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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 (3/20/09)

Share and share alike. We’re giving out two Disc of the Day awards today. One is for traditional country excellence. And that, hands down, belongs to a masterful honky-tonk stylist, Mark Chesnutt. Long may he sing.
 The second goes to a modern, rocking-country disc maker. That would be Jack Ingram, who has the first summertime sound this year. Keith Urban is similarly sunny, but we have come to expect that from him.

I was all set to honor Daniel Smith with a DisCovery Award, until I found out that he has appeared in this column before. I liked him then and I like him now. And extra

Jack Ingram

Jack Ingram

kudos for cutting such a well-written song.

Today, by the way, is officially the first day of spring. Celebrate.

MARK CHESNUTT/She Never Got Me Over You
Writer: Keith Whitley/Dean Dillon/Hank Cochran; Producer: Jimmy Ritchey; Publisher: none listed; Lofton Creek/Big 7 (track) (www.loftoncreekrecords.com)
—This is said to be the last thing that Keith Whitley ever recorded. In my opinion there is only one country singer alive who can stand toe to toe with Keith, and it’s this man. The song is a stone-country masterpiece. The production is fiddle-and-steel flawless. Mark’s performance is three minutes of hillbilly heaven. The next time somebody asks you what country music is, play them this.

STEPHEN COCHRAN/Wal-Mart Flowers
Writer: Thom Shepherd/Vincent Hickerson/Mark Fortney; Producer: Jim Allison; Publisher: Next Big Twang/Keeping Music Alive, SESAC/BMI; Aria
—Sucking up to Wal-Mart gets you nowhere in this column, pal.

KEITH URBAN/Kiss A Girl
Writer: Monty Powell/Keith Urban; Producer: Dann Huff & Keith Urban; Publisher: Universal Tunes/Songs of Universal/Eden Valley/Mary Rose/Third Tier, SESAC/BMI; Capitol Nashville
—The sound of sunshine. I’ll bet there are plenty of lady listeners out there who’d be more than willing to take this guy up on his invitation.

KEN HATTON/Small Town Girl
Writer: Bill Spencer; Producer: Brien Fisher; Publisher: Coal Miner’s/PoNoMo, BMI; Spangle (CDX) (615-822-8690)
—It’s one of those redneck stompers about the joys of rural romance. Ho hum.

TRACY LAWRENCE/Up To Him
Writer: David Kent/Tim Johnson; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Finch Valley/State One Copyrights America/The Bigger They Are/Cherry Lane, BMI/SESAC; Rocky Comfort/9 North  (www.tracylawrence.com)
—The multiple rhymes are just about brilliant. Tracy, as usual, delivers the goods as a vocalist on this common-man’s anthem.

KACEY JONES/I Wanna Be Up Front Like Dolly
Writer: Kacey Jones/Becky Hobbs/Benita Hill; Producer: Kacey Jones; Publisher: Mamalama/Becca’s Mecca/Gooby/Universal, ASCAP/BMI; IGO (track) (www.kaceyjones.com)
—The melody is strictly from nursery school, but you can’t argue with the cute lyric that salutes our greatest female superstar.

JACK INGRAM/Barefoot And Crazy
Writer: Ben Hayslip/Rhett Akins/Dallas Davidson; Producer: Jeremy Stover; Publisher: WB/Melissa’s Money/Get a Load of This/EMI Blackwood/Rhettneck/String Stretcher, ASCAP/BMI; Big Machine (www.jackingram.net)
—It’s official: Summer is here. And this is its soundtrack. Righteous and rocking, with an insistent guitar groove to twist your mind.

RAZZY BAILEY/Hank Wrote That
Writer: Razzy Bailey/Ben Marble; Producer: Razzy Bailey; Publisher: Toucabaca, BMI; SOA (track) (www.razzybailey.com)
—Next time, hire a real producer.

