All of a sudden, there is a banquet of Nashville-oriented jazz releases on hand.
This is a growing, strong and highly gifted segment of our music community, so this week we’re throwing the spotlight on it.
There is something to recommend in every disc here. But the clear winner of the Disc of the Day award is the always amazing Take 6. Good luck at the Grammy Awards on Sunday, guys. I’m rooting for ya.
Our DisCovery Award goes to a young lady named Heather Rigdon.
ROD MAGAHA/A Gentle Man
Writer: Jeff Steinberg; Producer: Rod Magaha; Publisher: none listed; RM (track) (www.rodmagaha.net)
—The title tune to trumpeter Magaha’s new CD is a dreamy, piano-flecked ballad. The purity of his tone is outstanding, and the phrasing couldn’t be more precise. Elsewhere on the set, he works his magic on standards like “The Look of Love,” “When I Fall in Love” and “How Long Has This Been Going On.” Rod also has a new, six-tune EP called Stand Up for Love. Both discs are enthusiastically recommended.
HEATHER RIGDON/Young & Naive
Writer: none listed; Producer: Cliff Goldmacher; Publisher: none listed; HR (track) (615-320-7233)
—The debut album by chanteuse Rigdon is called Young & Naive. From the opening notes of this title track she stakes her claim as a distinctive, off-the-beat phraser, a languid stylist and a charming, minor-key melody manipulator. Promising in the extreme.
TAKE 6/Sweet Georgia Brown
Writer: Maceo Pinkard/Kenneth Casey Sr./Ben Bernie; Producer: Mark Kibble; Publisher: Warner Bros./WB, ASCAP; Heads Up (track)
—The Nashville press corps has been practically mum about the fact that the current Take 6 CD The Standard is up for three Grammys. Just so you know, four of the six are Middle Tennesseans, the disc was recorded here and best-arranger nominee Cedric Dent teaches at MTSU. The excitement over the CD is understandable, since it is what the jazz community has been begging for from these guys for years, an album of standards. This opening track is Take 6 at its best, jiving a cappella harmonized vocals and whistling by Mark Kibble. Elsewhere, guests include guitarist George Benson (”Straighten Up and Fly Right”), Aaron Neville (”Do You Know What it Means to Miss New Orleans”) and member Claude McKnight’s star brother Brian (”What’s Going On”). I LOVE this record.
KAREN JOHNS & COMPANY/Southland Summer
Writer: Karen L. Johns/Kevin Sanders; Producer: James Johns & Karen Johns; Publisher: Vital Force, ASCAP; PtarmiganMusic/Jazz (track) (www.karenjohns.com)
—Star and Season, the new CD by Nashville club fave Johns and her band, is a mixture of standards (”Stars Fell on Alabama,” “Desafinado,” “If,” “Autumn Leaves,” “Night and Day”) and splendid original tunes like this one. I love the way she alternates spitting short notes with drawled passages, growling effects and high soprano leaps. This is a vocalist of uncommon ability, and the band cooks with gas.
VICTOR WOOTEN/2 Timers
Writer: Victor L. Wooten; Producer: none listed; Publisher: VixLix/Bug, ASCAP; Heads Up (track) (www,victorwooten.com)
—This bass-playing virtuoso is nominated for two Grammy Awards as a member of The Flecktones. His current, almost entirely self composed Palmystery solo disc is a brain buzzing, sonically dazzling pastiche of shifting time signatures, burbling bass passages, evolving melodies and alternating emotional moods that completely captures your attention from this opening track onward. The various collaborators are a who’s-who of the Music City jazz scene. Heads Up International, the label of both this and the Take 6 CD, is a Cleveland, Ohio label that obviously has great taste.
DIANE MARINO & FELIX CAVALIERE/Groovin’
Writer: Felix Cavaliere/Edward Brigati Jr.; Producer: Frank Marino, Gary Dales & Diane Marino; Publisher: EMI April/Jemaxal, ASCAP; M&M (track)
—Alto vocalist Marino’s CD is titled Just Groovin.’ On its title tune, she duets with one of Nashville’s nicest Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famers. Her liquid voice fits nicely with Felix Cavaliere’s brighter, spunkier tone. The lady is evidently well connected. Also contributing to her CD are Kirk Whalum, Mark Douthit, Rod Magaha and other high-profile instrumentalists. I don’t think the strings were needed, however.
WILLIE NELSON & WYNTON MARSALIS/Night Life
Writer: Nelson/Breeland/Buskirk; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Glad/Pappy Daily/Sony ATV Tree, BMI; Blue Note (track)
—Two Men with the Blues was recorded live at Lincoln Center last year. Wynton sings in spots as well as playing his distinctive trumpet. Willie is just Willie. I have always thought that his “Night Life” was essentially a jazz song, and now it is. I guess jazz agrees with The Red-Headed Stranger. His next project is with western swingers Asleep at the Wheel.

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DISClaimer (reviews) 4/28/10

Did somebody suddenly crank up the quality on Music Row?

I can’t remember the last time that so many singles vied for the top slot in one week. And in such a dazzling diversity of styles. There’s Jack Ingram’s sneering “Barbie Doll,” The Warren Brothers inspirational “Dear Mr. God,” Dierks Bentley’s minor-key mountaineer “Up on the Ridge,” Chelsea Field’s rocking “Things I Should’ve Said,” John Arthur Martinez’s haunting “Can’t Outdrink the Truth” and Marty Raybon’s sexy “The Heat Is On.” Any one of them is good enough to be a Disc of the Day.

In the end, I had to go with the gutsiest platter maker. That would be Dierks Bentley stepping out of his comfort zone with his boldly creative venture. Besides, he’s on the Jack Ingram single, too.

Weep not for Chelsea Field. She edges out fellow newcomers Frankie Ballard and Woody Bradshaw and wins this column’s DisCovery Award.

CHRIS HEERS/Happy Thought
Writer: Chris Heers; Producer: Pat McGrath & Chris Heers; Publisher: Saddlefarm, ASCAP; Saddlefarm (www.chrisheers.com)
—Chris goes two for two. I loved his “Dirt Rich” single, and this one is even catchier. Over an acoustic track and a steady tempo, he lends his sturdy, soulful voice to a lyric about facing hard times by gazing at the family who loves him. Very tender and winning.

FRANKIE BALLARD/Tell Me You Get Lonely
Writer: Marty Dodson/Dallas Davidson; Producer: Michael Knox; Publisher: Back to Back/Songs That Sell/EMI Blackwood/String Stretcher, BMI; Reprise
—I like the little rasp in his voice and the oomphy, chunky production. Promising, to say the least.

