its Class of 2021 are Amy Grant, Toby Keith, Rhett Akins, Buddy Cannon and John Scott Sherrill.

Akins’ songwriter credits include his own “That Ain’t My Truck,” as well as “Honey Bee” (Blake Shelton) and “It Goes Like This” (Thomas Rhett). Cannon’s songwriter resume is known for “Set ’Em Up Joe” (Vern Gosdin), “I’ve Come To Expect It From You” (George Strait) and “Give It Away” (George Strait). Sherrill’s hits include “Wild And Blue” (John Anderson), “The Church On Cumberland Road” (Shenandoah) and “How Long Gone” (Brooks & Dunn).

Grant popularized many of her own compositions, including “Baby Baby,” “That’s What Love Is For” and “Tennessee Christmas.” Keith also recorded many of his self-penned hits, including “Should’ve Been A Cowboy,” “How Do You Like Me Now?!” and “As Good As I Once Was.”

The five will be inducted into the Hall this November, according to an announcement made today (July 13) by Sarah Cates, chair of the organization’s board of directors, and Mark Ford, its executive director.

“Today is one of my favorite days of the year, as we begin our journey to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala in November with the announcement of our upcoming class,” says Cates. “Nashville has always been the home of legendary songs written by the world’s finest songwriters – and this class is no exception. It’s our great honor today to welcome our class of 2021: Rhett Akins and Buddy Cannon in the songwriter category; John Scott Sherrill in the veteran songwriter category; Toby Keith as our songwriter/artist and Amy Grant as our veteran songwriter/artist.”

Pictured (L-R): Sarah Cates, chair of the organization’s board of directors, with inductees John Scott Sherrill, Amy Grant, Buddy Cannon, and Rhett Akins; Mark Ford, NaSOF’s executive director. Photo: Bev Moser

The five new inductees-elect will join the 213 previously inducted members of the elite organization when they are officially inducted during the “50/51” Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame Gala on Nov. 1 at the Music City Center. Because the organization’s 50th Anniversary celebration was postponed last year, this year’s event will honor two classes in a special double-sized event that will also spotlight NaSHOF’s previously named Class of 2020: Steve Earle, Bobbie Gentry, Kent Blazy, Brett James and Spooner Oldham.

For more biographical information on the 2021 inductees, see below:

RHETT AKINS
Valdosta, Georgia, native Rhett Akins began his professional music career as a performer at San Antonio’s Fiesta Texas theme park. In 1992, he made the move to Nashville. Initially a performer at Opryland theme park, he also worked as a demo singer, later signing a recording contract with Decca Records. As an artist, Rhett topped the charts in the mid-1990s with “Don’t Get Me Started” and his signature song, “That Ain’t My Truck.” By the later 2000s, Rhett was writing songs for other artists, including “Put A Girl In It” by Brooks & Dunn, “What’s Your Country Song” by Thomas Rhett, “All About Tonight” by Blake Shelton and “Boys ’Round Here” by Blake Shelton w/ Pistol Annies & Friends. Rhett also wrote “All Over Me” by Josh Turner (the 2011 BMI Country Song of the Year), “Honey Bee” by Blake Shelton (the 2012 ASCAP Country Song of the Year), “Take A Back Road” by Rodney Atkins (the 2012 BMI Country Song of the Year) and “It Goes Like This” by Thomas Rhett (the 2014 ASCAP Country Song of the Year). Rhett was named BMI Country Songwriter of the Year in 2011 and 2014. He was the 2017 ACM Songwriter of the Year and the 2019 ACM Songwriter of the Decade.

