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DISClaimer: TobyMac, Hannah Kerr Release Top Christmas Offerings

Nashville has always taken the lead when it comes to holiday music.

The city’s artists have given us such standards as “Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” “Mary Did You Know,” “Blue Christmas,” “Reindeer Boogie,” “Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Tennessee Christmas,” “Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy,” “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Pretty Paper,” “Kentucky Homemade Christmas,” “Santa Claus Is Watching You” and “Christmas Time’s A-Comin.’”

Today’s stack of platters includes Yule offerings from some of Nashville’s biggest country stars. But it is the city’s CCM community that comes away with top honors.

TobyMac wins the Disc of the Day. Hannah Kerr earns the DisCovery Award.

JENNIFER HANSON/Under The Tree
Writers: J. Hanson; Producers: Jennifer Hanson/Nick Brophy; Publishers: none listed; JH (track)
– The track sounds like crystalline falling snow. Her winsome vocal exudes warmth and sincerity. The super melodic song is a jewel. This lady’s holiday four-song EP is essential.

TWIN KENNEDY/Cold Weather
Writers: Carli Kennedy/Julie Kennedy; Producers: Dustin Olyan/Twin Kennedy; Publishers: Twin Kennedy; Factor (Canada)
– These sisters from British Columbia accompany themselves on fiddle and guitar, which forms the basis of their gentle acoustic sound. They also harmonize beautifully on this ultra-romantic song. Very pretty. The album is called A Twin Kennedy Christmas.

TOBYMAC/Bring On The Holidays
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publishers: none listed; Capitol/Forefront
– Naturally, Nashville’s CCM world embraces this season enthusiastically. This veteran of the genre kicks off his Light of Christmas CD with this jaunty pop rocker. The pulsing production is as irresistible as his tenor vocal. Highly recommended.

 

NORA COLLINS/Christmas Kiss
Writers: Collins/Arthur; Producer: Tony Harrell; Publishers: none listed; MV2 (track)
– This pert soprano’s six-song holiday offering is titled It Must Be Christmas. Its single is a slow, sweetly romantic ballad about waking up to a special smooch on Christmas morning. Languid and lulling.

REBA McENTIRE, KELLY CLARKSON & TRISHA YEARWOOD/Silent Night
Writers: Franz Xaber Gruber/Joseph Mohr/John Freeman Young; Producer: Greg Kurstin, Publisher: PD; Rockin R/Nash Icon
– Leave it to these three stellar vocalists to turn this most familiar of Christmas standards into an enchanting new audio experience. Kelly leads off, followed by Trisha with Reba taking the third verse. Throughout, the three voices echo softly in harmony in the background. Hang on for the trio-harmonized a cappella finale. It will stop you in your tracks. You’ll find it on Reba’s CD My Kind of Christmas, which also contains collaborations with Darius Rucker, Lauren Daigle and Vince & Amy.

BALSAM RANGE/Christmas Lullaby
Writers: Doc Watson; Producer: Balsam Range; Publishers: Hillgreen/Budde, BMI; Mountain Home
-The bluegrass genre’s holiday entry, It’s Christmas Time, comes from this 10-time IBMA awarded band. The group’s trademark, flawless, hearty harmonies and deft picking are paired with The Nashville Recording Orchestra. The mixture of banjo and fiddle with lush, soaring strings is an unexpected delight. Well worth your spins.

BLAKE SHELTON/Christmas Eve
Writers: none listed; Producers: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Warner Bros.
-His heartbroken lead vocal on this downbeat waltz is dandy. He remains such a superb country singer. The track is marred by the presence of a kiddie chorus.

 

SHANE OWENS/Christmas in Dixie
Writers: none listed; Producers: none listed; Publishers: none listed; AmeriMonte (CDX)
– This honky tonker’s revival of Alabama’s 1983 holiday classic is a welcome reminder of what a cool song it is. Winning and warm.

LUKE BRYAN/O Holy Night
Writers: none listed; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Capitol (CDX)
– His accent just feels out of place on this loveliest of Christmas melodies. To his credit, he does take the octave-leap finale in stride.