SHAWN JENNINGS/My Desire
Writer: Shawn Jennings; Producer: Shawn Jennings & Steve Carr; Publisher: none listed, BMI; SRB (www.southernrootsband.com)
—Thin sounding. The track is little more than a steel guitar and a rhythm section. The vocal lacks passion. The melody is dull.

DIERKS BENTLEY/Up On The Ridge
Writer: Angelo/Dierks Bentley; Producer: Jon Randall Stewart; Publisher: none listed; Capitol Nashville (track)
—The title tune to Mr. Bentley’s upcoming acoustic project is a moody, bluesy outing with loads of sonic atmosphere. The minor-key melody is enlivened by a jittery tempo, jazzy-captivating mandolin and ghostly backup vocals. A sound to get lost in.

CHELSEA FIELD/Things I Should’ve Said
Writer: Kelly Archer/Blair Daly/Troy Verges; Producer: Trey Bruce; Publisher: Ole, no performance rights listed; Moxy (www.chelseafieldofficial.com)
—She definitely has the vocal firepower to pull off this searing, sizzling rocker. Go, baby. You are coming in loud and clear.

THE WARREN BROTHERS/Dear Mr. God
Writer: Brad Warren/Brett Warren; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Style Sonic, no performance rights listed; Bonded (track)
—Drawn from the soundtrack of Letters to God, this moving meditation perfectly captures the touching texture of the film, itself. Nicely done, boys.

WOODY BRADSHAW/The Last Thing You Do
Writer: none listed; Producer: Jeff Nystrom; Publisher: none listed; W (track) (www.woodybradshaw.com)
—“Would you be okay with the way they remember you/If the last thing you did was the last thing you do?” In other words, tell her you love her every day. Alrighty, then.

MARTY RAYBON/The Heat Is On
Writer: Marty Raybon/John Fountain/Tommy Wright; Producer: Maarty Raybon & Paul Carrol Binkley; Publisher: none listed; GrandVista (www.martyraybon.com)
—He’s working in the scorching sun, but daydreaming about an even hotter time he’ll have when he gets home. The track is appropriately steaming and sexy, and it goes without saying that his performance is perfect.

JOHN ARTHUR MARTINEZ/Can’t Outdrink The Truth
Writer: Walt Wilkins/Liz Rose; Producer: Lew Curatolo; Publisher: none listed; Apache Ranch (track) (www.apacheranchrecords.com)
—What a cool song. The deep percussion thump and swirling steel underscore a downbeat lyric of lost love. The smoky vocal has a hushed, haunted vibe that really draws you in. Radio ready.

JACK INGRAM & DIERKS BENTLEY/Barbie Doll
Writer: Jack Ingram/Todd Snider; Producer: Jeremy Stover; Publisher: Beat Up Ford/Bug/Nobody’s Collecting on These Songs, BMI; Big Machine (track)
—I am amazed that this hasn’t been a single before now. It has been a big fan favorite at Jack’s concerts for years. With its snarky, hooky chorus it practically commands you to sing along. And do they ever. Can you say, “hit?” I thought you could.

DISClaimer (9/25/09)

RascalFlatts-unstop150Yikes: How did it get to be the end of September already?

The official first day of Autumn was Tuesday, and everyone is polishing up their late-year releases. Tim scores big points in this column with “Southern Voice,” the title tune of his Oct. 20 CD. Last night, Miranda debuted her Revolution at the Ryman. That CD drops next Tuesday. Last week, Rosanne did the same with The List, which drops Oct. 6. Toby’s American Ride is also due on Oct. 6, and Carrie’s Play On drops Nov. 3.

This star-studded edition of DisClaimer features worthy efforts not only by Tim, but also BlackberrySmoke150by Jason Aldean, Jack Ingram, Jimmy Wayne and Rascal Flatts, the last-named of whom has the Disc of the Day.

Blackberry Smoke, of whom I know nothing, is our DisCovery Award winner.

JACK INGRAM & PATTY GRIFFIN/Seeing Stars
Writer: Jack Ingram/Chris Tompkins; Producer: Jack Ingram & Jeremy Stover; Publisher: Beat Up Ford/Bug/Big Loud Songs/Big Loud Bucks, BMI/ASCAP; Big Machine (track)
—It’s a spacious ballad with plenty of atmosphere. Patty’s luminous voice carries the hushed finale and is heard singing harmony throughout.

RASCAL FLATTS/Why
Writer: Allen Shamblin/Robert Mathes; Producer: Dann Huff & Rascal Flatts; Publisher: Built on Rock/EMI Blackwood/Maybe I Can’t, ASCAP/BMI; Lyric Street
—Teen suicide is on the rise, so this deeply emotional song couldn’t be more timely. This is the group’s finest single since “Bless the Broken Road,” and it is easily its most important. Essential listening.

SAMMY SADLER/I’ll Always Have Denver
Writer: Steve Wariner/Bill Anderson; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Steve Wariner/Mr. Bubba/Song Tree, BMI; E1 Music
—Co-writer Wariner puts in a guest harmony appearance on the choruses of this lovely, sweet-sad ballad. But Sammy’s strong tenor vocal performance needs no assist in completely selling this.

TIM McGRAW/Southern Voice
Writer: Tom Douglas/Bob DiPiero; Producer: Byron Gallimore, Tim McGraw & Darran Smith; Publisher: Sony ATV/Tomdouglasmusic/Love Monkey, no performance rights listed; Curb
—The track thumps mightily with a wailing harmonica and grinding guitars. Tim rides on top, rattling off a string of references to Dixie—Dolly, Hank, Charlie Daniels, Billy Graham, Rosa Parks, Scarlett O’Hara, the Allman Brothers, Jack Daniels and the like. All in all, it’s pretty darn cool.

NATHAN LEE JACKSON/Desperate Man
Writer: none listed; Producer: Jeff Glixman, Zak Rizvi & Nathan Lee Jackson; Publisher: none listed; StarCity (track) (www.nathanleejackson.com)
—He encounters an armed robber and tells him, “God loves a desperate man.” Luckily, the bullet misses him.

JASON ALDEAN/The Truth
Writer: Brett James/Ashley Monroe; Producer: Michael Knox; Publisher: Stage Three/Brett James Cornelius/Reynsong, ASCAP/BMI; Broken Bow (track)
—Jason tries on a heartbroken ballad, and it fits just fine. The sizzling organ flourishes in the mix are an extra delight.

