DISClaimer Single Reviews (12/1/10)

This week the newsmakers come not from the ranks of our country stars, but from the members of Nashville’s ever expanding pop/rock community.

A slew of Music City’s biggest headliners from this world have buzz-worthy current releases. Kings of Leon, Sheryl Crow, Paramore, Michael W. Smith and Leon Russell head a parade of record makers you need to support.

We have a tie for Disc of the Day. I simply could not choose between Sheryl Crow and Leon Russell, so I won’t. Buy them both at once. By the way, both Elton & Leon and Kings of Leon are available on vinyl LPs.

I don’t give out a Song of the Day award, but if I did it would be for “How We Love.” By the time Beth Nielsen Chapman finished singing it, tears were rolling down my cheeks.

Our DisCovery Award goes to the John Jorgenson Quintet. Its twirling gypsy sound will make you delirious.

PARAMORE/Playing God
Writer: Hayley Williams/Josh Farro; Producer: Rob Cavallo & Paramore; Publisher: WB/But Father I Just Want to Sing/Josh’s/FBR, ASCAP; Atlantic/Fueled By Ramen (track)
—The new single from the Brand New Eyes CD is a jangly rumbler with a hard rocking chorus. Hayley’s snarly soprano is especially effective in this diatribe against a judgmental partner. Rocking, literate and melodic, all at the same time.

Writer: Chapman/Krekel; Producer: Michael Utley & Marshall Chapman; Publisher: none listed; TallGirl (track) (www.tallgirl.com)
—The title tune to Marshall’s new CD is surprisingly countrified. Particularly since the harmony vocalist and guitarist is the late, rocking Tim Krekel, to whom the CD is dedicated. But there you have it, complete with twanging electric, steel and dobro. Fear not fans, on the rest of the album, she’s as eclectic as ever, serving up everything from blues (”Mississippi Man in Mexico”) to pop (”Falling Through the Trees”) to swing (”Sick of Myself”) to rock (”I Love Everybody”) and even a cover of “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” In fact, this is her best collection in years.

JARS OF CLAY/Out Of My Hands
Writer: Jars of Clay/Gabe Ruschival/Jeremy Lutito; Producer: Jars of Clay; Publisher: Bridge Building/Pogostick/Chigostick/Dudie, BMI; Gray Matters/Sony/
Essential (track)
—This million-selling Christian alt-rock band’s current The Shelter CD is comprised of collaborative tracks with other like-minded music makers (Brandon Heath, David Crowder, Amy Grant, etc.). This shuffled, meditative, melodic tune features Mike Donehey. Definitely pop-crossover material.

KINGS OF LEON/Radioactive
Writer: Caleb Followill/Nathan Followill/Jared Followill/Matthew Followill; Producer: Angelo Petraglia & Jackquire King; Publisher: Pistola/Sinderella’s Grass Slipper/McFearless/Coffee Tea or Me/Bug/Silent But Violent, ASCAP/BMI; RCA (vinyl 45)
—Anthemic, in a U2-ish kinda way. The guitars are a stuttering, twittering swirl of sound, and the lead vocal soars. The B-side of the 45 features the West Angeles Mass Choir, which underscores the song’s seriousness of purpose. The New York Times has called its Come Around Sundown parent album, “the rock blockbuster of the new season.” Ain’t that nice? Be looking for it somewhere in tomorrow’s list of announced Grammy Award nominees.

SHERYL CROW/Sign Your Name
Writer: Maitreya Sananda; Producer: Doyle Bramhall & Justin Stanley; Publisher: none listed; A&M (track)
—Sheryl’s current CD is called 100 Miles from Memphis because her hometown of Kennett, MO is, indeed, 100 miles to the north. The collection is informed by the soul music that Memphis is noted for, perhaps nowhere more so than on this cover of the sensuous Terence Trent D’Arby smash of 1988. Sheryl’s version is appropriately slinky, funky and groove soaked. The harmony singing comes courtesy of guest star Justin Timberlake, who is famously a Memphis native. (Elsewhere on the album, Keith Richards makes an appearance.) Essential listening.

Writer: Jorgenson; Producer: John Jorgenson; Publisher: Jorgensongs/Bug, BMI; J2 (track) (www.johnjorgenson,com)
—This Middle Tennessee guitar slinger—formerly of The Desert Rose Band (1986-1994)and Elton John’s touring troupe (1994-2000)—has two current albums on the market. This is the swoon-y title tune to a gypsy/flamenco/jazz collection by The John Jorgenson Quintet (which also includes violinist Jason Anick, bassist Simon Planting, percussionist Rick Reed and rhythm guitarist Kevin Nolan). On this gorgeous CD, John plays guitar, bouzouki, clarinet and soprano sax. The other album is Istiqbal Gathering, a pop-classical collaboration with Orchstra Nashville and The Turtle Island Quartet. Recorded live, it is a rich sonic marvel with Jorgenson’s acoustic guitar surrounded by strings and things. Both albums are superb listening experiences.

Writer: Leon Russell; Producer: T Bone Burnett; Publisher: Young Carney, ASCAP; Decca (track)
—I am a huge, huge Leon Russell fan. So is Elton John, which is the reason for their new collaboration, The Union. Appropriately, the set’s first single belongs to the senior member of the team. Nashvillian Russell is just as soulful as ever, and John slips easily into his swampy, steamy vocal groove. Leon’s gin-house/gospel piano leads the way. Listening to these two masters together is beyond heavenly. This is easily one of the greatest albums of 2010, regardless of genre.

KIM RICHEY/Wreck Your Wheels
Writer: Kim Richey/Mando Saenz; Producer: Nielson Hubbard; Publisher: Chrysalis Songs/Red Equals Luck/Scramblemusic/Carnival, BMI/ASCAP; Thirty Tigers (track) (www.kimrichey.com)
—The title tune to Kim’s new CD is a steady-thumping romantic dreamscape that is sparely arranged to spotlight her languid vocal phrasing. Get a load of this supporting cast on the disc—Jeremy Lister, Will Kimbrough, Matthew Ryan and David Henry, plus producer Hubbard contributing bass, piano, glock, organ and overall haunting atmosphere. Delicious-sounding pop nirvana.

Writer: Beth Nielsen Chapman; Producer: Beth Nielsen Chapman; Publisher: Prismlight, SESAC/PRS; BNC (track) (www.bethnielsenchapman.com)
—As usual, she is gloriously melodic and ultra heartfelt on this stunning ballad from her new, self-produced Back to Love collection. Her yearning vocal and Gary Malkins’s elegant piano playing are joined by a magnificently supportive mass of violas, cellos and violins. If this doesn’t bring a lump to your throat, you are made of stone, my friend.