HANNAH KERR/Emmanuel
Writers: Hannah Kerr/Andy Gullahorn/Jill Phillips; Producer: Mark Miller; Publishers: Songs of Black River/The Gullahorns, ASCAP; Black River Christian
– This is the title tune of a six-song EP that introduces Black River’s first entry into the CCM field. Her soft, airy delivery gives the lilting ballad extraordinary intimacy and presence, particularly when her co-writers add their lovely, lacy harmony voices. I was hanging on every phrase, mesmerized.

 

Kassi Ashton Inks Joint Deal With Interscope/UMG Nashville

Pictured (L-R): Interscope Geffen A&M Records Chairman & CEO John Janick, Kassi Ashton, UMG Nashville Chairman & CEO Mike Dungan

Kassi Ashton has signed with UMG Nashville in conjunction with Interscope Records. The California, Missouri native is currently working on new music expected in early 2018, and MCA Nashville will be servicing her single to country radio.

“You don’t have to be around her very long before you are struck by the ‘otherworldly spirit’ that rides alongside what is an otherwise kooky, fun soul,” shares UMG Nashville’s Chairman & CEO Mike Dungan. “And after about 90 seconds of hearing her sing, you know that you are in for a ride.  The music is fresh, unique, and rich in lyrical landscape far beyond her years.  Hallelujah!”

“I knew within seconds of meeting Kassi that she’s the real thing,” comments Interscope Geffen A&M Chairman and CEO John Janick. “A talented, driven singer and songwriter who pours her soul into her music. She’s a badass.”

Within 5 minutes of meeting the people at Universal Nashville and Interscope, I knew that together they were the perfect team to help me move the needle,” says Kassi. “My happiness and readiness are beyond words.”

Kassi Ashton is represented by Creative Nation for both management and publishing.

Eric Church’s Little Louder Inks Creative/Publishing Deal With Kobalt Music

Eric Church. Photo: Jill Trunell

Kobalt Music has entered a worldwide creative and publishing deal with Little Louder, that covers future works and all back catalog. Kobalt’s creative team will be pitching their writer’s songs for placements on various records, and providing assistance on key sync projects in addition to offering collaboration and co-write opportunities.

Arturo Buenahora, Jr. and Eric Church formed Little Louder in 2013. The publishing company’s roster includes songwriters Casey Beathard, Luke Dick, Oscar Charles, Jeff Hyde, Haley Georgia and Ryan Tyndell.

Church said of the deal, “We are excited about what the future holds with Kobalt.”

“As we began planning the next steps for the evolution of Little Louder, we found a partner in Kobalt that we think can help us build upon the foundation that we have carefully established,” said Little Louder President, Buenahora. “We are a boutique publisher at heart that is always trying to superserve our writers. Kobalt will allow us to keep that identity while providing talented creative reinforcement with a global reach.”

Sas Metcalfe, Chief Creative Officer at Kobalt, stated, “Eric Church is more than a singer-songwriter, he is a force to be reckoned with in the music business. He is the type of musician that really transforms his energy and passion into the musical projects he creates. Little Louder is no different and we are excited to support the company’s talented roster across the globe.”

Jesse Willoughby, General Manager at Kobalt, Nashville stated, “Both Eric and Arturo have built an incredible company with such a diverse roster in a short amount of time and we couldn’t be prouder to help grow their company going forward.”

Prior to forming Little Louder, Buenahora served a 10-year tenure in publishing at Sony/ATV, where he helped sign or produced such acts as Taylor Swift, Dierks Bentley, Miranda Lambert, and other artists.

2018 ACM Awards To Be Held April 15 At Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena

The Academy of Country Music (ACM) announced today that its 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards will broadcast live from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Sunday, April 15, 2018 at 8 p.m. ET/delayed PT on the CBS Television Network.