BUDDY CANNON
Buddy Cannon was born in Lexington, Tennessee. He began his diverse career as a songwriter/singer/musician/publisher/producer/label executive in the early 1970s as bass player in Bob Luman’s band, later making the jump to play in Mel Tillis’ band and write for his publishing company. During their 11 years together, Tillis recorded several of Buddy’s songs, including the chart-topping “I Believe In You.” Throughout his career, Buddy’s keen song sense has served him well in the studio, helping select and record hit songs for artists ranging from Shania Twain to Kenny Chesney to Willie Nelson, with whom he has written regularly since 2008. Buddy’s credits as a songwriter include “She’s Not Cryin’ Anymore” by Billy Ray Cyrus, “Look At Us” by Craig Morgan, “I’ve Come To Expect It From You” by George Strait, the Vern Gosdin hits “I’m Still Crazy,” “Set ’Em Up Joe” and “Dream Of Me,” as well as the Sammy Kershaw hits “Anywhere But Here” and “If You’re Gonna Walk, I’m Gonna Crawl.” “Give It Away” by George Strait was named the 2007 ACM Song and Single of the Year and also the 2007 CMA Song of the Year.

TOBY KEITH
Oklahoma native Toby Keith received his first guitar at age eight. After high-school graduation, he worked in the oil fields by day and played with his band at night. In the early ’90s, one of his demo tapes found its way to producer Harold Shedd, who signed him to a deal with Mercury Records. In 1993 Toby’s solo-written debut single, “Should’ve Been A Cowboy,” reached No. 1 on the country chart and would go on to become the most played country song of the 1990s. As an artist, he has placed 45 self-penned Top 20 songs on the Billboard charts, including 16 No. 1s and 17 more in the Top 10. Among those compositions are “You Ain’t Much Fun,” “How Do You Like Me Now?!,” “You Shouldn’t Kiss Me Like This,” “Beer For My Horses,” “I Love This Bar,” “American Soldier,” “A Little Too Late” and “God Love Her.” “As Good As I Once Was” was BMI’s 2006 Country Song of the Year. Among his many awards, he was named BMI’s 2001 Songwriter of the Year, 2004 Writer/Artist of the Year and 2006 Songwriter of the Year. He was NSAI’s 2003, 2004, 2006 Songwriter/Artist of the Year, as well as that organization’s Songwriter/Artist of the Decade (2000-2009). He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in New York in 2015.

AMY GRANT
Raised in Nashville, Amy Grant was signed to a record deal at age 16 and was a star by the late ’70s. Her singer-songwriter fusion of pop, rock, gospel and ’70s Jesus-music created a fresh, new sound that kick-started the contemporary Christian genre and led to the first Platinum-selling album in the new genre’s history — her 1982 breakthrough, Age to Age. By the mid-’80s, Amy was reaching pop audiences with hits such as “Find A Way” and “Lead Me On.” Her blockbuster 1991 album, Heart in Motion, generated the multi-genre hits “Baby Baby,” “Every Heartbeat,” “Good For Me,” “I Will Remember You” and “That’s What Love Is For.” Another song from this era, “Place In This World,” written with and performed by, Michael W. Smith, earned the 1992 GMA Song of the Year. Amy’s catalog also includes the hymnal mainstay “Thy Word,” as well as her signature holiday standard “[Tender] Tennessee Christmas.” As an artist, she has placed 36 self-penned Top 20 songs on the Billboard and Contemporary Christian music charts, including 12 No. 1s and 18 more in the Top 10. She was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2003. Amy received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2006.

JOHN SCOTT SHERRILL
John Scott Sherrill was raised in Chappaqua, New York, and in Uganda and Bolivia by parents who were book and magazine writers. Drawn at an early age to folk, country and rock music, he played coffeehouses in Boston and spent time as a musician in Amsterdam. In 1975, on his way to California, John Scott decided to remain in Music City and soon signed a songwriting deal with Combine Music. By 1982, he had his first No. 1 hit – “Wild And Blue” by John Anderson (later recorded by Hank Williams, Jr., Alan Jackson and Lucinda Williams). Throughout the ’80s and into the 2000’s, John Scott enjoyed more No. 1 hits: “Some Fools Never Learn” by Steve Wariner, “That Rock Won’t Roll” by Restless Heart, “(Do You Love Me) Just Say Yes” and “Cry, Cry, Cry” by Highway 101, “The Church On Cumberland Road” by Shenandoah, “No Doubt About It” by Neal McCoy, “How Long Gone” by Brooks & Dunn and “Would You Go With Me” by Josh Turner. Another popular song, “Nothin’ But The Wheel,” was a Top 20 country hit for Patty Loveless and was also recorded by the bluegrass band Special Consensus and the rock duo of Peter Wolf & Mick Jagger. In the late 1980s, John Scott was a member of the country group Billy Hill and wrote many of their songs.