MICHAEL W. SMITH/Save Me From Myself
Writer: Lau Hojen/Soren Balsner/Morten Thorhauge; Producer: Michael W. Smith & Bryan Lenox; Publisher: Bert’s Songs/Universal, ASCAP; Sony/Reunion/
Provident (track)
—This CCM star hasn’t had a big pop crossover hit since 1991 (”Place in This World”). But his brilliantly produced new Wonder CD could definitely change that. This sonically dense lead off track/single piles electronics, keyboards and his tenor vocal on top of blustering beats in a way that is stirring, to say the least. The album also includes two secular love songs, “You Belong to Me” and “Forever Yours.”

DISClaimer Single Reviews (11/24/10)

Before you dismiss this list as a pack of nobodies, check the fine print.

Between them, these minor leaguers have ties to such major leaguers as The Bellamy Brothers, George Jones, Jason & The Scorchers, former Georgia Satellite Dan Baird, Kid Rock, Uncle Kracker and Charlie Daniels. Plus, there’s a surprising amount of class on display.

The Atlanta-based foursome Ponderosa wins a DisCovery Award with its rootsy, rocking “Old Gin Road,” a preview of its CD dropping in January. Recorded in Nashville, this disc appears on New West Records, a label that last made news by releasing the soundtrack to Crazy Heart with its Oscar winning “The Weary Kind” track.

Rehab tours with the afore-mentioned Kid Rock and Uncle Kracker and has also collaborated with Hank Williams Jr. I’m not sure what to call the band’s sound, but whatever it is, it wins Disc of the Day. And, yes, the group’s roots were planted in a rehab facility.

Writer: Jesse Brewster; Producer: Jesse Brewster; Publisher: none listed; Crokked Prairie (track) (www.jessebrewster.com)
—His voice is somewhat lightweight for the heavy, rocking chorus instrumentation. He does get points for whistling the bridge.

Writer: Gary H. Fisher; Producer: Sean “CT” Thomas; Publisher: none listed, BMI; KountreeBoyZ Entertainment (track) (www.dehtyme.com)
—It has a mellow, west-coasty, breezy thing going on. The Eagles-derived harmonies, heartache lyric, whispered organ and meaty melody are all mighty easy on the ears. Absolutely lend these guys your time.

Writer: Barber/Beddingfield/Fears; Producer: Kent Wells; Publisher: Rebel Dawg/Bar Frog/Faverett Tracks, BMI; Rebel Dawg (track)
—The packaging is sensational, a multi-fold-out concept I’ve never seen before. The album is titled This Life Ain’t For Everybody. On this stand-out ballad, Eric is an existential honky-tonker addressing his barroom congregation by moaning and quoting the Possum’s song titles. The boy can definitely sing it country. George’s cameo vocal occurs at the finale.

REHAB/Welcome Home
Writer: D. Alexander/M. Hartnett/W. Scheiner; Producer: Ed Rowland; Publisher: Warner Robbins/M. Hartnett/Wayne Scheiner, BMI/ASCAP; Universal Republic (track)
—The singing and beats are so rapid-fire that it is almost like rap. But the lyric is loaded with hillbilly heart, the harmonies are straight from church and the sentiments are as country as all get out. A very creative sonic adventure.

Writer: Bruce Brown; Producer: Bruce Brown & Casey Wood; Publisher: Brass Crab, BMI; BB (track) (www.brucebrownmusic.com)
—Bruce has been in the Charlie Daniels Band for more than 20 years. He’s a guitarist with a deft touch who’s also handy with a hooky melody. On this instrumental title tune to his new CD, he makes his axe “talk” almost like a human voice. It’s a really cool listening experience. Elsewhere on the album, he sings in a jazzy, groove-soaked kinda tone. Recommended.

Writer: Kalen Nash/Jonathan Thomas Hall; Producer: Joe Chiccarelli; Publisher: FSMGI/Chrysalis One/West Bay, IMRO/BMI; New West (track) (www.popnderosamusic.com)
—The debut single from the band’s Moonlight Revival CD is a grinding, soulful, melodic  country rocker, very much in the footsteps of Creedence Clearwater Revival. Which is to say it is very, very excellent, indeed.

Writer: Collins/Collins/Hodges; Producer: Dan Baird; Publisher: Collinsville/Nashville Flash/Bug, SESAC/BMI; Rev (track) (www.staciecollins.com)
—I hear she burned the house down at her album-release party last week. She’s a harp-blowing rocker with attitude to spare. On this lead track to her Sometimes Ya Gotta CD, she wails with a funky backbeat and snarling electric guitars (thank you Warner Hodges and Dan Baird) behind her. Excitement on plastic.

JESSE AND NOAH /First Call After Last Call
Writer: Jesse Bellamy/Danny E. Simpson; Producer: Jesse Bellamy & Noah Bellamy; Publisher: Skunk Ape/Dancin’ Dawg/Paramount, ASCAP/BMI; Luna Chica (track) (www.jesseandnoah.com)
—With a title like this, you expect a little humor or maybe some honky-tonk guilt. Instead, it’s a romantic swoon about a musician who can’t wait to go home to his sweetie. Jesse’s lead vocal is strikingly reminiscent of their famous father David Bellamy’s croon.

Writer: John Lee/Michelle Lee/A.J. Master; Producer: J.P. Cormier; Publisher: SWITR/Can of Words/Moo Ka Moo, SOCAN/BMI; JML (track) (www.thelaws.com)
—The title tune to this Canadian husband-wife duo’s CD is rather underproduced. John’s lead vocal is expressive and soulful, but all that backs him are an acoustic guitar and mandolin. Folk hootenanny, anyone?

Writer: Darrell Hincks/Richard Fagan; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Broadminded, BMI; CD (track)
—The title tune to Casey’s CD is a gently strummed romantic ballad. He sings well, but I nodded off.

DISClaimer Single Reviews (11/17/10)

The trend of the day is career transition.

A number of name-brand stars are reinventing themselves by recording in varying shades of bluegrass. We have previously noted this in records by Merle Haggard, Ken Mellons, Patty Loveless, Dolly Parton and others. This week, we find Joe Diffie and Michael Martin Murphey in their ranks, plus former country chart makers Donna Ulisse and Tim O’Brien continuing on this path.

Ironically, Ricky Skaggs, among the first to make a country-to-bluegrass transition, is now working under the influence of pop mastermind Gordon Kennedy to craft a distinctly non bluegrass sound. Lend him your ears.

Jason Aldean & Kelly Clarkson nail down the Disc of the Day award with the goose-bumpy duet they introduced on the CMA Awards telecast.

In an unusual listening session, the DisCovery Award also goes to someone with a ballad performance. That would be The Harters, a sibling trio produced by the esteemed Keith Stegall.

Writer: M.M. Murphey; Producer: Ryan Murphey; Publisher: 3M/Bro ‘N’ Sis, BMI; Rural Rhythm (track) (www.ruralrhythm.com)
—Murphey calls what he plays these days, “Buckaroo Bluegrass.” He sings mostly the same way, but now draws his backing musicians from a talent pool that includes Rob Ickes, Ronny McCoury, Sam Bush, Pat Flynn, Charlie Cushman and Andy Leftwich. His current CD draws its title, Riding Song, from this rapid-fire track. It showcases the fleet-fingered bluegrass sidemen more than it does its writer and singer. Instrumental sounds to tickle the brain.

Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Curb
—“They hauled her off in high heels and handcuffs.” He treats her wrong, so she goes over the edge, torching his car, among other things. The conclusion to this snazzy rocker? “Crazy women are made by crazy men.” A winner.

JOE DIFFIE/Tennessee Tea
Writer: Joe Diffie/Billy Joe Foster; Producer: Joe Diffie & Luke Wooten; Publisher: Diffitunes/Billy Joe Foster, BMI; Rounder (track) (www.joediffie.com)
—After co-writing the 2005 chart topper “My Give a Damn’s Busted,” Joe took a left turn toward bluegrass music. His CD is titled, simply, Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album. His yearning vocal style fits the genre like a glove. On this sizzling barn burner, he wails up a storm while red-hot pickers flicker around him. The album’s cast is a who’s-who of acoustic music, including Rhonda Vincent, The Grascals, Alecia Nugent, Bradley Walker, Byran Sutton, Aubrey Haynie, Harley Allen, Carl Jackson, Mike Compton and Sonya Isaacs. With a talent level that high, you don’t have to be a bluegrass fan to love this album.

Writer: June Carter/Merle Kilgore; Producer: Keith Stegall; Publisher: Painted Desert, BMI; Arista (track)
—As you might expect, it’s a somewhat mellower vocal take on this Cash classic. Groovy electric guitars replace the distinctive Mexicali trumpets heard on the original. Lee Ann Womack’s backup singing is also a plus. The song is so strong, that if you let it just carry you along like this, you’ll be rewarded. And Alan is.

DONNA ULISSE/Caney Creek To Canaan Land
Writer: Donna Ulisse/Rick Stanley; Producer: Keith Sewell; Publisher: Uncle Hadley/Pop ‘N’ Paw, ASCAP; Hadley Music Group (track) (www.donnaulisse.com)
—I was a big fan of this lady when she was an Atlantic Records country act in the 1990s. She’s been making bluegrass records for the past several years. The new one, Holy Waters, is a bluegrass-gospel collection that kicks off with this this spirited shouter. With the exception of a cover version of The Stanley Brothers chestnut, “Who Will Sing for Me,” the entire CD is self-composed.

Writer: Jason Sellers/Paul Jenkins/Andy Gibson; Producer: Michael Knox; Publisher: Sony-ATV Cross Keys/Becky’s Boy/Godfather Rich/Do Write, ASCAP; Broken Bow (track)
—Response to the pair’s performance of this on the CMA Awards has been so enthusiastic that the duet is now being serviced to radio. He’s up higher in the mix here than he was on the telecast, but she still owns the power ballad with that sensational range of hers. A thrilling listening experience.

Writer: Gordon Kennedy/Ben Cooper; Producer: Ricky Skaggs & Gordon Kennedy; Publisher: Vistaville/Brown Eyed Blonde/Almighty Den, ASCAP/BMI; Skaggs Family/Fontana (track) (www.skaggsfamilyrecords.com)
—Ricky is at the top of his game on his latest gospel collection. This pop-flavored title tune features thumping drumming, electric guitar and organ. Elsewhere on the collection, you’ll find string sections, steel guitar, bouzouki, synthesizer, piano, choirs and Irish fife, among other eclectic sounds. Those who have become accustomed to his bluegrass discs are in for a shock. But this is wildly creative stuff. Check out the gloriously electrified and uplifting “My Cup Runneth Over,” for instance.

Writer: Leslie Harter/Michael Harter/Rachel Williams; Producer: Keith Stegall; Publisher: Tunes of Bigger Picture/Bug/Rain Valley/Anozera/Sage House, ASCAP; Bigger Picture
—This trio of siblings stages its debut with a lovely. lustrous ballad that begins with Leslie trembling in anticipation, then being joined by her brothers in lushly harmonized choruses. Hang on for the bridge when everybody starts weaving vocal parts in and out of the mix. In a word, fabulous.

TIM O’BRIEN/You Ate The Apple
Writer: Tim O’Brien/Jonathan Byrd; Producer: Tim O’Brien; Publisher: Cornbread Nation/Bluewater, ASCAP/SESAC; Howdy Skies (track) (www.timobrien.net)
—This wry commentary on Eden is a folk ditty that kicks off Tim’s current Chicken & Egg collection. Stuart Duncan’s jazzy fiddle accompanies Tim’s scat singing brilliantly. The rest of the CD is a showcase for his always inventive songwriting style(s). The man is a Music City treasure.

THE STEELDRIVERS/The Reckless Side Of Me
Writer: Chris Stapleton/Mike Henderson; Producer: Luke Wooten & The SteelDrivers; Publisher: Sea Gayle/Son of a Miner/Irving/Chicken Shack, ASCAP/BMI; Rounder (track) (www.steeldrivers.com)
—The second SteelDrivers CD is also, alas, apparently the last one that will feature the gripping singing of Chris Stapleton. I hear he is now heading in a rock direction. The Restless collection kicks off with this uptempo rouser that typifies what is so great about this band—the combination of the bluegrass instrumentation and Chris’s bruiser, blue-eyed soul voice. The bluesy fiddling of Tammy Rogers, in particular, stands out on this track.

DISClaimer Single Reviews (11/10/10)

Will the mystery makers please stop?

One of the more frustrating parts of this job is getting an indie record from an unknown that contains almost no information about them on it. I refer to this week’s DisCovery Award winners The English Project. No songwriter, publisher or production info on the disc whatsoever. Don’t you want someone to find you? I know next to nothing about these people, but “614” is the area code for Columbus, Ohio, so you might start your search there

The top award this week is a toughie. Both Taylor Swift and Sugarland are absolutely at the tops of their games, and Darius Rucker isn’t far behind. For sheer sonic creativity, I’m giving Disc of the Day to Sugarland. But by all means, program all three at once.

Writer: Rachel Timberlake/Dany White/Brett Stilwell; Producer: Danny White; Publisher: none listed; RT (track) (www.racheltimberlake.com)
—As its title suggests, it’s a hell-raising, beer-drinkin,’ redneck stomper. Unfortunately, the track raises much more of ruckus than her vocal performance.

Writer: Jennifer Nettles/Kristian Bush; Producer: Byron Gallimore, Kristian Bush & Jennifer Nettles; Publisher: Jennifer Nettles/Dirkpit, ASCAP/BMI; Mercury Nashville (track)
—Very cool. The production is a whirling, swirling delight with its multiple layers of percussion, keyboards and acoustic guitar. Their voices intertwine beautifully on the choruses, which, by the way, do not contain the title phrase. In a reversal of the ordinary, you’ll find “Little Miss” sprinkled throughout the verses. Wonderfully creative.