DANIEL SMITH/Man Like Me
Writer: Charles Moore/Bobby Pinson/Kris Bergsnes; Producer: Larry Sheridan; Publisher: Tunes From the Farm/Music of Stage Three/Warner Chappell, no performance rights listed; Parlor (CDX) (615-385-4943)
—His vocal range is impressive and the complex, involving lyric is even more so. This is his second good review. Who is this guy?

SHOOTER JENNINGS/Living Proof
Writer: Hank Williams Jr.; Producer: none listed; Publisher: none listed; Universal South (track)
—Shooter’s Bad Magick: The Best of Shooter Jennings & The .357’s drops on Tuesday. It features 13 fan favorites and two new tracks. One of them is this Hank Jr. classic about trying to live up to a legendary father. Can Shooter relate? You bet your life.

DISClaimer (3/13/09)

It’s veterans’ day.

No, not the holiday, silly. It’s a day when we have new music from some of country music’s vets. Aaron Tippin, Ricochet and Ronnie Milsap are all dropping by with new sounds. And the magnificent Mr. Milsap wins a Disc of the Day award.

Neil Carswell is a veteran, too. He previously fronted the Southern rock band Copperhead. Now he’s a solo artist with his second consecutive winning single. Keep an ear out for him, as well as Michael Scott. He is also getting his second consecutive rave review in this column.

Our DisCovery Award winner leans more toward the Americana side of the spectrum. But Diana Jones is such a strong writer that some of country’s stars should start checking out her catalog. Actually, this is Diana’s second appearance, too. But her last CD was three long years ago, and this new one is, for now, being marketed from the U.K.

DIANA JONES/Better Times Will Come
Writer: Diana Jones; Producer: Diana Jones; Publisher: Yarjones, ASCAP; Proper (track) (www.dianajonesmusic.com)
—The title tune to this singer-songwriter’s current collection is rippling acoustic tune of hope sung in a throaty, resonant alto. Guests on the CD include the esteemed Nanci Griffith and Mary Gauthier. Another standout track is “Henry Russell’s Last Words,” based on the true story of a doomed miner writing on a paper sack with a piece of coal in 1927. You can also find it on Joan Baez’s excellent, Steve-Earle-produced album The Day After Tomorrow.

JO DEE MESSINA/Shine
Writer: Clay Cumbie/Megan James; Producer: James Stroud; Publisher: Curb Congregation/Big Red Toe/Big Loud Bucks/Warner-Tamerlane/ Songwriters of Platinum Pen, SESAC/BMI; Curb
—The production frames her upbeat vocal nicely. But the faux-inspirational, chin-up, positive-think song does nothing for me.

CHRIS LOID/Back Road Home
Writer: none listed; Producer: Chris Loid; Publisher: none listed; Chris Loid Entertainment (track)
—The title track to this fellow’s CD shows off his vocal range. But even though it’s a song about murder, there is something curiously colorless about his singing.

RICOCHET/Feel Like Fallin’
Writer: Shane Teeters/Luke Bryan; Producer: Robert Wright; Publisher: Murrah Music/Shane Teeters/Universal/Z, BMI; M (www.ricochetonline.com)
—This band’s harmony singing has always been thrilling. They really turn it on in the joyous-sounding choruses here. The bridge is cool, too.

AARON TIPPIN/East Bound And Down
Writer: Jerry Reed/Dick Feller; Producer: Aaron Tippin & Tim Grogan; Publisher: Songs of Universal, BMI; Nippit (track) (www.aarontippin.com)
—Aaron’s new trucker-themed CD In Overdrive kicks off with this spirited remake of the Burt Reynolds 1977 Smokey and the Bandit movie tune. It bops right along, very much in the same vein as the Jerry Reed original, so some might find it a little “dated” sounding.

RICHARD JAYMES/Dollar And A Dream
Writer: Richard Jaymes; Producer: none listed; Publisher: Southern Pop, BMI; Shotgun/CO5 (CDX)
—This was one of the many newcomers making their debuts at last week’s Country Radio Seminar. His singing is rather bland, and is swamped by the amped-up instrumental track at times.