ACM professional member ticket on-sale will begin at 10 a.m. PT on Wednesday, Dec. 13 at acmcountry.com. ACM A-List Member ticket pre-sale will begin at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 13 at axs.com. The pre-sale code will be sent to all A-List members prior to the on-sale date. Tickets will go on-sale to the general public at 10 a.m. PT on Thursday, Dec. 14.

The show is produced for television by dick clark productions. Allen Shapiro, Mike Mahan, R.A. Clark, Barry Adelman and Mark Bracco are executive producers. Pete Fisher is executive producer for the ACM.

Capitol Christian Music Group CEO Bill Hearn Dies

Bill Hearn

William Ray “Bill” Hearn, an industry executive who led the Nashville-based Capitol Christian Music Group (CCMG) as its Chairman & CEO, passed away Sunday (Dec. 10) at age 58 in Nashville, Tennessee after a long battle with cancer.

Hearn was instrumental in the formation and leadership of that company, having played a leading role in the sale and highly-successful transition of family-owned Sparrow Records – founded by his father, Billy Ray Hearn -to EMI Music in 1992.

Through multiple acquisitions, Hearn evolved Sparrow into EMI Christian Music Group where he was appointed CEO in 1996. The company was renamed Capitol Christian Music Group 2013. He led the company to unprecedented success by developing and maintaining its vision to impact popular culture with quality and culturally relevant music from a biblical worldview, appealing to both faith-based and mainstream audiences.

Over the past 20 years, Hearn grew CCMG into the world’s leading Christian Music company and market leader in recorded music and music publishing, helming a company that now operates several divisions, including CCMG Label Group (Sparrow Records, ForeFront Records, sixstepsrecords, Hillsong, Jesus Culture), Motown Gospel and CCMG Publishing (including Brentwood-Benson Music Publications). CCMG owned labels are home to artists Chris Tomlin, Amy Grant, TobyMac, Tasha Cobbs, Jeremy Camp, Hillsong United, Matt Redman, Mandisa, Tye Tribbett, Crowder, Passion Band, Kari Jobe and many others.

CCMG Publishing, in addition to representing most of the CCMG labels’ premier artist/writers, represents many of the other leading writers in Christian/Gospel including Ben Glover, David Garcia, Kirk Franklin, Mark Hall, Brenton Brown and many more.

CCMG is a division of Capitol Music Group (CMG), led by Chairman and CEO Steve Barnett, which is a wholly owned division within Universal Music Group (UMG), the global leader in music-based entertainment.

Sir Lucian Grainge, Chairman and CEO of Universal Music Group, said, “Bill Hearn led Capitol Christian Music Group like the family business it is: with his unique passionate and mission-driven leadership.  Anyone who has walked through the doors there knows that it overflows with a special spirit that emanated from Bill himself. That spirit and the people of CCMG are among Bill’s great legacies. We are privileged to have known Bill, and especially blessed to call him a colleague and friend.”

Capitol Music Group (CMG) Chairman Steve Barnett said, “The Capitol Music Group family has lost one of its most valued members. We are all extremely saddened at the news of Bill’s passing, and extend our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. Bill was more than a colleague; he was a friend to all of us and a dedicated leader and mentor for so many within our company. His remarkable accomplishments and contributions to music will forever remain an important part of CMG’s legacy, and, most important, we will forever remember his generous spirit and sense of humanity in our hearts.”

Universal Music Publishing Group (UMPG) Chairman & CEO Jody Gerson stated, “We are so fortunate to have spent the past few years becoming close with Bill. A wonderful partner to UMPG, his ability to run his company was second to none and he did it with the utmost integrity and skill.  Above all else, Bill will be remembered as a tremendous human being and friend to everyone that knew him. Our thoughts are with his loved ones and all of the CCMG family.”

Among his numerous accomplishments, Hearn received the TJ Martell Foundation’s Frances Preston Lifetime Music Industry Achievement Award in 2015 for his contribution to the music industry. He won Grammy Awards in 1995 and 2006 for his role as Compilation Producer for Amazing Grace, A Country Salute To Gospel and Oh Happy Day: A Gospel Music Celebration, respectively. He was honored with The Recording Academy’s President’s Merit Award in 2006. Artists with whom Hearn has been associated with in his company-leading roles have earned more than 200 Gold, Platinum and Multi-platinum album and video certifications, as well as 40 Grammy Awards, 40 Stellar Awards and 235 Dove Awards (sponsored by the Gospel Music Association).