TOMMY CASH/Fade To Black
Writer: Tommy Cash/Nathan Whitt; Producer: Rick Lloyd; Publisher: Tomcat/Next Guess, BMI/SESAC; InLight (track) (www.fadetoblackcd.com)
—The title tune to Tommy’s new CD is a tender ode to his legendary older brother. Much of the album is devoted to revivals of Johnny’s iconic songs, but Tommy’s own “Six White Horses” is reprised as well, as a duet with Marty Stuart. On Faron Young’s “Some Kind of a Woman,” George Jones joins Tommy, and sister JoAnne Cash is his vocal partner on Ferlin Husky’s “Wings of a Dove.”

JIMMY WAYNE/Sara Smile
Writer: Daryl Hall/John Oates; Producer: Dann Huff; Publisher: none listed; Valory Music
—This 1976 Hall & Oates goldie has aged well—it’s still a dreamy melody. Jimmy’s version doesn’t stray far from the original arrangement, and harmonies by Daryl and John, themselves, add to the familiarity.

JOHNNY RIVERS/The American Dream
Writer: Johnny Rivers; Producer: Johnny Rivers & Oren Walters; Publisher: Rivers, BMI; Soul City
—Pop great Johnny still sounds good. This reggae-rhythmic bopper is embellished with horns, acoustic guitar and harmony singers. The lyric is wonderfully hopeful and uplifting, which are certainly qualities we can use these days.

BLACKBERRY SMOKE/Good One Coming On
Writer: Lee Roy Parnell/David Lee Murphy/Gary Nicholson; Producer: Dann Huff & Justin Niebank; Publisher: Lillie Dale/Dean-Parnell/EverGreen/Old Desperados/N2D/Carol Vincent/Sony ATV Cross Keys/Gary Nicholson, BMI/ASCAP; BamaJam (CDX)
—He has his smokes, his booze, his babes, his ride and his tunes, plus a weekend stretched out in front of him. Southern rock is alive and well. Par-tay!

DISClaimer (9/18/09)

ChrisHeers-weststates150No cash this week, because there’s not a clunker in sight.

Everybody is playing at the top of their game, especially the ridiculously talented Steve Wariner, Gene Watson and Darius Rucker. Programmers are going to hate this next sentence. All 10 of these platters deserve airplay.

Polish off a DisCovery Award for Chris Heers. He is a native and resident of Las Vegas who plays clubs there. But he wisely came to Music City to record his Western Stars CD and its “Dirt Rich” single.

BCurrington-everythingBilly Currington’s “People Are Crazy” is deservedly a nominee as CMA Single, Song and Video of the Year. Especially Song. So I was leery about a follow-up with a junky title like “That’s How Country Boys Roll.” But, surprise, it is groove soaked and highly listenable. It is also the Disc of the Day.

TELLURIDE/Stay
Writer: Adam Seaunier/Keesy Timmer/Ryan Jones; Producer: Rex Paul Schnelle; Publisher: none listed, BMI; American Roots (track) (www.tellurideband.com)
—Delightfully propulsive, undeniably sunny and brightly romantic. Lead singer Adam Craig brings plenty of power to the table.

KACEY JONES/I Can Always Get Skinny But You’ll Never Be Tall
Writer: Kacey Jones/Jesse Goldberg/Bill Flowerree; Producer: Kacey Jones; Publisher: Mamalama/Lindcrest/Flying Buddha, ASCAP/BMI; IGO (track) (www.kaceyjones.com)
—Kacey’s CD is titled Donald Trump’s Hair. It is full of comedy songs, which we can always use more of. “How dare you call me pudgy, you stubby little runt?” goes one line in this rib tickler. Another? “There is no Viagra for the inches you lack.” The goofy-guy backup vocals are a nice touch, too, particularly when chanting “Ding Dong, Ding Dong.”

GENE WATSON & RHONDA VINCENT/Staying Together
Writer: Jerry Salley Jr./Monty Holmes; Producer: Dirk Johnson; Publisher: EMI/Country Gentleman, ASCAP/SESAC; Shanachie (track) (www.genewatsonmusic.com)
—It’s a weeper about a couple who stay together although the spark is long gone. Gene and Rhonda harmonize sublimely. The mournful, moaning steel and honky-tonk piano underline every heartache. The track is drawn from A Taste of the Truth, which stars one of our greatest country vocalists alongside stellar guests such as Alison Krauss, Trace Adkins, Aubrey Haynie, Sonny Garrish and John Wesley Ryles, as well as Rhonda. The set’s superb songs come from the likes of Hank Cochran, Shawn Camp, Jim Rushing, Rebecca Lynn Howard, Tim Mensey, Keith Stegall, Harley Allen and Curly Putman. If you love real country music, buy this record.

STEVE WARINER/Chet’s Guitar
Writer: Steve Wariner/Rick Carnes; Producer: Steve Wariner; Publisher: Steve Wariner/Songs of Peer, BMI/ASCAP; Selectone (track) (www.stevewariner.com)
My Tribute to Chet Atkins is Steve’s album of mostly instrumentals written in imitation of and as a salute to Mr. Guitar. This bopper has plenty of Chet-style picking, but it also has a charming lyric about, “the touch and the tone and the twang of Chet’s guitar.” There’s also a line about “every lick that I stole from Chet,” which Steve swears is the truth.

CHRIS HEERS/Dirt Rich
Writer: Chris Heers; Producer: Steve Tveit, Pat McGrath & Chris Heers; Publisher: SaddleFarm, ASCAP; SaddleFarm (www.chrisheers.com)
—He’s a farmer who is thankful for what little he has. “Dirt Rich” is such a clever concept it’s amazing that nobody has written this before.

DARIUS RUCKER/History In The Making
Writer: Darius Rucker/Frank Rogers/Clay Mills; Producer: Frank Rogers; Publisher: Cadaja/New Sea Gayle/EMI April/MXC/Still Working for the Man/ICG, ASCAP; Capitol Nashville (CDX)
—His prettiest melody yet, and perhaps his most romantic lyric. As usual, Frank’s production touches and mix choices are perfect—I love the way the acoustic guitars and steel slide in and out.

RANDY HOUSER/My Kind Of Country
Writer: Randy Houser/Dallas Davidson; Producer: Mark Wright/Cliff Audretch III; Publisher: Songs of Windswept Pacific/Big Borassa/Words & Music, BMI; Universal South (CDX)
—It’s redneck wailer with a stomping beat and low, growled verses that lead to shrieked-up-high choruses. There’s no question about this guy’s vocal talent, but this is extremely in-your-face.