LONNIE SPIKER/The Gospel According to Hank
Writer: Lonnie Spiker; Producer: Justin Trevino; Publisher: Den N Dust, ASCAP; Heart of Texas (track) (www.lonniespiker.com)
—The steel-and-fiddle drenched track is country with a capital “C.” And any lyric that drops Hank Williams song titles left and right is okay by me. For all the unreconstructed hillbillies among us.

Writer: Darius Rucker/Frank Rogers/Kara DioGuardi; Producer: Frank Rogers; Publisher: Universal/Cadaja/House of Sea Gayle/Sunshine Terrace/Bug, ASCAP/BMI; Capitol Nashville (track)
—I thought “Come Back Song” was a perfect little record. This returns Darius to his more familiar domestic-bliss mode. I dig the rapid-fire lyric delivery amid the beefy beats.

Writer: Jason Matthews/Lisa Carver/Gwen Sebastian; Producer: Darran Smith, Mike Borchetta & Judy Rodman; Publisher: Steel Wheels/Big Loud Bucks/Matthews Millions/Big Red Tractor/Chugwa Mountain/Midnight Ride, BMI/ASCAP; Lofton Creek/Edge (615-288-4234)
—Her heartbreak delivery is strong and true. The song’s sturdy choruses tremble with pent-up power. She’s gonna dust herself off and move on somehow, because “the only thing wrong to do is Nothing.” A promising debut.

TAYLOR SWIFT/Back to December
Writer: Taylor Swift; Producer: Nathan Chapman & Taylor Swift; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree/Taylor Swift, BMI; Big Machine (track)
—She runs into an old flame and finds herself swallowing her pride and apologizing while strings soar and an electric guitar shudders. The orchestral arrangement is simply sensational, and her delivery aches with believability. All in all, a stunning piece of work.

Writer: Sylkie Monoff; Producer: Sylkie Monoff; Publisher: none listed, GEMA/SESAC; Genuine (track) (www.sylkiemonoff.com)
—She’s a tad pitch-y, on the sharp side. But her production touch and songwriting are both adequate.

Writer: Chuck Wicks/Chris Tompkins/Rodney Clawson; Producer: Michael Knox; Publisher: Universal-MGB/CEW/Big Loud Songs/Angel River/Big Loud Bucks/Big Red Toe/Amarillo Sky, ASCAP/BMI; RCA
—Languid, in a hot summertime kinda way. Is November the right month for something like this? One thing I thought was cute was that he sent it out to reviewers on a cassette tape.

Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; The English Project (614-348-3044)
—This is an Ohio duo consisting of Lindsey English and Dan O’Connor. Both of them sing quite capably. On this power ballad, she takes a verse, then he does. When they harmonize together, the track swells and crashes around them. Nicely done. Lend this your ears.

Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed, BMI; Cabin Creek (www.forestwayneallen.com**)
—He can just barely sing, and the track sounds like a cheap demo.

DISClaimer Single Reviews (11/03/10)

There is nothing particularly earth shattering to report this week.

The column is very much a mixed bag, everything from rocking Elvis to bluegrass Rhonda. Steven Dale Jones is holding down the singer-songwriter slot. Katie Armiger is here with youth appeal. Rosehill, Lathan Moore and Bill Rice have returned and confirmed themselves as promising.

Our two contenders for Disc of the Day are both relative newcomers on major labels, Josh Thompson and our winner, Easton Corbin. He just sings so darn well.

By virtue of the fact that she’s the only complete unknown in this stack of platters, North Carolina’s Madonna Nash takes home a DisCovery Award.

Writer: Katie Armiger/Amanda Flynn/Bruce Wallace; Producer: Chad Carlson; Publisher: Purple Monkeys/Miss Tomasina/Miss Shaw/Purple Cape/Ole, SESAC/BMI; Cold River ()
—Very pop, like a ‘60s “girl-group” ditty. It is a deceptively bouncy revenge fantasy, complete with cheery “Woah-Oh’s.”

STEVEN DALE JONES/Grandmother’s Song
Writer: Jones; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; SDJ (track) ([email protected])
—On his 10 Favorites CD, hit songwriter Jones offers his own takes on the Diamond Rio popularized “One More Day” and “I Know How the River Feels” plus a clutch of others just as well crafted. His singing is so fine throughout the set that you’ll wonder why he doesn’t record more. This track movingly describes an elderly musician in a nursing home, struggling to hold onto her dignity and her spirit. The sound of truth. It will touch you. I promise.

EASTON CORBIN/I Can’t Love You Back
Writer: Carson Chamberlain/Clint Daniels/Jeff Hyde; Producer: Carson Chamberlain; Publisher: FSMGI/WCCR/State One Music America/Sony-ATV/Mammaw’s Cornbread, IMRO/BMI; Mercury Nashville (track) ()
—CMA New Artist of the Year nominee Corbin is back with a broken-hearted ballad. It showcases what a richly textured singing voice he possesses in that the verses are hushed meditations and the choruses are high-tenor shouts to the heavens. Very effective indeed.

ROSEHILL/Midnight America
Writer: Michael Dulaney/Steven Dale Jones; Producer: Radney Foster & Jay Clementi; Publisher: Michael Dulaney/Steven Dale Jones/Mojave Rain/Full Circle/WB/, ASCAP; Cypress Creek (track) (www.rosehill-live.com)
—I like these guys. Rosehill is comprised of Blake Myers and Mitch McBain, and back in June they won a DisCovery Award in this column. They sing with gumption and drive. And get a load of the production and songwriting credits. This super-melodic and hooky thing rocks splendidly. I’m in.

BILL RICE/Friday Night
Writer: none listed; Producer: Bill Rice & Roger Blevins Jr.; Publisher: none listed; Aaron Ave (830-253-8813)
—He has his buddies, his jalopy and his poor-folks fun. A nicely drawn portrait of small-town America. His vocal is appropriately dusty and yearning.

JOSH THOMPSON/Won’t Be Lonely Long
Writer: Josh Thompson/Arlis Albritton/George Ducas; Producer: Michael Knox; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree/Songs of Better Angels/Blank Sheet/Warner-Tamerlane/Salt Life/Big Hits of Amylase/Pure Blue, BMI; Columbia (track) ()
—Do not be deceived by the downbeat opening phrases. In no time, this transforms into a lively, chugging, honky-tonk, “kiss-off” number. He figures he’s lucky that she broke up with him at 7:00 on a Friday night, ‘cause that gives him plenty of time to get loaded, dance and pick up girls. Rowdy fun.

LATHAN MOORE/Love in Your Life
Writer: Matt McClure/John Paul Williams/Stan Swinarski; Producer: Rick Holt & Norro Wilson; Publisher: Bow to Stern/Blonde Leading Blind/Flatlanders, BMI; Blue Steel (track) (www.lathanmoore.com)
—This former DisCovery Award winner is back with a second single. I still like his robust singing voice, but this lyric is a little preachy for my taste.