The Hearn Family Charitable Foundation actively supported the Nashville Symphony, Music Health Alliance, Nashville Food Project, Nashville Rep Theatre, Thistle Farms/Magdalene, Compassion International and Healing Waters. Hearn was a past National Chairman, National Board and Executive Committee Member of the T.J. Martell Foundation. He served as President of the Gospel Music Trust Fund, was a past National Trustee, Nashville chapter Vice President and board member of The Recording Academy.

Hearn is survived by his wife, Charmion Gustke Hearn, two sisters, a niece and nephew.

Garth Brooks Turns Nashville Opening Night Concert Into Hit-Filled Singalong

“We waited a long time for this city,” Garth Brooks told the sold-out crowd on Saturday (Dec. 9) at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena, as he launched the first of seven shows at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena that will wrap his three-year triumphant comeback tour, The Garth Brooks World Tour with Trisha Yearwood, which has already sold more than 6 million tickets.

Judging by the volume level of crowd’s cheers as he opened his set with “Let’s Lay Down and Dance,” “Rodeo,” “Two Of A Kind, Workin’ On A Full House,” and “The Beaches of Cheyenne,” Nashville has clearly been anxiously awaiting its turn to host Brooks’ record-setting tour, which marks seven years since his run of nine sold-out charity shows at the same venue in December 2010, following the Nashville floods.

Last month, Brooks earned his sixth CMA Entertainer of the Year honor, and with the zeal of an everyman prophet and the energy of entertainers half his age, the 55-year-old set about turning the next three hours into one big singalong, as the crowd sang every word to classics including “The River” and “The Thunder Rolls.”

“You gonna keep this pace up all night?” Brooks asked the crowd early in the evening. “All night? I’ll make a deal–you keep this up all night and we’ll play all night.”

Brooks and his longtime band members and background vocalists did more than just play. Consummate entertainers, they took the audience through a review of Brooks classic hits, and the songs wear well, sounding as fresh in 2017 as they did in the ‘90s. Further offering nods to his record-breaking world tours in the mid-‘90s, Brooks threw water bottles into the crowd, and climbed atop the revolving metal structure that surrounded the drum set center stage.

“Tonight, you treated the old songs like they were brand new, and you treated this song like it was the old stuff,” he praised the audience, as he performed his latest No. 1 single, “Ask Me How I Know.”

Pictured (L-R): Andy Elliott – Pearl Records, Glenn Noblit – Pearl Records, Hilary Hoover – Pearl Records, Lesly Simon – Pearl Records, Mitch Rossell – Songwriter, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Mandy McCormack – Pearl Records, Chris Waters – Pearl Records.

Earlier in the day, Brooks welcomed his team to celebrate the song, penned by newcomer singer/songwriter Mitch Rossell, who also opened for Brooks on his Nashville show.

After Brooks introduced wife and powerhouse singer Trisha Yearwood for “In Another’s Eyes,” Yearwood surprised both Brooks and Rossell with an arena-sized No. 1 party, celebrating the No. 1 song with confetti and a noble attempt at having balloons fall over the arena, though a technical malfunction prevented the balloons from falling in a timely manner.

Ever the professional, Yearwood was unfazed by the balloon malfunction, and launched into a string of her own hits, including “American girl (Xs and Os),” “How Do I Live,” “She’s In Love With The Boy,” and a gorgeously soulful turn on “Wrong Side of Memphis” featuring singers Vicki Hampton, Karyn Rochelle and Robert Bailey, that also showcased Yearwood’s scorching lead vocals.

“I think I broke a vocal cord on that one,” she quipped.