BILLY CURRINGTON/That’s How Country Boys Roll
Writer: Billy Currington/Brad Jones/Dallas Davidson; Producer: Carson Chamberlain & Billy Currington; Publisher: Universal/Off My Rocker/EMI Blackwood/String Stretcher/Brad Jones/Words & Music, ASCAP/BMI; Mercury (CDX)
—It has a similar theme to the Randy Houser single (Dallas Davidson is a writer on both). But this has a much slinkier, rump-shaking groove. And Billy’s vocal rides atop the low thumping percussion with considerable finesse. Both performers are following up major hits (”Boots On” and “People Are Crazy,” respectively). Billy wins this round.

THE PARKS/The Party’s Right Here
Writer: Johnny Park/David Lee; Producer: Johnny Park & Clint Park; Publisher: Halftime/Universal-Careers, ASCAP/BMI; Carolwood (CDX)
—This rocks furiously. Lyrics are spit out in double time and the sidemen, especially the lead guitarist, kick up plenty of dust. In short, it lives up to its title.

BILLY JOE ROYAL/Hard Rock To Roll
Writer: Charlie Craig/Moe Lytle; Producer: Nelson Larkin & Charlie Craig; Publisher: Power Play, BMI; Gusto (CDX) (615-889-8000)
—A homeless man, a war-widowed mom and the crucified Jesus all have “a hard rock to roll.” Billy Joe’s emotional reading of the well-written song and the crisp, gently lulling production earn bonus points.

DISClaimer (9/16/09)

RaulMalo-lucky150The Americana music convention begins today in Nashville, so what better time to run a column about the genre?

The artists we’re talking about today are all up for awards at Thursday’s gala at the Ryman Auditorium. So we’re talking the cream of Americana, here. Earlier in the year, I raved about nominees such as Buddy & Julie Miller, Justin Townes Earle, The Belleville Outfit and Kasey Chambers & Shane Nicholson. Add the five discs below to your essential-purchases list.

BandofHeathens-150The Disc of the Day belongs to Raul Malo. And our DisCovery Award goes to The Band of Heathens.

THE BAND OF HEATHENS/Don’t Call On Me
Writer: Ed Jurdi; Producer: Ray Wylie Hubbard; Publisher: Lila J Rae, BMI; BOH (track) (www.bandofheathens.com)
—One of the four nominees for the New & Emerging Artist AMA Award is this quintet of country-rocking Texans. The group’s fourth CD is due out any day, but it got its nomination based on its self-titled third disc. That record kicks off with this crunchy, rootsy, drawling gem. If only Nashville’s country music could sound this cool.

RAUL MALO/Hello Again
Writer: Raul Malo/Alan Miller; Producer: Steve Berlin/Raul Malo; Publisher: Rumbalo/EagleLand, BMI/ASCAP; Fantasy (track) (www.raulmalo.com)
—This guy is a true jewel of Music City. His Lucky One CD includes this deliciously melodic, soaring, rolling anthem. His peerless voice is goosed with just the right touch of echo. When he vaults to the top of his range, he sends shivers up your spine. Shut your eyes, turn it up, bask in its sonic glory and root for Raul as he competes for AMA Artist of the Year Thursday night.

THE FLATLANDERS/Homeland Refugee
Writer: Joe Ely/Butch Hancock/Jimmie Dale Gilmore; Producer: Lloyd Maines; Publisher: Tornado Temple/Two Roads/Jade EG, BMI; New West (track) (www.theflatlanders.com)
—This track from The Flatlanders’ Hills and Valleys CD is up for AMA Song of the Year. The evocative lyric describes a broken man who found that California’s “pastures of plenty” were empty promises. The homeless family is headed back to the Dust Bowl from whence they came. The three amigos sing it with tremendous yearning and heart.

WILLIE NELSON & ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL/Won’t You Ride In My Little Red Wagon
Writer: Rex Griffin; Producer: Ray Benson; Publisher: Hill & Range, BMI; Bismeaux (track)
—This year’s AMA Lifetime Achievement Award is going to the durable Asleep at the Wheeel. The band swings splendidly on the CD Willie & The Wheel. As usual, Ray Benson’s production is pristine. All the tunes are dandies—“Hesitation Blues,” “Bring it on Down to My House,” “Right or Wrong,” “Corrine, Corrina,” “I’m Sitting on Top of the World” and the rest. Paul Shaffer and Vince Gill guest on “South.” But for my money, Willie, the band and Benson are at their jivin’ best on this revival of Hank Penny’s 1939 smash hit, penned by Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Rex Griffin.

JASON ISBELL & THE 400 UNIT/Soldiers Get Strange
Writer: none listed; Producer: Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit; Publisher: none listed; Lightning Rod (track) (www.jasonisbell.com)
—The self-titled CD by Jason and his three bandmates is an AMA Album of the Year nominee. This urgent-sounding track features his dry vocal backed by thrashing electric guitar and crashing percussion. The lyrics attempt to understand what goes through the head of a returning vet from Iraq or Afghanistan. Elsewhere, the band is equally effective on acoustic-based tunes. Jason is based in Florence, Alabama, which is a super-legendary music center to hail from.

DISClaimer (7/10/09)

fastryde-thang150Good luck picking your playlist out of this stack of excellence.

All 10 of these records deserve to be heard. On top of that, four of them are from bona fide format superstars—Keith Urban, Sugarland, Brad Paisley and Tim McGraw—while two more are by consistent airplay favorites—Jason Michael Carroll and the Zac Brown Band. Toss in a couple of legends—Larry Gatlin and Ray Stevens—and endearing up-and-comer Blaine Larsen, and you’ve got a mighty full sonic platter.

bpaisley-amsatnight150Let’s see, that makes nine contenders. The 10th comes from our town’s newest imprint, Republic Nashville. A pat on the back and a DisCovery Award go to Fast Ryde.

And about that Disc of the Day prize? In an extremely competitive field, the inspirational Brad Paisley charges onto the turf and rides away with it.

KEITH URBAN/Only You Can Love Me This Way
Writer: Steve McEwen/John Reid; Producer: Dann Huff & Keith Urban; Publisher: EMI Blackwood/Birds with Ears/Sony-ATV, BMI/PRS; Capitol Nashville (track)
—There’s something very “California” sounding about this dreamy outing. The repeated acoustic guitar figure is enchanting, and the vocal harmonies are absolutely lovely. This is a sound to get lost in.

FAST RYDE/That Thang
Writer: James Harrison/Jody Stevens; Producer: Jeff Stevens, Jody Stevens & James Harrison; Publisher: OMG Songs Nashville/Jody Stevens/Songs of One Music Group/Mailbox Dance, BMI/SESAC; Republic Nashville
—This offspring of “Badonkadonk” bops along solidly. This time the riff is, “da dang dang, dang da doing doing doing” while the percussion thumps and the guitar grinds.