Nominees Revealed For 33rd Annual MusicRow Awards

MusicRow is proud to reveal the nominees for the 33rd annual MusicRow Awards. The industry-voted winners of the MusicRow Awards will be announced virtually on all MusicRow platforms on Aug. 19. Subscribed members of MusicRow will receive their ballots via email on Wednesday, July 14.

Click here to view the digital “Nominator” newsletter for a complete list of all nominees.

Presenting Sponsor of the 2021 MusicRow Awards is City National Bank.

There are 11 member-voted categories, including:
1. Producer of the Year
2. Label Group of the Year
3. Talent Agency of the Year
4. Breakthrough Songwriter of the Year
5. Breakthrough Artist-Writer of the Year
6. Male Songwriter of the Year
7. Female Songwriter of the Year
8. Song of the Year
9. Discovery Artist of the Year
10. Breakthrough Artist of the Year
11. Artist of the Year

Nominees for the MusicRow Awards are determined by committee, with outside nominations being considered for Breakthrough Songwriter and Breakthrough Artist-Writer. Male and Female Songwriter nominees are based on data from MusicRow’s Top Songwriter Chart. Eligible projects were active between June 1, 2020 to May 31, 2021.

MusicRow‘s August/September print magazine, which is produced and mailed out prior to the MusicRow Awards winners announcement on Aug. 19, features all of the nominees for the 33rd Annual MusicRow Awards. This print edition also includes exclusive industry-related editorial features.

Top 10 Album All-Star Musician Awards for Bass, Drums, Engineer, Fiddle, Guitar, Keyboards, Steel, and Vocals will also be announced on Thursday, Aug. 19, recognizing the studio players who performed on the most albums reaching the Top 10 of Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart during the eligibility period.

Voting for the MusicRow Awards will begin Wednesday, July 14 and run through Friday, July 23 for all MusicRow subscribed members. To become a subscribed member and become eligible to vote, sign up here.

Martin Johnson Enters Top 10 On MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart

Martin Johnson

Newly-signed Warner Chappell writer Martin Johnson has jumped 10 slots to No. 10 on the MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart this week. Johnson is a co-writer on “Like A Lady” recorded by Lady A and “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home)” recorded by Elle King and Miranda Lambert.

Corey Crowder remains at No. 1 on the chart this week for the seventh consecutive week. He is a co-writer on “Drinkin’ Beer. Talkin’ God. Amen.” (Chase Rice feat. Florida Georgia Line), “Famous Friends” (Chris Young and Kane Brown), and “Minimum Wage” (Blake Shelton).

The weekly MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart uses algorithms based upon song activity according to airplay, digital download track sales and streams. This unique and exclusive addition to the MusicRow portfolio is the only songwriter chart of its kind.

Click here to view the full MusicRow Top Songwriter Chart.

Carrie Underwood, Thomas Rhett, Luke Combs To Headline Stagecoach 2022

Stagecoach is hitching the wagon back up in 2022 with recently announced headliners Thomas Rhett, Carrie Underwood and Luke Combs heading to the desert on April 29-May 1. Passes go on sale starting July 16 at 12 p.m. CST at stagecoachfestival.com.

“I have been looking forward to this for so long! I dreamed about headlining Stagecoach ever since I first played there in 2014. I cannot wait to get back out in the desert in 2022 and play for those fans,” says Rhett.