She wrapped with “She’s In Love With The Boy,” with the screen behind her turning into a “Kiss Cam,” catching couples in the audience. Appropriately, the song ended with Yearwood and Brooks on the cam, closing the song with a kiss.

Brooks, a well-known champion of songwriters, also used his Nashville shows to spotlight both Rossell and singer-songwriter Karyn Rochelle, who has penned songs for Trisha Yearwood (“Georgia rain,” “This is Me You’re Talking To”), Sunny Sweeney (“From A Table Away”), and Kellie Pickler (“Red High Heels”).

Brooks closed out the show with more hits, including “The Dance,” and a special rendition of “Friends In Low Places.”

As he reached the vamp before his “infamous third verse,” he told the audience, “We have not done the third verse on this tour, but that is going to change tonight.”

As the song wrapped and Brooks walked to each side of the stage, he thanked the audience yet again—but they weren’t ready for the night to end.

Perhaps the most potent display of Brooks attentiveness to his fans came when he returned to the stage to take audience requests—and the crowd was more than ready as signs went up around the arena.

He performed songs including “This Ain’t Tennessee,” and “She’s gonna make it,” and welcomed an 11-year-old who was holding up a sign letting Brooks know the opening Nashville show marked his first Garth concert. Brooks also performed two cover tunes “to play what I think country music is all about.” He paid tribute to the late Keith Whitley with “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” and George strait with “Amarillo By Morning,” before making the rounds to thank the rapturous audience again.

“This is the coolest opening night I’ve been a part of,” Brooks summed.

Judging by the crowd’s response, the feeling was more than mutual.

CMA Awards Celebrate 50 Years Of Performances With 10-DVD Set

Over the past half-century, the CMA Awards have grown from an exclusive, inaugural dinner show held at Nashville’s Municipal Auditorium in 1967 with one stage for performances. The show wouldn’t be televised until the following year, when it moved to the Ryman Auditorium. Now, “Country Music’s Biggest Night” presents some of the genre’s highest honors and features dozens of performances on multiple stages during its annual televised awards show. This year, the CMA Awards peaked at a three-year high for viewers, bringing in more than 14.3 million viewers in its 18-49 demographic.

Now, viewers can look back at 50 years of special CMA Awards performances, as the Country Music Association (CMA) has teamed with Time Life for CMA Awards Live: Greatest Moments 1968-2015, a 10-DVD set showcasing 127 memorable moments.

Among those moments are the Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton performance of “Islands In The Stream” that opened the 1983 telecast, Merle Haggard’s 1970 performance of “Okie From Muskogee,” the same year he was named Entertainer of the Year, and more recent performances including Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush,” Florida Georgia Line’s “’Round Here,” and Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take The Wheel” and “Before He Cheats.”

“Our tagline is ‘Country Music’s Biggest Night’ and we’ve got he most quintessential performances, artists and hosts. It’s a time capsule all the way to 1968 of a history of our industry,” CMA Chief Marketing Officer Damon Whiteside tells MusicRow.

The set is the brainchild of Whiteside and Time Life VP Mitchell Peyser, who notes the evolution of technology shown throughout the collection.

“Through the CMA Awards, you see the progression of so many things, including TV and technology,” Peyser says. “You see the progression from standard definition to high definition and mid-2000s when the CMA first started going into high-def. It’s a huge progression.”

The collection highlights the sometimes genre-blurring collaborations that have become synonymous with CMA Awards shows. The set includes the 2015 pairing of “Tennessee Whiskey/Drink You Away” from Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton, Lionel Richie and Alabama performing “Deep River Woman,” Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias’ collaboration on “To All The Girls I’ve Loved Before,” the Kenny Rogers/Lionel Richie collaboration of “Lady,” and Kenny Chesney and Grace Potter’s “You and Tequila.”

Other collaborations include Barbara Mandrell’s “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” featuring George Jones, as well as Charlie Daniels Band’s take on “The South’s Gonna Do It Again,” featuring Chet Atkins. Additionally included is Johnny Cash/The Carter Family collaboration of “Will The Circle Be Unbroken,” and the 1993 collaboration of Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Tammy Wynette on “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.”