BRAD PAISLEY/Welcome To The Future
Writer: Brad Paisley/Chris DuBois; Producer: Frank Rogers; Publisher: none listed, ASCAP; Arista (track)
—Utterly joyous sounding. The steel playing is celestial. Brad’s guitar gets a fleet-fingered, mid-song workout. His singing of the upbeat tune makes you want to crank it up to “10.” Amid the celebration of the times we’re living in, there’s even a shout-out to racial progress. I’m just loving this total audio delight, because it rocks in every way. Also check out the more quietly personal lyric in the “reprise” version. In fact, check out the whole American Saturday Night CD. It has “Album of the Year” potential in every groove.

RAY STEVENS/If Ten Per Cent IS Good Enough For Jesus
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Clyde (www.raystevens.com)
—The second part of the title is “it ought to be enough for Uncle Sam.” That’s right, it’s a tax-protest tune. What’s more, it’s catchy.

ZAC BROWN BAND/Toes
Writer: Zac Brown/Wyatt Durrette/John Hopkins/Shawn Mullins; Producer: Keith Stegall & Zac Brown; Publisher: Weimerhound/Lil’ dub/Angelika/Brighter Shade/Bug/Roadie Odie, BMI; Home Grown/Big Picture/Atlantic (track)
—These guys are the most refreshing thing to happen to country music in years. As usual, the tune is soaked with groove. This time, it’s a Buffett-beach vibe. Summer’s vacation soundtrack is right here.

JASON MICHAEL CARROLL/Hurry Home
Writer: Zane Williams; Producer: Don Gehman; Publisher: Year of the Dog/Big Yellow Dog, ASCAP; Arista (track)
—JMC eases into a ballad mode this time around. He couldn’t have chosen a better song to do it with, because this is extremely well written. It is one of those perfectly constructed story songs that no one but a country-music person could write or sing. This is what we do best.

BLAINE LARSEN/It Did
Writer: Marv Green/Jim Collins; Producer: Jimmy Ritchey; Publisher: Warner-Tamerlane/Sycamore Canyon/Hope N Cal/Sexy Tractor, BMI; Treehouse (615-478-9056)
—This trajectory of a romance that just gets better and better goes down easy with Blaine’s confident, mature vocal presence. For lovers everywhere.

TIM McGRAW/It’s A Business Doing Pleasure With You
Writer: Brett James/Joey Moi/Chad Kroeger; Producer: Byron Gallimore, Tim McGraw & Darran Smith; Publisher: Stege Three/Brett James Cornelius/Moi Music Productions/Warner-Tamerlane/Anaesthectic, ASCAP/SOCAN/BMI; Curb
—“You’ve got more purses than Versace/Got more rings than Liberace.” There’s more: “Gucci” rhymes with “sushi.” And so forth. Hilarious? You bet.

LARRY GATLIN & THE GATLIN BROTHERS/Johnny Cash Is Dead
Writer: Larry Gatlin/Johnny Cash; Producer: Terry Choate; Publisher: Mike Curb/Mutual Attraction/Magnet/Barton Creek/Song of Cash/Bug, BMI/ASCAP; Curb (CDX)
—It has Johnny’s boom-chicka-boom rhythm and a lyric saluting country greats who have passed on—Chet, Waylon, Patsy and Marty—and mourning the lack of fiddles and steel guitars in today’s sound. All in all, extremely listenable.

SUGARLAND/Joey
Writer: Jennifer Nettles/Kristian Bush/Bill Anderson; Producer: Byron Gallimore, Kristian Bush & Jennifer Nettles; Publisher: Jennifer Nettles/EMI Blackwood/Dirkpit/Sony-ATV, ASCAP/BMI; Mercury (CDX)
—Joey is gone, and she pleads powerfully for forgiveness. The driving tempo and echoey production conjure up an atmosphere of crying in the wilderness. Get a load of that writing credit. Bill Anderson penned his first hit more than 50 years ago, and he’s still at it, stronger than ever. The man is a musical miracle.

DISClaimer (6/26/09)

montgent-backwhen150The stars are blindingly bright this week.

If you’re looking for a gorgeous ballad, George Strait is your man. In the mood for a joyous rocker? Give a listen to Sara Evans. For a jolt of vocal passion, check out Jamie O’Neal. Do you wish to bask in heavenly harmonies? I hereby direct your attention to the Eli Young Band. And if you seek a good ol’ meat-and-potatoes outlaw country tune, Montgomery Gentry has just the thing.

bradlong-150Any and all of those records could be a Disc of the Day. In one of the toughest decisions I’ve made in ages, I’m going with the common people, Montgomery Gentry.

As you all know, Teddy Gentry was a soulful sideman for years in Alabama. In Phase II of his career, he is emerging as a potent producer on Music Row. He has found a guy named Brad Long who sings like a bird and wins this week’s DisCovery Award.

CHRIS HANNERS/It’s My Life
Writer: Mark Schlemmer; Producer: Randy Jack Wiggins; Publisher: Nashville Sound, SOCAN/BMI; Little House (615-885-8100)
-The song is cute. The track sparkles. His vocal is strictly ordinary.

SARA EVANS/Feels Just Like A Love Song
Writer: Sara Evans/Nathan Chapman/Chris Lindsey/Aimee Mayo; Producer: Nathan Chapman & Sara Evans; Publisher: Universal-Careers/Gingerdog/Sony ATV Tree/Pain in the Art/Moonscar/Little Blue Typewriter/BPJ, BMI; RCA
-It’s ridiculously sunny, positive and upbeat. It’s also irresistible.

HOYT HUGHES/Ain’t My Day To Save The World
Writer: Steve Williams/Thom Sheperd/Liz Hengber; Producer: Eric Paul; Publisher: Black in the Saddle/Mets Fan/Green Hills/Travelers Ridge/Pier Two/Twang Thang, ASCAP; Whirlwind/Lofton Creek  (www.hoythughes.com)
-The song is solid, and his performance is fine. I found the too-prominent female backup vocals somewhat off-putting, however.

JAMIE O’NEAL/Soldier Comin’ Home
Writer: Jamie O’Neal/Roxie Dean/Patricia Ann Murphy; Producer: Rodney Good; Publisher: Jere Song/Sugar Dumplin/Front to Black/Songs of Seven/Pakimo, ASCAP/SESAC; 1720 Entertainment
-It’s a power waltz that she pours vocal passion into like molten gold. “When was the last time you looked at me like you were a soldier coming home?” she asks of a lover who’s gone stale. It’s quite a performance. Lend her your ears.