RHONDA VINCENT/Sweet Summertime
Writer: Donna Webster; Producer: Rhonda Vincent & The Rage; Publisher: Sally Mountain, BMI; Upper Management (track) (www.rhondavincent.com)
—The Queen of Bluegrass is making a couple of gutsy moves in forming her own record label and producing herself. This single from her new Taken CD features rippling banjo and guitar work from Rage members Aaron McDaris and Ben Helson, respectively, not to mention a brilliant mandolin break from the lady, herself. The lilting, wistful tune also features sterling vocal harmonies from the guys. (Could it be that this song is the single because it name-checks Martha White, which just so happens to be her tour sponsor?) Guests elsewhere on the album include Dolly Parton, Rhonda’s daughters Tensel and Sally, Little Roy Lewis and Richard Marx (!).

MADONNA NASH/Dirty Little Secret
Writer: Madonna Nash; Producer: Dave Demay & Charles Fulp; Publisher: Madonna Nash/Mad Charm, ASCAP; Mad Charm (www.madonnanash.com)
—It says here that Ms. Nash won the 2010 Female Country Artist of the Year at the Carolina Music Awards. Her roaring, rocking single doesn’t have much of a melody, but there’s plenty of space in it for her to sell it on sheer attitude.

ELVIS PRESLEY/Suspicious Minds
Writer: Mark James; Producer: Erich Von Tourneau; Publisher: Sony-ATV, BMI; RCA (track) ()
—This song has charted country twice, once for Dwight Yoakam and even bigger as a Waylon Jennings & Jessi Colter duet. But unlike many of The King’s other singles, his original 1969 version of this didn’t chart country at all. And this pounding new production of it certainly won’t. That doesn’t mean it isn’t fascinating listening. Elvis’s and the female backup singers’ vocals are retained, but the surrounding track is a crashing, bashing re-imagining of the song (although I can still hear The Memphis Horns in the mix). It is from Viva Elvis, the companion CD to the Las Vegas extravaganza by Cirque du Soleil.

DISClaimer Single Reviews (10/27/10)

Better late than never, they say.

As She’s Walking Away” is already in the top-10, but I’m just now getting around to it. That’s because I had to go out and buy the Zac Brown Band album that it is on. If this were most country acts, that would really tick me off. But I don’t mind financially supporting a group this good one bit. The best prices, by the way, are at the f.y.e. store on West End.

Oh, and did I mention that it also earns a Disc of the Day award for The Zac Brown Band & Alan Jackson?

Nashville newcomer Coy Taylor is our DisCovery Award winner for this column. But the best news of the day is the presence of enduring favorites Marc Beeson and Raul Malo and even older class acts like Curly Putman and Jack Greene.

COY TAYLOR/Bigger Than Life
Writer: Rivers Rutherford; Producer: Brady Seals; Publisher: none listed; CT (track) (www.coytaylor.com)
—This thumping country rocker has plenty of “bottom” in its mix. Coy Taylor’s drawling vocal has enough oomph to ride on top of the grinding guitars and insistent beats. He is a former Kentucky/Indiana/Cincinnati club attraction who recently moved to Music City. Promising, in a Jason Aldean/Rodney Atkins kinda way.

RAUL MALO/Living for Today
Writer: Raul Malo; Producer: Raul Malo; Publisher: Raul Malo, BMI; Fantasy (track) (www.raulmalo.com)
—Raul’s new CD is titled Sinners & Saints. This track has a vintage rock ‘n’ roll feeling with its stuttering organ, barrelhouse piano and sharp, echoey guitar pings. The melody is simple and straightforward, as are the rollicking groove and his vocal delivery. In the finale, “We’re just living for today,” is repeated over and over and over again, which explains the 5:14 running time.

Writer: Ben Clark/Kyle Park; Producer: Kyle Park; Publisher: none listed, BMI; Winding Road (track) (www.kyleparkmusic.com)
—This singer-songwriter’s five-song sampler begins with this breezy charmer. The chorus tune is ridiculously catchy. The acoustic guitars scamper around beautifully. And his boyish tenor sounds like innocent springtime. As I’ve mentioned about him before, he is also a terrific record producer.

Writer: Troy Seals; Producer: Penn Pennington; Publisher: none listed; Pretty World (track) (www.jackgreeneopry.com)
—This veteran Grand Ole Opry star’s newest CD is titled Precious Memories, Treasured Friends. On it, he sings his signature song Statue of a Fool as a solo. But most of the selections are duets with the likes of Lorrie Morgan, Vince Gill, Charley Pride, Larry Gatlin and Merle Haggard. This lead-off song is a swinging, big-band romp with The Possum. Hearing these two voices with a loud, fat brass section is ear-opening, to say the least.

TOMMY ALVERSON/Texas One More Time
Writer: Tommy Alverson; Producer: Walt Wilkins, Tommy Alverson & Patrick McGuire; Publisher: none listed; Blue Boot (track) (www.tommyalverson.com)
—He sings well, and the band is top-notch. The colorless song, however, does nothing for me.

Writer: Zac Brown/Wyett Durrette; Producer: Keith Stegall & Zac Brown; Publisher: Weimerhound/Lil’ Dub/Angelika, BMI; No Reserve/Atlantic (track)
—The airy, sweet-sounding track contrasts with the downbeat, lost-love lyric. Heartbreak has seldom sounded prettier. And I like the idea of pushing the normally laid-back Alan into this wooshing, rush of a tempo tune.

Writer: Stan Gardner/Frank Simon; Producer: Lloyd Maines; Publisher: Sony-ATV Acuff-Rose, BMI; Texas World (track) (www.luckytomberlinband.com)
—Lucky’s lucky in that just about everyone in the group can sing lead, including such familiar names as Earl Poole Ball and Redd Volkart. On the CD title tune, a 1955 Patsy Cline chestnut, Lucky takes the lead duties, himself. But both Redd and Earl get to play dandy guitar and piano solos in mid-song. A good time is had by all.

Writer: Curly Putman/Sonny Throckmorton; Producer: Curly Putman & Adam Engelhardt; Publisher: Sony-ATV Tree, BMI; CP (track)
—This living legend of country songwriting has a new CD called Write ‘Em Sad, Sing ‘Em Lonesome. He sounds simply splendid on it, giving us his own versions of his classics “My Elusive Dreams,” “Green Green Grass of Home,” “Older the Violin,” “Couldn’t Love Have Picked a Better Place to Die” and the like. There are three duets, one with Deborah Allen, one with Sarah Johns and this lovely ballad with Miss Dolly. The song was originally a 1993 hit for Doug Stone. The album is a fund-raiser for the Scott Putman Memorial Scholarship fund at Cumberland University in Lebanon, TN.

MARC BEESON/Merciful Love
Writer: Allen Shamblin/Marc Beeson; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Built on Rock/Springfish, ASCAP; MB (track) (www.myspace.com/marcbeeson)
—I ran into Marc at the ASCAP awards, and the next thing I knew, a 12-track CD was in my mailbox. It’s a compilation of his latest demos, and it reminded me of how much I’ve always liked his singing, as well as his writing. This title tune, “Merciful Love” is guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings with its portrayal of an aging couple. She’s in a home and has forgotten all her songs, but she still smiles when he walks through the door. In addition to Allen, Marc’s songwriting collaborators on the collection include Tim Johnson, Mike Reid, Don Pfrimmer, Dave Robbins, Billy Austin and Rodney Clawson. Listening to something like this tells me why I fell in love with Nashville in the first place. You need to hear it, too.

