Phil Vassar – “This Is My Life”
I’ve always liked Country’s version of Billy Joel and this first single, from his upcoming album, is quite good. As always Phil has delivered a catchy song with a sing-a-long chorus that is backed by expert atmospheric melodies. With a timely lyric about the woes of gas prices, I don’t see how Phil and his new label Universal Records South (AKA Nashville) don’t have a hit with this. Pick it.
Dierks Bentley – “Free And Easy (Down The Road I Go):”
With a laid-back, modern yet still country sound, “Free and Easy” certainly has a ‘trademark’ sound from the Arizona native. With a Waylon-esque melody, the youngest member of the Grand Ole Opry has delivered another solid, traditionalist radio hit. Pick it.
Carmen Rasmussen – “Nothin’ Like Summer:”
With the success of Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler, Bucky Covington and Josh Gracin, I guess it was only time before other American Idol contestants were picked up by Nashville labels. Signed to indie Lofton Creek Records, Carmen delivers a sweet, familiar sounding song. And that’s the problem with it. It’s too homogenous for radio to truly give her a chance. Skip it.
Cook/Glenn – “Shining Star:”
Alabama’s guitarist Jeff Cook has teamed up with a friend to create a new duo who’s also signed to Lofton Creek. The song is alright I guess but it sounds too much like an Alabama cast-off from the 80s or early 90s. Bleh. Skip.
Jack Ingram – “Measure Of A Man”
The lead-off track from Jack’s “This is It” full-length debut for Big Machine Records, “Measure Of A Man” may just be the best single Jack’s ever released. Written by the great Radney Foster, Jack sings a Petty-esque country rocker that truly is a home run from the first note. It’s bound to be a big hit this summer on country radio.
Sugarland – “Everyday America:”
Sugarland has managed to avoid a sophomore slump by delivering two consecutive Number One hits from their superb “Enjoy The Ride.” “America” will make it three. With a very interesting and different, for country music, melody and instrumental breakdown, the song just suits radio. Although I think at this point Jennifer Nettles could sing just about anything and I’d buy it. She is, bar none, the best female vocalist currently making popular music. She knows how to control her instrument and would be a huge pop star if she wanted to be. In fact, I think this could be the band’s first ‘crossover’ hit. Absolutely a Pick.
Keith Urban – “I Told You So:”
Keith Urban is a star and this one’s already Top 10 but It is, without a doubt, his best single since “Making Memories Of Us” from a few years back. The instrumental breakdown is a unique trait that finds KU showing off his considerable skill. I would happily make a bet that he’s one of the best guitarists in any genre. If he doesn’t get another Number One hit with this melodic piece of ecstasy then something is completely wrong with country radio. It’s brilliant and obviously a song worth picking.
Craig Morgan – “Tough”
A wonderful tribute to mothers everywhere, Craig Morgan has once again showed that he’s a great ballad singer. The lyric is tender without ever being treacly and the melody perfectly sits behind the lyrics. Craig’s struggled to get a big hit from his fourth record “A Little Bit Of Life” but I think he might just have it here. Pick it.
Rodney Atkins – “These Are My People”
The success that Rodney’s had with the first two singles from his “If You’re Going Through Hell” record were well-deserved. Many people think Rodney’s an ‘overnight sensation’ when, in reality, he’s been plugging away at his music career for over 10 years. Some call him a ‘new’ Tim McGraw but I think Rodney’s enough of an artist in his own right to knock down those claims. Reba (F/Kelly Clarkson) – “Because of You”
I thought that this gorgeous ballad from Kelly always had the potential to be a huge country hit and when I heard that Reba was gonna do it as a duet with Kelly, I thought that it could be a gigantic hit. The duet has let me down. I still think it’ll be a big hit (as country radio likes American Idol types) but the strong lyric could’ve made for a great mother-daughter family ballad, not an awkward duet about women singing to someone. Now if Reba had done it on her own, I would have loved it. Skip it.Tim McGraw – “If You’re Reading This”
Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Wow. Tim has delivered an impactful, memorable, story song. Written by Tim with the Warren Brothers, “If You’re Reading This” is one of the best war-themed, solider appreciation songs I’ve ever heard. It doesn’t preach or pander or do any jingoistic things but simply is played out for us to appreciate, much in the way that Trace Adkins’s “Arlington” was. Unavailable to purchase as of yet, I have a feeling that Curb and Tim are gonna tack it on to his recently released album and make it an official single. For right now it’s only on youtube as a video taken directly from the ACM Awards. Pick.
Tim McGraw & Faith Hill – “I Need You”
The duo’s first real duet in a decade, “I Need You” proves that Tim is well on his way to following George Strait into a long, long, career. Tim knows how to pick great songs (when he doesn’t write ‘em) and this one has a very memorable lyric of “I need you like a needle needs a vein…like a lighthouse on the coast, like the father, the son and the holy ghost, I need you.” Faith hasn’t sounded this passionate in a long time. I really get the sense that the duo really feels the lyric of the song. Pick it.
Carrie Underwood – “I’ll Stand By You”
While not an ‘official’ single from Arista, the label would do well to make it one. Quite simply Carrie’s a superstar with the ability to take a classic song and give it a great country ‘rerub.’ The lyrics translate well to country (as many great songs would). I liked it enough to buy it from iTunes. Pick it.
Trace Adkins – “I Wanna Feel Somethin’’”
I know Trace gets a lot of ‘flack’ from people for singing the silly little ‘ditties’ that he does (“Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” anyone?) but when he turns out a memorable song like “Feel Somethin’,” I am reminded why I’ve always liked the tall Oklahoma native. He’s just a solid country singin’ dude. This is a mature song for adults. Pick it.