KENI THOMAS/Gunslinger
Writer: Keni Thomas; Producer: none listed; Publisher: West Moraine/Gunslinger, ASCAP; RBM/Tenacity (www.kenithomas.com)
-The screaming guitars threaten to overwhelm his vocal throughout the performance, and at one point they completely take over the song. All in all, this seriously rocks.

ELI YOUNG BAND/Radio Waves
Writer: Blu Sanders/Mike Eli; Producer: Mike Wrucke; Publisher: none listed; Universal South/Republic
-This snatched my heart and ran off with it. The harmony vocals have so much sincerity and honesty that it’s impossible not to get involved. And when they started weaving in and out of each other in layered tracks at the finale, I was a goner.

JASON JONES/Unlikely Angel
Writer: Corey Lee Barker/Constance Mottle Richard/Anita Cox; Producer: Brett Beavers/Kimo Forrest; Publisher: Corey Lee/Myohana/A C Songbird, BMI; Warner Bros.
-Pop country with a big wooshing guitar solo in the middle and falsetto vocals on the choruses. Pleasingly different.

BRAD LONG/Long Lost Smile
Writer: none listed; Producer: Teddy Gentry; Publisher: none listed; Blackwater (www.bradlong.net)
-She’s splitting and finding her bliss again. The moody track is a sonic depth charge. Even more impressive is the powerhouse singing. This South Carolina native nails every note and holds some of them with truly impressive breath control. Get on board: He’s going places.

GEORGE STRAIT/Living For The Night
Writer: George Strait/Bubba Strait/Dean Dillon; Producer: Tony Brown & George Strait; Publisher: George Strait/Bubba Strait/Sony ATV/Unwound, BMI; MCA Nashville (CDX)
-Strait with strings! This lustrous ballad is cushioned in an exquisite arrangement that draws out every sad, wistful, broken-hearted note. George’s perfectly shaded, blue-tinted vocal does the rest of the work. You’ll get lost in its beauty. I sure did.

MONTGOMERY GENTRY/Long Line Of Losers
Writer: Kevin Fowler/Kim Tribble; Producer: Blake Chancey; Publisher: none listed; Columbia (CDX)
-It’s been a big week for these boys. They were inducted into the Opry on Tuesday, and today they have one of the strongest singles of their career to date. Just be thankful your family isn’t as no-account as the one in this song is-daddy took a bullet for stealing cars, grandpa ran moonshine and went to jail, grandma got drunk and left the kids behind, mom got caught in a motel with the preacher. No wonder, “I was born with a shot glass in my hand…I’m always a suspect/My bloodline made me who I am.” Eddie’s wicked laugh at the end is simply perfect.

DISClaimer (6/19/09)

steveholy-girlfriend150It’s good to know that country music hasn’t lost its sense of humor.

Both Rodney Carrington and Phil Vassar are tickling the funny bone with new singles this week. Rodney’s hilarious outing is produced by none other than Toby Keith, who also co-wrote two of the tunes on the comic’s El Nino Loco CD.

The other “must add” sides this week come from Gary Allan, Sarah Buxton and our Disc of the Day winner, Steve Holy.

LUKE ROBINSON/Tequila Sheila
Writer: Thom Shepherd/Ken Moulden; Producer: Luke Robinson & Max Archer; Publisher: Twang Thang, ASCAP; Bad Luck (888-455-5504)
-No, it’s not the 1980 Bobby Bare single of the same title. And this guy sounds too young and lightweight to be singing about tequila and “drink you pretty tonight.”

GARY ALLAN/Today
Writer: Tommy Lee James/Brice Long; Producer: Mark Wright & Gary Allan; Publisher: none listed; MCA Nashville
-He’s such a superb performer that he makes even this routine spin down Music Row sound like an epic. I remain a fan.

PHILLIP THOMAS/Livin’ Life At The Bottom
Writer: Troy Powers; Producer: Johnny Garcia; Publisher: Busy at Play, BMI; Busy At Play (www.phillipthomasmusic.com)
-The nice, punchy production and tight song craftsmanship both help this garden-variety vocalist immensely. Listenable.

JOHN RICH/The Good Lord And The Man
Writer: John Rich; Producer: John Rich; Publisher: J. Money/Do Write, ASCAP; Warner Bros.
-He thinks he’s Merle Haggard in 1969.

SABLE/Coming Home
Writer: Jeff Sable/Chris Sable/Jake Hanselman; Producer: Jeff Sable; Publisher: UbarEnt. no performance rights listed; American Eagle (www.sablecountry.com)
-I like the contrast between the intimate, hushed vocal quality in the verses and the throttle-wide-open tenor singing in the choruses. The song has hooks a-plenty, and the tempo production is just right.

SARAH BUXTON/Outside My Window
Writer: Sarah Buxton/Victoria Shaw/Mark Jeffrey Hudson/Gary Burr; Producer: Sarah Buxton; Publisher: We’re Going to Maui/Multisongs/AvaRu/EMI April/Salerno Songs/Mr. Coco/Kobalt/Songs of Universal, BMI/SESAC/ASCAP; Lyric Street
-Our only female contestant this week has some cool guitar work going on, a catchy tune and a vocal with plenty of penetration. Very enjoyable, indeed.

JASON ROGERS/Thinkin’
Writer: Jason Rogers; Producer: Martin Young; Publisher: BlueBuck, ASCAP; Blue Buck (track) (www.jasonrogerscountry.com)
-This native Canadian’s CD kicks off with this thin-sounding bopper. His vocal was recorded too dry, the track is quite spare and the song won’t blow you away.

STEVE HOLY/Baby Don’t Go
Writer: Steve Holy/Jimmy Yearly; Producer: Lee Miller; Publisher: Mike Curb/Steve Holy/Black to Black, BMI; Curb
-No it’s not the 1965 Sonny & Cher hit of the same title. This one’s a steady stomper laced with fiddle and sung with fiery heat. I think I hear a hit.

RODNEY CARRINGTON/If I’m The Only One
Writer: Rodney Carrington/Mark Gross; Producer: Toby Keith; Publisher: none listed; Capitol (track)
-“If I’m the only one/How come our baby looks like Tim?” “If I’m the only one/Whose underwear are these?” He sings the ballad perfectly straight, which makes it all the more hilarious. “If I’m the only one/How come your name’s on the bathroom wall?” A naked guy sprints across the lawn when he comes home. She spends the night on 50 Cents’ tour bus. And so forth. Absolutely give this a spin.