“There were some quintessential things to feature, like Alan Jackson’s performance of ‘Where Were You When The World Stopped Turning,’ which was such a pivotal moment after 9/11,” Whiteside says. “That was one that a lot of people still really remember.”

Beyond the performances, viewers get classic moments from the awards show’s hosts over the years, including Johnny Cash, Reba, the show’s longest-running host Vince Gill (who presided over the CMA Awards telecast from 1992-2003), and Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood, who have hosted he show for the past decade.

“You see that it’s a family when they are up there together,” Time Life’s Peyser says. “Otherwise it’s a string of performances. You get to see hosts bringing on their friends and people they respect. One of the presentations you see in the collection is when Carrie introduces one of her heroes, Reba McEntire, and you can just hear in how Carrie introduces her, there is just so much respect and excitement.”

Peyser estimates that Time Life staffers spent approximately nine months sifting through clips of 50 years’ worth of CMA performances, selecting those standout moments.

“It was a tough choice. Each year could have 12 to 15, or even more performances,” says Peyser.

From there, began the process of obtaining clearances from labels, artists and managers. “We have 127 performances on the collection, and every single performance needed to be approved,” Whiteside says. “Obviously, you have to whittle down the collection because not everything was approved and in some cases, if for some reason something wasn’t approved, or we didn’t hear back, we had to move on to the next in line.”

In addition to the performances, the collection includes numerous artist interviews collected around the CMA’s 50th anniversary show, as well as interviews with CMA CEO Sarah Trahern, CMA Awards executive producer Robert Deaton, and the last interview with the CMA’s longest-running Executive Director, Jo Walker-Meador, who died earlier this year.

“She started the CMA Awards, and we are excited to have that interview; it was great to get some of her perspective, especially given that she is not with us any longer,” Whiteside says.

The set also includes a 44-page booklet, listing top moments throughout the awards show’s history, as well as award winners for each year. The set will officially release more widely to retail early next year. Currently, the set is exclusively available with timelife.com.

“We are having some initial conversations to refresh it next year before it goes to brick and mortar retail, which at some point will happen,” Whiteside says. “Maybe some different, smaller versions of the collection at brick and mortar or bonus content or additional show content to refresh it a year from now.

It’s a fantastic time capsule of country music history, to be able to show five decades of the CMA Awards.

Sugarland Returns With Big Machine, UMG Nashville Joint Venture

Sugarland has officially returned, with the new single, “Still The Same,” which will release digitally on Dec. 21. The track will be released via  joint venture between UMG Nashville and Big Machine Records. The Big Machine Records’ radio promo team will promote the track to country radio in 2018.

The duo, known for hits such as “Stuck Like Glue,” and “Stay,” is working on tour dates for 2018 and is in the studio working on a new project. They are also slated to perform on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest to ring in 2018 from New York City’s Times Square.

“We are thrilled for fans to hear our new music, especially this new single,” said Jennifer Nettles. “The title of the song is so meaningful to us as we want fans to know we are still the same Sugarland they’ve known and loved.”

Kristian Bush added, “We want to finish where we left off. We always knew were going to make music again, so this has been the best of both worlds. We were able to take time to feed our personal passions, and we’re excited to come back together to create music as a band again.”

The duo has sold nearly 10 million albums domestically, and earned platinum-certified singles including “All I Want to Do,” “Stay” and the 2x Platinum “Stuck Like Glue.” During their career, the duo has also earned several accolades including CMA Vocal Duo of the Year (2007-2011), five ACM Awards (including Song of the Year and Single of the Year) and Grammy honors for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, and Best Country Song, for “Stay.”

The duo’s reunion comes after both Nettles and Bush released solo projects in recent years. Nettles released the solo album, That Girl, in 2014 via Mercury Nashville. Her second solo album, Playing With Fire, released via Big Machine in 2016. Meanwhile, Bush signed with Streamsound Records as a solo artist in 2014, and released the solo album Southern Gravity, in 2015. He also produced Lindsay Ell’s The Project, released in August on Stoney Creek Records.