TIMOTHY CRAIG/Got Good Friends
Writer: Timothy Craig/Billy Falcon/Rose Falcon; Producer: Tom Harding & Timothy Craig; Publisher: Timothy Craig/Pretty Blue Songs/JuniorIsaGirl, ASCAP/BMI; Ball & Chain (CDX) (www.timothycraig.com)
—The song is sturdy, but his vocal is so shallow that he practically speaks the lyric.

NEIL CARSWELL/Bright Lights
Writer: Neil Carswell; Producer: Stu Campbell & Neil Carswell; Publisher: Lake James/GHP, ASCAP; Aspirion (CDX)
—The buzzing guitar sound is cool, and this man sings with plenty of grit and fire. This is the second time we’ve encountered this distinctive stylist, and I’m even more impressed than I was the first time around.

RONNIE MILSAP/Stand By Me
Writer: Ben E. King/Mike Stoller/Jerry Leiber; Producer: Rob Galbraith & Ronnie Milsap; Publisher: Mike & Jerry/Jerry Leiber/Silver Seahorse, BMI/ASCAP; Star Song (CDX) (615-371-6581)
—The funky, soulful track puts some slinky rhythm into what is usually performed as a gospel-soaked ballad. In any setting, it’s a fabulous evergreen song, and Ronnie pours passion all over it. The man remains a titanic talent.

MICHAEL SCOTT/Bring It On
Writer: Arnie Roman/Mark Mormon; Producer: Ricky Cobble & Michael Scott; Publisher: Roman Empire/Fintage/Rev’d Up/Songs of Windswept Pacific, ASCAP/BMI; Rocky Comfort (CDX) (www.michaelscott.com)
—This guy sings with hearty confidence and immense warmth. And judging by the superb dynamics in the track, he truly knows his way around a recording studio. To top it all off, the song is a doozy. This is Scott’s second rave in this column, so I thought I’d check out his website. It turns out that this is the title tune to his debut CD for Tracy Lawrence’s label. Definitely send more.

DISClaimer (3/6/09)

As you might expect, the stars are twinkling for Country Radio Seminar.

Toby Keith, Sugarland, Telluride and Pat Green all have terrific new tunes for the radio decision makers to savor. Universal South is bringing forth a dandy by this week’s DisCovery Award winners, Jonathan Singleton & The Grove.

Less than a month ago (on February 13, to be exact), Caitlin & Will earned that same honor. Well, today they graduate to their first Disc of the Day prize. I hope it is the first of many to come.

TOBY KEITH/Lost You Anyway
Writer: Toby Keith/Bobby Pinson; Producer: Toby Keith; Publisher: Franklin Road/Music of Stage Three/Bobby’s Song and Salvage, BMI; Show Dog Nashville
—Sumptuous and lustrous as a ballad can be. Guitars chime and percussion pounds all around his passionate, soaring vocal. A big, big sound.

GEORGE CANYON/What I Do
Writer: George Canyon; Producer: Richard Marx; Publisher: Reiny Dawg, SOCAN; Universal (Canada) (track) (www.georgecanyon.com)
—The title tune to the Canadian hunk’s new CD is a tender “daddy” song that tugs at every heart string you’ve got. Another winner in a career that’s had a bunch of ‘em.

JONATHAN SINGLETON & THE GROVE/Livin’ In Paradise
Writer: Jonathan Singleton/Ted Jones; Producer: Dann Huff; Publisher: Crosstown Uptown/Kobalt/Murrah, ASCAP/BMI; Universal South
—The song is ear-catchingly structured, with its chorus at the beginning. Even more impressive is his cool, grainy singing voice. Jonathan has already proved himself as a top Music Row songwriter (”Watching Airplanes,” “Red Light”). This proves he has enormous artist potential as well.