PHIL VASSAR/Bobbi With An I
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Universal South (ERG)
-Hand claps and grinding “party” guitar kick it off. And then the fun plot kicks in. In the daylight, this bruiser linebacker drives a tow truck and brawls. At night, he’s in drag in the bar in a pink party dress. You don’t dare give this “big boned girl” any grief about it, because he bench presses 335 pounds. Phil’s wise conclusion is to live and let live.

DISClaimer (4/24/09)

mandisa-freedom150The soul sisters rule in today’s Christian-music column.

The presence of legends such as The Lewis Family and The Easter Brothers, plus the ultra-popular Chris Tomlin, cannot dim the shining stars of Mary Mary and Music City’s own Mandisa. To the last-named we offer a Disc of the Day award.

We hope your Gospel Music Week is a dandy celebration.

MARY MARY/God In Me
Writer: Warryn Campbell/Erica Campbell/Tina Campbell; Producer: Warryn Campbell; Publisher: EMI April/Wet Ink Red/That’s Plum/It’s Tea Tyme, ASCAP; Columbia (track)
—I love this R&B duo. These ladies have been locked in the top-10 on both the CCM and Gospel charts for two months with their The Sound CD. This new single features the team being joined by hip hopper Kierra “Kiki” Sheard, who has her own solo hit, “Praise Him Now.” The beats and raps here are the equals of anything on the mainstream charts. “God in Me” is the follow up to Mary Mary’s more melodic hit “Get Up.” One clever audio devise is a deep radio voice announcing, “You’re listening to The Sound” in between the album’s tracks.

CHRIS TOMLIN/I Will Rise
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Sixsteps/Sparrow/EMI CMG (track)
—Tomlin won at last night’s (4/23) Dove Awards for his contributions to Contemporary Gospel Recorded Song and Special Event Album, and his Hello Love album is selling like hotcakes. Currently No. 2 on the CCM chart, it is bound to pick up even more steam as this new, yearning ballad gets more and more spins. The sweet tenor vocal is backed by a chiming piano and billowing strings.

MANDISA/My Deliverer
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Sparrow/EMI CMG
—This Nashville resident and Fisk graduate rose to fame on
 American Idol in 2006. A year later, the Christian community threw its arms open wide for her debut album, True Beauty. Last year, she issued a sterling Christmas collection. Freedom was issued last month, and this is its jubilant, sunshiny debut single. The uptempo bopper is presently chugging its way up the charts toward the top 10, and deservedly so. She sings her face off, and the track rocks. This is the sound of stardom.

JEFF & SHERI EASTER, LEWIS FAMILY & EASTER BROTHERS/They’re Holding Up The Ladder
Writer: Russell Easter/James Easter/Edd Easter; Producer: Jeff & Sheri Easter; Publisher: EBEA, BMI; Daywind (track) (www.jeffandsherieaster.com)
—My introduction to bluegrass gospel was the wildly entertaining Lewis Family, and this song was/is my favorite of theirs. I didn’t know it was an Easter Brothers song until just now. So here’s the deal: Jeff Easter is the son of James Easter, and his wife Sheri is the daughter of Polly Lewis. We Are Family is an album that celebrates and combines the clans. I grinned from ear-to-ear at its sublimely country sound.

CHRISTY SUTHERLAND/You Can Get There from Here
Writer: Kyle Matthews/Christy Sutherland; Producer: Christy Sutherland; Publisher: Universal/Cumberland Belle/Mattmoosic/Country Drive, ASCAP/BMI; CS (track) (www.christysutherland.net)
—Christy was previously noted on Music Row as a country artist for Sony and Giant. Since her marriage to Matt Dudney, she has charted a new course. With Matt managing, she has been making inroads as a Christian artist with a 2008 Christmas project and two self-produced EPs, You Call Me Yours and You Can Get There from Here. On the title tune to the last-named, she sings soulfully of surviving adversity, picking yourself up after a fall and looking to brighter days. Considering her musical history, I have to think this is more than a little autobiographical. The piano work, guitar playing and other instrumental work here is sterling, but it’s her strong, true singing voice that commands your attention. For those of you needing a nudge, Matt is the son of Ken Dudney and Barbara Mandrell, both of whom are duly thanked in the liner notes.

DISClaimer (4/22/09)

israelhoughton-one150It’s Gospel Music Week.

What better time to survey what’s newsy and happening in this Nashville-based genre? As you might expect, many of CCM’s hottest acts have current products in the marketplace.

You can’t escape the sheer sonic charisma of the new album by Israel Houghton. It is easily the Disc of the Day.

vota-vota150I don’t know who Vota is, but this trio captivated me with its disc debut and earned a DisCovery Award.

ISRAEL HOUGHTON/Just Wanna Say
Writer: Israel Houghton/Aaron Lindsey/Tommy Sims; Producer: Tommy Sims, Aaron Lindsey & Israel Houghton; Publisher: Integrity’s Praise/Sound of the New Breed/Warner-Tamerlane/Aaron Lindsey/Chi-Legacy, BMI/ASCAP; Integrity/Columbia (track)
—Perched at No. 1 on the Christian album chart this week is the solo debut from this lead singer of Israel & The New Breed. Titled The Power of One, it features this soulfully rocking single with an unmistakably hooky chorus and a track packed with percussion, shouted interjections, static sounds and claps. This is an ultra contemporary sound, co-produced by Nashville’s own Tommy Sims. On the album’s ballads, Israel’s soft tenor is a thing of shimmering beauty.

RONNIE MILSAP/How Great Thou Art
Writer: Stuart K. Hine; Producer: Rob Galbraith & Ronnie Milsap; Publisher: Manna, ASCAP; Star Song (track) (www.ronniemilsap.com)
—Country superstar Milsap has a new double CD called Then Sings My Soul that collects 24 gospel standards. The title is, of course, drawn from the lyrics of this chestnut. His reading of it is straightforward, with simple guitar-piano-percussion accompaniment, plus a chorale led by Bergen White. Other faves on the album include “Farther Along,” “I’ll Fly Away,” “Amazing Grace,” “In the Garden,” “Peace in the Valley,” “Rock of Ages,” “Precious Memories” and “It Is No Secret,” plus the soul songs “People Get Ready” and “Stand By Me” and a reworking of the star’s hit “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life.”

MERCYME/Only Temporary
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; INO (track)
—MercyMe is currently on the Christian charts with its long-running album All That Is Within Me. But released earlier this month is a CD/DVD titled 10 that celebrates this tuneful pop/rock band’s first decade in the business. In addition to its hits, it includes this dynamite new audio track that wooshes straight into your brain and sticks there. The band is super tight, and the melody is undeniable. The DVD disc includes live performances and concept videos of all of the group’s best songs. A great value and highly recommended.