Weekly Chart Report 12/8/17

Click here or above to access MusicRow‘s weekly CountryBreakout Report.

DISClaimer: Chris Stapleton, Cale Dodds Offer Superb Vocals

Chris Stapleton, Cale Dodds

Veterans, shooting stars and newcomers are the ingredients in this week’s country-music recipe.

Toby Keith, Lee Ann Womack and Shania Twain all demonstrate that they have enduring appeal. Kip Moore, William Michael Morgan and Chris Stapleton are here to show us why they are all hot right now. Lindsay Ell and Cale Dodds are the promising newcomers.

It will come as no surprise that Chris Stapleton wins the Disc of the Day prize. The man can do no wrong.

This week’s DisCovery Award goes to social-media sensation Cale Dodds. He’s not only super handsome; he can also sing.

KIP MOORE/Last Shot
MCA (download)
-It’s an anthem-style rock power ballad delivered in his trademark, raspy, impassioned voice. I like the “shot” imagery of drinking and romantic chances.

SHANIA TWAIN/We Got Something They Don’t
Mercury (ERG)
– Kinda rumbling. Kinda thumpy. Kinda bluesy pop. Kinda groovy and catchy. I kinda like it.

LEE ANN WOMACK/All The Trouble
ATO (download)
– She could sing the phone book and make it sound soulful. Happily, this blues lament is much, much more than that. Her whole The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone album is essential.

 

KID ROCK/Tennessee Mountain Top
Red Bow (ERG)
– Suffering in L.A., he waxes nostalgic about home, where folks pack guns and sing karaoke in a double-wide thick with cigarette smoke. If that’s his idea of heaven, he’s welcome to it.

CHRIS STAPLETON/Millionaire
Mercury
-Searing and seething with emotion. It’s a classic country message: Love is more precious than money. If you’ve got love, you’re rich. Amen, bro.

LINDSAY ELL/Criminal
Writers: Lindsay Ell/Chris Stevens/Fred Wilhelm; Producer: Kristian Bush; Publishers: Magic Mustang/BMG Rights/Lindsay Ell/Moody Producer/Capitol CMG, BMI; Stoney Creek
– This multi-talented gal is still looking for the song that will put her over the top. This is a pleasant, percolating outing, but I don’t think it’s the one.

 
TOBY KEITH/Shitty Golfer
Writers: Toby Keith; Producers: Keith/Bobby Pinson; Publishers: Tokeco, BMI; Show Dog/Thirty Tigers
– This will make you grin, I guarantee it. By the way, Toby’s CD The Bus Songs also contains his immortal reefer ditties “Wacky Tobaccy” and “Weed With Willie.”

WILLIAM MICHAEL MORGAN/Vinyl
Writers: Wade Kirby/Ashley Gorley/Carson Chamberlain; Producers: Jimmy Ritchey & Scott Hendricks; Publishers: Round Hill Works/External Combustion/Songs of Southside Independent/WB/Atlas/Carson Chamerlain, BMI/ASCAP; Warner Bros.
-I remain a fan. This sweet, lilting love song compares old-fashioned romance with the warmth and comfort you feel from hearing classic music. Gently persuasive.

CALE DODDS/Out Of My System
Writers: Cale Dodds, Zach Abend, Corey Crowder; Producer: none listed; Publishers: Songs From The Rose Hotel (ASCAP)/WB Music Corp. (ASCAP)/Cale Dodds Publishing (ASCAP); Bendable Music (BMI)/Nashville International Music (BMI); Songs From The Rose Hotel (ASCAP)/WB Music Corp. (ASCAP); Warner Bros.
-He knows he’s addicted to her. But he’s not ready to de-tox just yet. The jumpy, nervous track has lots of stuttering electric guitar, but his pleading, urgent vocal remains the focus. An intriguing debut. The track is paired with a number called “People Watching.” What the two share is a certain monotonic quality that favors likable energy over any kind of distinctive melody.