POINT OF GRACE/Love And Laundry
Writer: Leah Crutchfield/Mallary Hope/Brian Nash; Producer: Nathan Chapman; Publisher: Sony-ATV/Songs for My Good Girl/ Kohaw Music obo itself and Rock Island Road Music LLC (ASCAP) c/o The Bicycle Music Company, BMI/ASCAP; Word (CDX)
—I heard these gals sing this on the Opry a few weeks ago and was instantly smitten with it. There hasn’t been a working-wife lyric this good in ages. Every detail is the absolute truth. And the propulsive production doesn’t hurt one bit. Essential listening.

DISClaimer Single Reviews (10/20/10)

I always like a listening session with plenty of newcomers.

After all, the thrill of discovery is what every critic lives for. This week sees column debuts by Chet O’Keefe, Corinne Chapman, The Jeremy Miller Band, James Lann and Daniel Warren.

In the cases of Mr. O’Keefe and Ms. Chapman, I believe we’re in the presence of important new songwriting voices. Both of them are really classy tunesmiths.

If you want an example of a songwriting masterpiece, look no further than “I Wouldn’t Be a Man.” This 1987 Don Williams classic was previously revived by Billy Dean in 1996. Now it is the sublime new single by Josh Turner. It is also the Disc of the Day.

Of those newcomers cited above, I’m singling out James Lann for a DisCovery Award, simply because his record is the best produced of the lot. His website says that his new CD Honky Tonk Kung Fu is this authentic Texas cowboy’s second. But he’s new this week to DisClaimer.

Writer: Jeremy Miller/The Jeremy Miller Band; Producer: Keith Davis; Publisher: none listed, BMI; JMB (www.jeremymillerband.com)
—Somewhat amateur sounding, but not without its charms. The band has an enthusiastic, garage-country approach. The lead vocal is ever-so-slightly pitch-y, but remains endearing with its drawling little tenor rasp.

KENNY CHESNEY/Somewhere With You
Writer: J.T. Harding/Shane McAnally; Producer: Buddy Cannon & Kenny Chesney; Publisher: Adopted Songs/Crazy Water/Little Blue Egg/Kobalt, BMI/ASCAP; BNA
—The second single from Hemingway’s Whiskey has a lot to live up to, since “The Boys of Fall” was such a masterpiece. This time out, its an atmospheric mid-tempo outing with plenty of yearning in the vocal over a lost love. Swirling and dreamy.

Writer: Corinne Chapman/Gene Reynolds; Producer: Ken Coomer; Publisher: Lilchap, SESAC; CC (track) (www.corinnechapman.com)
—She’s produced by Ken Coomer, who’s noted for his work with Wilco and Uncle Tupelo. But before you slap this with an “Americana” label, give this track a listen. The guitars twang, and the tune is super catchy. “Let love spread like weeds,” she warbles. The song has been picked up by Crocs for its program to provide shoes for people in third-world countries and is also the theme song for a soccer club started by the homeless in Ft. Worth. It comes from Corinne’s six-song EP titled Dirty Pretty Things.

JOSH TURNER/I Wouldn’t Be A Man
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; MCA Nashville
—How perfect is this timing? Don Williams will be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on Sunday evening. And Josh’s new single this week is his glowingly warm and deeply lustrous remake of Don’s 1987 hit. You will absolutely swoon over this utterly gorgeous performance. MCA’s label copy is non existent, but just for the record, this song’s authors are both Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame members—Rory Bourke and Mike Reid.

Writer: Stephanie Urbina Jones/Mark Marchetti/Jack Williams; Producer: Stephanie Urbina Jones; Publisher: none listed, SESAC/BMI/ASCAP; Casa Del Rio (210-378-5897)
—I have always liked this Texas gal. On this upbeat twang-fest, she thanks God “for what I have and haven’t got.” Bopping and engaging. Get up and twirl around the dance floor.

Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; NAMM (track)
—This is the title tune to a CD that aims to raise funds “to put musical instruments into the hands of every child in America.” Ambitious? Sure, but worth the effort. Especially when the song is as uplifting, anthemic and catchy as this one. You’ll want to clap along in time.

JAMES LANN/Every Kiss Goodnight
Writer: James Lann/Gary Leach; Producer: Greg Hunt, Gary Leach & James Lann; Publisher: none listed; Ari-Tex (www.jameslann.com)
—Infectious. It has a rocking, nervous, full-bodied energy that propels it relentlessly forward. It takes awhile to get to the title, but the rush getting there is so cool that you don’t care. Beautifully produced. Listen and believe.

Writer: D. Warren; Producer: Al Hurschman & Daniel Warren; Publisher: Chaprielle, BMI; Chaprielle (www.danielwarrenband.com)
—The mostly acoustic production and his gentle vocal lilt give this a somewhat folkie quality. It’s such a peaceful, easy feeling that his rather word-y songwriting style glides by almost unnoticed.

MATT GARY/I’m Just Sayin’
Writer: Frank Myers/Gary B. Baker/Billy Montana; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Quarterback (www.mattgarymusic.com)
—If she were his, he’d treat her right. So he advises her to walk away from “that ball and chain” because, “love’s not supposed to make you hurt.” His tenor floats above a frothing, churning sonic stew that gives the whole thing an empowering vibe.

CHET O’KEEFE/Ring The Bell
Writer: Chet O’Keefe; Producer: Thomm Jutz & Pat McInerney; Publisher: O’Keefe Street, ASCAP; CO (track) (www.chetokeefe.com)
—He’s been in town only a couple of months, and his very first cut as a writer wins him a Song of the Year prize at the International Bluegrass Music Association’s award show. His own version of it kicks off his Game Bird CD. His voice has a comfy, lived-in quality, and the accompanying sighing steel and rolling rhythm give the track an easy-going lilt. His other tunes are equally refreshing, by the way. Try “Nashville Star,” for one. Or “Petting Zoo,” for another.

DISClaimer Single Reviews (10/13/10)

Variety is the spice of life, they say.

It’s certainly true in this week’s stack of platters. We have an electronic dance record, a comedy disc from a Country Music Hall of Famer, a pop/folk outing by a Russian country performer, a homespun ditty from a husband-and-wife team, a group re-naming, an Oz man’s cowbell-backed guitar rocker and a Texan with singer-songwriter grit to spare.

Where to turn?

Well, there’s no denying the pull and potency of the Tim McGraw single. So it is an obvious favorite for a Disc of the Day award.

But I don’t think I’d be out of line by suggesting that he could share it with the Oz man, Keith Urban.