VOTA/Hard To Believe
Writer: Bryan Olesen/Case Maranville/Scott Rutz; Producer: Nathan Dantzler; Publisher: Magnificent/Integrity Media/MyDeas/Melodoso/S Acre, ASCAP; INO (track) (www.votaband.com)
—This rock trio issued its self-titled debut disc last fall, and this propulsive, electro-magnetic track is its first single. Think British new wave or classic Wham! and you’ll have the general idea.

CODY SCHULER & PINE MOUNTAIN RAILROAD/My Eyes Shall Be On Canaan’s Land
Writer: Cody Schuler; Producer: Cody Schuler & Pine Mountain Railroad; Publisher: Pine Mountain Railroad, BMI; Rural Rhythm (track) (www.codyschuler.com)
—This bluegrass ensemble was nominated for a Dove Award in the country category. The lead-off song on its Pickin,’ Praisin’ & Singin’ CD tells you why. The fiddle and banjo scamper along, the high lead tenor voice soars and the call-and-response quartet harmonies on the choruses are absolutely inspiring.

DISClaimer (4/17/09)

tswift-fearlessThere are several ear-opening performances in this week’s new releases.

Hank Williams Jr. is singing his face off on a striking song about our troubled economy. The Oak Ridge Boys have left their classic sound completely behind on an almost anguished-sounding reading of The White Stripes rock song “Seven Nation Army.”

As a producer, Tony Brown has outdone himself on the terrific track of the awesome Heidi Newfield single. Joe Nichols and comeback kid Josh Logan are here to remind us of how refreshing hardcore country vocals can be.

And guess what? Taylor Swift is rocking! She also has the Disc of the Day.

CHARLIE ALLEN/Proof
Writer: Charlie Allen/Brian G. White/Steve Dean; Producer: Brian G. White & Steve Dean; Publisher: U Tell Me/Multisongs/Songs From the Whitehouse/Building Bridges/Dino’s Song Shop, no performance rights listed; River Run (track) (www.charlieallenmusic.com)
—I have made no secret of my respect for this artist. He’s proudly country, and this groove-saturated drinking song is one more feather in his cap.

HEIDI NEWFIELD/What Am I Waiting For
Writer: Heidi Newfield/Ira Dean/Keith Burns/Jeffrey Steele; Producer: Tony Brown; Publisher: Gi Hit Makers/Rainy Graham/White Monkey/Morris Bedell/Banna Bear/Jeffrey Steele/BPJ, BMI; Curb
—The sparkling production, the plaintive vocal and the layered chorale in the “escape” segment of the melody are all fabulous. Delightfully ear catching in every way.

JESSICA SIMPSON/Pray Out Loud
Writer: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Columbia (ERG)
—D.O.A.

TAYLOR SWIFT/You Should Be With Me
Writer: Taylor Swift/Liz Rose; Producer: Nathan Chapman & Taylor Swift; Publisher: Sony ATV Tree/Taylor Swift/Potting Shed/Barbara Orbison/ICG, BMI/SESAC; Big Machine
—Frothy and fizzy pop-country served with sprinkles on top. Taylor’s the nerd, and her cheerleader-team-captain competition has the guy she wants. Being lovelorn has never sounded peppier, and it’s good to hear her in a dancing mode for a change.

DEREK JOSEPH/No Cool Way
Writer: Doug Erickson/Betty Miller; Producer: Randy Jack Wiggins; Publisher: Nashville Sound, BMI/ASCAP/SOCAN; Little House (www.derekjoseph.com)
—Everyone sounds like they’re trying too hard. It’s too loud. The musicians are over playing. His singing sounds forced. Relax, people, it’s just country music.

JOE NICHOLS/Believers
Writer: Ashley Gorley/Wade Kirby/Bill Luther; Producer: Brent Rowan; Publisher: Songs of Combustion/Music of Windswept/Steel Wheels/Kirbtone/Big Loud Bucks/Sony ATV/This Town, ASCAP/BMI; Universal South
—There’s something so warm and comforting about this man’s voice. Give him a song this strong, and few on Music Row can match him. When co-writer Bill Luther had out a DreamWorks single in 2001, I loved it and wrote, “Who is this guy?” With “Who You’d Be Today,” “Let’s Make Love,” “My Best Friend,” “What I Need to Do,” “How Bad Do You Want It” and now this in his resume, I’m not asking that question anymore.

DARIUS RUCKER/Alright
Writer: Darius Rucker/Frank Rogers; Producer: Frank Rogers; Publisher: Cadaja/New Sea Gayle/EMI April, ASCAP; Capitol Nashville
—It’s one of the oldest country cliches—money can’t buy happiness, material things don’t matter and the simple life is best. But in this jaunty delivery, it sounds brand new. Bopping and winning.

THE OAK RIDGE BOYS/Seven Nation Army
Writer: Jack White; Producer: Dave Cobb; Publisher: Peppermint Stripe, BMI; Quarterback (615-300-5321)
—Actually, the words “Oak Ridge Boys” do not appear anywhere on this single. Instead, it reads, “You want familiarity? Your listeners already know this song and have shown that they love it!” As performed by The White Stripes, it was a No. 1 alternative-rock hit and a 2004 Grammy Award winner. Believe it or not, the Oaks make it work for them by singing in a wildly different style. Producer Cobb is the guy behind the Shooter Jennings sound.

JOSH LOGAN/I Am What I Am
Writer: Del Gray/Dave Gibson; Producer: Del Gray; Publisher: CDB/Volunteer Jam/Little Poncho, ASCAP/BMI; Copper Creek (track) (www.myspace.com/joshlogancountry)
—I remember this guy from his Curb Records days in the late 1980s. I liked him then because he was a stone-country stylist. It turns out that he’s still active up in Kentucky, and he’s still a stone-country stylist. Producer Del Gray rounded up some of his hot pickin’ Little Texas buddies to back Josh on his comeback CD. On its title tune, he sings, “I’m just a blue-collar singer from the bluegrass state.” More power to ya, brother.

HANK WILLIAMS JR./Red, White & Pink Slip Blues
Writer: Mark Stephen Jones/Bud Tower; Producer: Doug Johnson & Hank Williams Jr.; Publisher: Harlan Howard/Mark Stephen Jones/Frog Street, BMI/ASCAP; Curb
—A song for our times. Hank wails the bluesy lines masterfully, going from a rumbling baritone to a shouted tenor range. The mill closed down. The repo man is after his truck. They’re going to take the house away. Trust me, you’ll feel every hurtin’ moment.