“There’s nothing like a Stagecoach audience and I can’t wait to take that stage and be with the fans in the desert again,” Underwood shares. Combs adds, “Stagecoach, it’s a dream come true to headline the festival in 2022. It will be here before we know it, and I’m already looking forward to seeing y’all there!”

Also on tap for the 14th annual Indio, California festival are Maren Morris, Brothers Osborne, The Black Crowes, Midland, Lee Brice, Cody Johnson, Jordan Davis, Cody Jinks, and many more. Additionally, YouTube and Goldenvoice are partnering this year to offer an exclusive, first time livestream of the famed Stagecoach festival.

“We are so excited to be adding Stagecoach, country music’s biggest festival weekend, into our live stream lineup for the first time ever,” says YouTube’s Head of Live Music and West Coast Artist Relations Ali Rivera. “2022 marks our 10th year partnering with Goldenvoice to stream some of their most coveted music festivals like Stagecoach and Coachella. We are both honored and proud to be bringing three consecutive weekends of extraordinary live music to fans around the world next year.”

Returning to the festival this year is the SiriusXM Spotlight Stage, which will once again highlight today’s rising stars like Breland, Caylee Hammack, Hailey Whitters and others. In addition to the Spotlight Stage, Stagecouch Weekend will also be returning featuring headliners Combs and Rhett, as well as new performances from Morris, Dierks Bentley, Old Dominion, Carly Pearce, and more. Stagecouch Weekend begins July 16 at 11 a.m. CST through July 18 on SiriusXM’s The Highway.

Lady A Earns Sixth MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart No. 1

Rising to No. 1 this week on the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart is Lady A with “Like A Lady.” This is their sixth MusicRow No. 1, following “Champagne Night” which peaked in Sept. 2020. It appears on their latest collection What A Song Can Do (Chapter One) and was written by the group’s Hillary Scott with Dave Barnes, Michelle Buzz, Martin Johnson and Brandon Paddock.

Scott comments “I feel my most confident when I’m not trying too hard. I love getting glammed up and all the fancy clothes, but when I feel the most ‘me,’ it’s a lot more laid back – and I think that’s a lot of us. You are your most authentic self in blue jeans with a tequila drink, ya know? As we were writing it, I was like ‘It’s always been my dream to do a song that combines the things I love about Dolly Parton’s ‘9 to 5’ and Shania Twain’s ‘Man! I Feel Like a Woman!’ – two of the most strong, powerful female songs ever. So it was like ‘How can we do our version of that?’”

The group’s Lady A: What A Song Can Do Tour kicks off this month with support from Carly PearceNiko Moon and Tenille Arts.

Click here to view the latest edition of The MusicRow Weekly containing the MusicRow CountryBreakout Radio Chart.

DISClaimer Single Reviews: Jordan Davis & Luke Bryan, Eric Church, Randall King

I sense that somehow we are in the midst of a big shift of the country landscape, with more new talent being injected into the format than is usual.

With that in mind, note that Kat & Alex, Mitchell Tenpenny, Robyn Ottolini and Morgan Evans continue to make sonic waves. Adding to the energy is the stone-country Randall King, who wins this week’s DisCovery Award.

The supremely gifted Eric Church has won more Disc of the Day awards in this column than any other artist. I’d give him another one today, but for the fact that it seems like he needs to share at this point. So give the prize to the lovely sentiments being expressed by Jordan Davis with Luke Bryan along for the ride.

KAT & ALEX / “You and the Radio”
Writers: Jordan Minton/Mark Trussell/Robyn Collins; Producer: Brad Hill; Label: Sony Music Nashville
— It’s a rockin’ country summer jam. Alex, a Puerto Rican, sings lead. Kat, a Cuban American, provides sprightly vocal harmony. You’ll tap your toes to the snappy beats.

MIDLAND / “Sunrise Tells the Story”
Writers: Jess Carson/Jessi Alexander/Aaron Raitiere; Producer: Dann Huff/Shane McAnally/Josh Osborne; Label: Big Machine Records
— A steel cries in the distance as the trio moans this slow honky-tonk waltz. The harmonies are solid and the mood is just right.