Writer: Paul Cook; Producer: Terry Mashburn; Publisher: Turtle on a Fencepost, ASCAP; Electric Cactus (www.krystiworley.com)
—More redneck rock, with the usual verbal cliches strung together (drankin,’ torn blue jeans, Skoal rings, tattoos, belt buckles, jacked-up trucks, lovin’ all night, blah, blah, blah) over thundering drums and guitars. Pass.

TIM McGRAW/Felt Good on My Lips
Writer: Brett Warren/Brad Warren/Jim Beavers/Brett Beavers; Producer: Byron Gallimore & Tim McGraw; Publisher: StyleSonic/Bilzuzz  & Bilzuzz/Buzz & Buzz/Sony-ATV Tree/Beavertime/FSMGI/Chestnut Barn/Chrysalis One, BMI/IMRO; Curb
—Droning electronica pulses steadily beneath Tim’s delivery of the tumbling-into-love lyric. Madly rhythmic. Insanely catchy. Everybody on the dancefloor!

Writer: Adam Craig/Keesy Timmer/Jon Nite; Producer: none listed; Publisher: InTune Nashville/Cowboy Timmer/Zavitson, BMI/ASCAP; Quarterback/American Roots (www.adamcraigband.com)
—Formerly billed as TelluRide, the group is now named after its solid lead vocalist. As usual, he delivers the goods, as do his ultra-accomplished band mates. Lively and engaging.

JOEY+ RORY/That’s Important to Me
Writer: Rory Feek/Joey Martin/Tim Johnson; Producer: Carl Jackson; Publisher: Giantslayer/Black in the Saddle/ole/Rufus Gold/Tim Johnson/Warner-Tamerlane/Marathon Key 2, ASCAP/SESAC/BMI; Sugar Hill/Vanguard/Roar(track) (www.joeyandrory.com)
—Simple truths, delivered with Joey’s customary emotional pull. The sweet song is wonderfully memorable, and the Rob Ickes dobro lines that echo the vocal are sheer poetry.

RIDIN’ HIGH BAND/Too Well to Go to Work
Writer: M. Jason Greene/Chris Cagle; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Son Daddy/Anjelito/Mark Hybner/WAMA, BMI/ASCAP; Centennial (www.ridinhighband.net)
—Recorded at the bottom of an empty grain silo. And I guess they didn’t have any pitch-correction machines down there.

KEITH URBAN/Put You in a Song
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Capitol Nashville (ERG)
—Radio magic. Joyous, rocking, melodic and utterly uplifting. Plus, it has a cowbell!

BLEU EDMONDSON/No Room for Mercy
Writer: none listed; Producer: Dwight A. Baker; Publisher: none listed; American Saint (track)
—I was completely smitten with this guy’s first record. The new one (titled The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be) has all the hallmarks of its predecessor. He writes with supremely poetic confidence and sings with gritty, gripping passion. This lead-off single is a tuneful, mid-tempo thumper with a chorus that goes straight for the heart. Somebody make this 2008 DisCovery Award winner a star.

Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Rounder (ERG)
—As gorgeous a track as she has ever recorded. It is a grand and glorious road song about heading South alone on a midnight highway, listening to “I Won’t Back Down.” She is still just so totally great.

Writer: Natasha Borzilova; Producer: Natasha Borzilova; Publisher: Uncle Hadley, ASCAP; HMG (track) (www.natashaborzilova.com)
—She was formerly the front woman for the Russian country band Bering Strait. On the title track to her second solo CD, she carries a lilting acoustic tune along with her gentle soprano. It’s very pretty, but probably too pop for most country programmers.

MEL TILLIS/You Wouldn’t Believe It
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Show Dog Universal (track) (www.meltillis.com)
—Despite winning six consecutive Comedian of the Year awards from Music City News back in the day, Mel has never recorded a comedy album. Until now. Titled You Ain’t Gonna Believe This, it features three new songs (”Huntin’ Buddies,” “Who’s Gonna Wear the Dress” and “Slowing Down”). but the other 20 tracks are monologues. Including this little rib tickler about the lady finding the escaped elephant in her backyard garden. When she phones the police, she is asked what the animal is doing. “He’s pulling up my cabbage with his tale,” she replies. “What is he doing with it?” inquires the cop. “If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me!”

DISClaimer Single Reviews (10/6/10)

This is a column full of old favorites of mine.

Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen are back, sounding as hale and hearty as ever. Dale Watson returns as well, and he is still a country singer’s country singer. The evergreen Bellamy Brothers remain the groove masters they have always been.

The Disc of the Day belongs to Little Big Town. I dig it that they are following “Little White Church” with something that shows a different sonic side.

Whenever I am asked, “What is your favorite music to listen to?” my answer is always the same. It is old-time music, sounds from before World War II, when folks in recording studios sounded like just plain folks in recording studios. I love the purity and innocence of The Blue Sky Boys, Patsy Montana, Jimmie Rodgers, Vernon Dalhart and their peers of the 1920s and 1930s. And my favorite old-time group of all is The Carter Family.

Having said that, it should come as no surprise that this week’s DisCovery Award is going to The Carter Family III.

BADHORSE/Mississippi Rain
Writer: Robert E. Walden/Adam Grant/Charlie Gilbert; Producer: Larry Blackmon; Publisher: none listed; GMR/Group 7/Pyramid (www.badhorse.tv)
—Washed up on the beach, having drowned in synth strings.

Writer: Ira Louvin/Charlie Louvin; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Sony-ATV Acuff-Rose, BMI; Rounder (track) (www.chrishillman.com)
—Chris is one of the great survivors (The Hillmen, The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Manassas, Souther-Hillman-Furay, McGuinn-Clark-Hillman, The Desert Rose Band). Herb has collaborated with him for decades, from even before their Desert Rose Band days together. Also, Herb sang on Emmylou Harris’s 1975 revival of this Louvin Brothers gem. It appears anew on At Edwards Barn, a live CD that also brings back several other tunes from this team’s past (”Eight Miles High,” “Sin City,” “Love Reunited,” etc.). The sound is sparkling throughout.

JADI NORRIS/Home Is Where The Heart Is
Writer: Jadi Norris; Producer: Jadi Norris & Otto D’Agnolo; Publisher: Jumpin’ Armadillo, BMI; Jumpin’ Armadillo (track) (www.jadinorris.com)
—Twang rock, with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Pile-driving and lotsa fun.

Writer: Gordie Sampson/Hillary Lindsay/Steve McEwan; Producer: Wayne Kirkpatrck & Little Big Town; Publisher: No Such Music/Bug/Music of Windswept/Raylene/EMI Blackwood/Birds With Ears/, SOCAN/ASCAP/BMI; Capitol Nashville (track)
—In a word, gorgeous. It begins as a hushed, crystalline ballad then builds to a thundering, harmony-drenched chorus. A sonic marvel.

Writer: J.D. Newbury; Producer: Lorne O’Neil; Publisher: none listed, BMI; Neches River (www.jdnewbury.com)
—A trainwreck. He can just barely sing, and the band members seem to be going off in different directions. The tempo shifting doesn’t help, either.