STELLA PARTON/Family Ties
Writer: Stella Parton/Rucker Jones; Producer: Stella Parton; Publisher: My Mama’s/WTRC, BMI; Raptor (track) (www.stellaparton.com)
—During the past few years, Stella has really come into her own as a songwriter and a record maker. Her new Testimony CD leads off with this lilting ditty about kinfolks. Hold on for the clever “gossip” segment at the finale.

CAITLIN & WILL/Address In The Stars
Writer: Caitlin Fisher/Aimee Mayo/Chris Lindsey/Hillary Lindsey; Producer: Chris Lindsey; Publisher: Fleur de Lisa/Little Blue Typewriter/BPJ/Moonscar/Raylene, BMI/ASCAP; Columbia (track)
—At radio’s request, “Even Now” is being pulled as the duo’s single and being replaced by this piercing, penetrating ballad of loss. Both of these kids sing their faces off. Caitlin’s goose-bump raising vocal takes the lead while Will wails soulful harmony on the string-drenched choruses. The electric guitar effects are really neat, too. A super performance. Her aunt’s death from breast cancer inspired Caitlin to pen this stunner.

TELLURIDE/Pencil Marks
Writer: Adam Craig/Dillon Dixon/Michael Howard; Producer: none listed; Publisher: In Tune/Ash Street/Deane Howard, BMI; American Roots/Quarterback (www.tellurideband.com)
—The pencil marks are the ones Dad drew on the door frame as his boy grew up. The kid enters the military, comes home, has a boy of his own and starts making new pencil marks. It’s a neat little slice of life, very nicely sung and produced. I think this band has the goods.

MILEY CYRUS/The Climb
Writer: Jessi Alexander/Jon Mabe; Producer: John Shanks; Publisher: Vistaville/Hopeless Rose/Music of Stage Three/Mabe it Big, ASCAP/BMI; Walt Disney/Lyric Street/Hollywood
—Having succeeded in country music as her dad’s duet partner, pop star Miley sends out this Nashville-penned orchestral ballad as a potential cross-format performance. The gal can for-sure sing, and the chorus of this is pretty undeniable. It’s not exactly my cup of tea, but I can see why country radio might want to give it a try.

PAT GREEN/Country Star
Writer: Pat Green/Brett James; Producer: Dann Huff; Publisher: none listed, BMI/ASCAP; BNA (CDX)
—Pat comes to Music City with stars in his eyes. “I got a drinkin’ problem, so I fit right in.” That’s just one of the hoots in a lyric that name-checks, Tim, Faith, Kenny, Bocephus, Carrie, Big & Rich, Brooks & Dunn, Keith Urban and more. Great tempo tune. Great fun.

SUGARLAND/It Happens
Writer: Jennifer Nettles/Kristian Bush/Bobby Pinson; Producer: Byron Gallimore, Kristian Bush & Jennifer Nettles; Publisher: Jennifer Nettles/EMI Blackwood/Dirkpit/Music of Stage Three/Bobby’s Song & Salvage, ASCAP/BMI; Mercury (CDX)
—It’s a zippy, bopping, working-girl’s lament. Life doesn’t have any rhyme or reason. It just happens. Naturally, she tosses in a “Shhh” and pauses a moment before singing the title.

STEPHANIE CHAPMAN/This Song Is To You
Writer: Stephanie Chapman; Producer: Ray Kennedy & Nathan Chapman; Publisher: Sony ATV Tree, BMI; Pain in the Art (track) (www.stephaniechapman.com)
—The Chapmans are a young couple to watch in Tune Town. Nathan has shot to fame as Taylor Swift’s producer. Stephanie’s songs have been recorded by Trisha Yearwood, Bonnie Raitt and others. The title song to her debut CD is a sweet, soprano love ballad embellished with silvery steel passages and simple, effective guitar strumming. Highly listenable indeed. She’ll celebrate her album release on Wednesday, March 11, at The Rutledge at 7:30 p.m. Jypsi and Lauren Lucas will be there, too.

DISClaimer

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.