MITCHELL TENPENNY / “Truth About You”
Writers: Mitchell Tenpenny/Matt Alderman/Thomas Archer; Producer: Jordan M. Schmidt/Mitchell Tenpenny; Label: Sony Music Nashville
— It’s a breakup song with a hushed, whispery delivery that catches your ear and makes you pay attention. The screaming electric guitar on the backing track is distracting and unnecessary.

MORGAN EVANS / “Love Is Real”
Writers: Morgan Evans/Jordan Reynolds/Parker Welling; Producer: Dann Huff; Label: Warner Music Nashville
— This zippy, peppy, ultra-positive country rocker takes a page or two from the Keith Urban playbook. Which is to say, it is sugary ear candy.

ROBYN OTTOLINI / “Tell You Everything”
Writers: Robyn Ottolini/Jesse Slack; Producer: Erik Fintelman/Mark Schroor; Label: Warner Music Nashville
— The somewhat tedious “F-150” remains the single, but this new release from her EP suggests that she is holding back some of her best stuff. The bright, aware lyric has lots of verve, and the track boasts tempo shifts, cool echoey touches and a complex, layered mix that are all quite involving.

ERIC CHURCH / “Heart on Fire”
Writers: Eric Church; Producer: Jay Joyce; Label: EMI Records Nashville
— Oh yeah! A little Bruce, a little Elvis, a little Skynyrd, a little Seger and a whole lotta rump shakin’ goodness. This rollicking rocker is one more example why the Chief stands head and shoulders above just about everyone else in this format. Turn it up and lose yourself in its soulfulness.

RANDALL KING / “Record High”
Writers: Drake Milligan/John Pierce/Rodney Clawson; Producer: Bart Butler/Ryan Gore; Label: Warner Music Nashville
— This dude is a for-real country singer, and this rhythm-happy Texas honky tonker stakes a for-real claim to stardom.

JORDAN DAVIS & LUKE BRYAN / “Buy Dirt”
Writers: Jordan Davis/Jacob Davis/Josh Jenkins/Matt Jenkins; Producer: Paul DiGiovanni; Label: MCA Nashville
— Words of wisdom from a fictional octogenarian set to a shimmering, sterling-silver audio track. Terrific truthful lyric. The two voices blend beautifully. I’m in.

THE CADILLAC THREE / “Bridges”
Writers: Frank Rogers/Jaren Johnston/Neil Mason; Producer: The Cadillac Three; Label: Big Machine Records
— While certainly novel and ear catching, this has nothing to do with country music.

KANE BROWN & BLACKBEAR / “Memory”
Writers: Kane Brown/Matthew Musto/Andrew Goldstein/Joe Kirkland/Ernest Smith; Producer: none listed; Label: RCA
— Although Brown is coming off a No. 1 country hit (”Famous Friends” with Chris Young), this hip hopper is being correctly marketed as a Top-40, pop-music effort. Brown has previously successfully collaborated with Marshmello and with Swae Lee & Khalid, so this effort with Musto a.k.a. blackbear suits him just fine.

BILLY CRASH CRADDOCK / “Paint Your Toes”
Writers: Billy Crash Craddock/David Wade/Mary Beth Stone; Producer: David Wade; Label: ONErpm
— He’s 82 years old now, but this rockabilly veteran still has rhythm in his heart. Very much in the mode of his classic “Rub It In,” this is a very cute little outing.

FIREROSE & BILLY RAY CYRUS / “New Day”
Writers: Billy Ray Cyrus/Firerose; Producer: none listed; Label: Repost
— Firerose is an Aussie-born singer-songwriter now based in L.A. She and Billy Ray co-wrote this on Zoom during the quarantine. It’s a hypnotic, swirling, dreamy confection, underpinned by echoey synths and slow, thumpy beats. I can hear this becoming a big pop hit. After all, he’s done it before.