Writer: Ron Short; Producer: John Carter Cash; Publisher: Lonesome Ace, BMI; Cash House (track) (www.carterfamilyIII.com)
—The group’s moniker is well earned. A.P. Carter and his wife Sara had a daughter named Janette. She is the mother of this group’s Dale Jett. After the original trio broke up, co-founder Maybelle Carter formed a second Carter Family with her daughters Helen, June and Anita. John Carter Cash is June’s son. He and his gifted wife Laura Cash form the other two thirds of The Carter Family III with cousin Dale. Are you with me so far? With Laura on acoustic guitar, fiddle and vocals and John on acoustic guitar and autoharp, the sound is beautifully folkie. Dale—who plays autoharp and acoustic guitar—sings lead on this track. “Music’s getting cold down on Music Row…They’ve traded music’s soul for a pocket full of gold,” he warbles plaintively while guitars strum “Wildwood Flower.” Charmingly Appalachian.

KELLY KENNING/Nothin’ But Smoke
Writer: Tony Ramey/Kris Bergsnes; Producer: Kelly Kenning & David Chamberlain; Publisher: Sony-ATV/Song Garden, BMI; Davis Music Group (www.kellykenning.com)
—He sings with great warmth, and the ballad is ultra melodic. Get a load of this hook: “There was nothin’ but smoke between me and my old flame.” A winner.

DALE WATSON/Carryin’ On This Way
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; E1 Entertainment(track)
—I am forever a fan. This guy remains one of our very finest neo honky-tonk vocalists. On this breezy outing, Mr. Watson manages to channel both Haggard and Glen Campbell. He phrases so beautifully that you hang on every word. Dazzling guitar and fiddle solos are the icing on the cake.

Writer: Davis/Hurley; Producer: Stonehoney & Fred Remmert; Publisher: none listed, ASCAP/BMI; Music Road (track) (www.stonehoney.com)
—Solid country-rock, played and sung by real pros. This spirited song kicks off a CD called The Cedar Creek Sessions. It is a measure of the band’s ability that the entire record was recorded live in the studio with “no overdubs or studio tricks.” Righteous.

Writer: David Bellamy; Producer: David Bellamy, Howard Bellamy & Randy Heibert; Publisher: Bellamy Brothers, ASCAP; Bellamy Brothers (www.bellamybrothers.com)
—As you might expect, this has a relentlessly catchy rhythmic groove, which is what these guys have always specialized in. It chugs along like a Z.Z. Top classic while the brothers sing of French kissing in the back seat of an old Chevy and other such nostalgia.

DISClaimer Single Reviews (9/29/10)

As we head into the fall, the stars are beginning to come out.

This week, we have new music by honcho Toby Keith, as well as from Billy Currington and Lee Brice, both of whom are coming off career highs. It appears that Capitol/EMI rules the roost, label-wise, since it is presenting fine new tunes from both Troy Olsen and newcomer Walker Hayes.

Guess who has a lock on the DisCovery Award? That’s right, polish one for the man with the most personable single of the day, Walker Hayes. You’re going to love the pants offa “Pants.”

There are a five ballads in this stack of platters. One of them was so lovely it earned its singer a Disc of the Day. That would be Billy Currington.

Writer: Jason Sturgeon/Dane Clark; Producer: Dane Clark & Jason Sturgeon; Publisher: none listed; Toolpusher (track)
—The mid-tempo song is wistful and easy-going. He sings quite well, ranging from a conversational baritone in the verses to a strong upper register in the choruses.

Writer: Fred Eaglesmith; Producer: Fred Eaglesmith; Publisher: Sweetwater/Bluewater, SOCAN/SESAC; Lonesome Day (Canada) (track)
—I have long admired this singer-songwriter. His ragged vocal rasp is loaded with personality. On this lead-off track and single from his current Cha Cha Cha CD, the instrumental bed has a faintly Latin groove. As usual, the song craftsmanship is top notch. I could have done without the chirping backup chicks, however.

TOBY KEITH/Bullets in the Gun
Writer: Toby Keith/Rivers Rutherford; Producer: Toby Keith; Publisher: Tokeco Tunes/Universal/Memphianna, BMI/ASCAP; Show Dog Universal
—Toby winds up in the wrong bar, with the wrong woman. With the track roaring around him, he spins a tale of robbery, murder and escape into Mexico with a finale filled with firing federales. Exciting.

STEVE RICHARD/Eighty Acre Church
Writer: none listed; Producer: Phil O’Donnell; Publisher: none listed; Force MP (track) (www.steverichardmusic.com)
—The material is strong, but he doesn’t have the vocal firepower to dominate the production.

Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Mercury Nashville
—Dreamy and languidly romantic. The steel and organ passages are particularly pretty, as is the mid-song guitar solo.

KEVIN WELCH/A Patch of Blue Sky
Writer: Kevin Welch/Claudia Scott; Producer: Keley Warren; Publisher: MonkeyHead/Lovely Monster, SESAC; Music Road (track) (www.kevinwelch.com)
—The title tune to Kevin’s current collection is a stately ballad where he yearns for better times. As usual, he delivers it with plenty of soul. This longtime Nashvillian split for Austin several years ago, but he obviously took all of his record-making talents with him.

LEE BRICE/Beautiful Every Time
Writer: Lee Brice/Rob Hatch/Lance Miller; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Mike Curb/Sweet Hysteria/Magic Mustang/Songs of StyleSonic/Melvin’s Pistol/Melvin’s Bullets, BMI/SESAC; Curb (CDX)
—This beefy power ballad boasts an absolutely killer chorus. Brice’s big, bruising voice wrings every drop of emotion out of it. Nice work.

Writer: Troy  Olsen/Marv Green; Producer: Troy Olsen; Publisher: Hillbilly Poetry/Riio Nuevo/Warner-Tamerlane/Made For This Music/The Good The Bad The Ugly, BMI; EMI (CDX)
—I have liked everything this guy has released so far. This rolling number has crystal-clear sound and a vocal that’s perfectly set in the mix. I totally dig the enthusiastic shouts, too. The lyric is a dandy, mixing in references to Willie’s guitar, Geronimo’s rifle and Billy Graham’s Bible. Essential listening.

Writer: Walker Hayes; Producer: Marshall Altman; Publisher: Breaking New Ground/On a Walk/Sony-ATV, BMI; Capitol Nashville (CDX)
—Cool, groovy, crunchy and packed with pluck. The gist of this bopper is that, “She can wear the pants as long as I can take ‘em off her.” He’s full of little vocal tricks like woo-hoos, spoken asides and falsetto swoops. Completely charming.

DANIEL SMITH/Until I Close My Eyes for Good
Writer: Daniel Smith; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Daniel Smith, no performance rights listed; DLS  (615-385-4943)
—This lushly orchestrated love ballad wallows shamelessly in cliches, but manages to be engaging in an over-the-top kind of way.