Early 2008 Country Album Round-up

 Since it’s nearly impossible to give every album released an in-depth report, I have decided to present my thoughts on a few of the recently released records with a grade.  At the very least, these mini-reviews aren’t Maxim-like ‘educated-guesses.’  I’ve actually listened to them. 

Allison Moorer

Allison Moorer – Mockingbird

(New Line Records)

2.5

I have been a fan of Allison Moorer’s since her first appearance in “The Horse Whisperer” years ago.  The idea of her doing a cover record was a good one.  However, I don’t think she should’ve left it with just female songwriter/artists.  While a unique take, the whole album leaves me wanting more.  Take her spin on Joni Mitchell‘s classic “Both Sides Now.”  That song was brilliantly re-worked by Mitchell herself so Allison had a lot to live up to and she simply didn’t do it.  “Ring of Fire” is reworked here but it sounds too weird to my ears.   A couple songs are given brilliant arrangements and one of them is “Dancing Barefoot.” 

Dolly

Dolly Parton – Backwoods Barbie

(Dolly Records)

3

Dolly Parton hasn’t released a mainstream country record in almost two decades.  She’s dabbled in bluegrass and gospel and even tossed out a patriotic record for fans to devour.  While critically acclaimed, the bluegrass records didn’t set the charts on fire so Dolly decided to return to what she knows.  Perhaps one of country music’s greatest songwriters, Dolly also sings quite well for someone who’s 62 years old. She could actually teach some of the new female artists a thing or to.  The record starts off with the criminally ignored “Better Get To Livin’.”   I would’t have expected Fine Young Cannibals‘ “Drive Me Crazy” to be a good choice for a country song but Dolly makes the song work with her charming persona.  It’s still not very ‘country’ as some other tracks are on “Barbie” though.  Dolly shows her roots on the stone country title track and current radio single “Jesus & Gravity” is the most mainstream song on the record and if it cannot get Dolly back on the airwaves as a solo artist, nothing can.

Doug Stone

Doug Stone “My Turn”

(Progression Music Group)

two

It might seem like it’s been a cat’s lifetime since Doug Stone has been in the public eye but his “My Turn” record proves that he’s still hard at work.  Released in late 2007 (but given a digital release in ’08), the album shows that Doug still has the goods as a vocalist.  The biggest problem for Doug is his love for anonymous ballads that derailed his career in the late 1990s.  Aside from “Don’t Tell Mama,” a cautionary drinking and driving song, there are no “I’d be Better off (In A Pine Box)” tracks to be found here.  Only more of the “More Love” types of songs.  This is a record only the loyalist of his fans will enjoy. 

 Trent Willmon

Trent Willmon – Broken In

(Compadre Records/Music World Records)

3

He released two albums on the Columbia label before parent Sony merged with BMG.  Since Willmon barely sold anything, the Texan rancher was part of the corporate artist purge (along with Rodney Crowell and Jon Randall).   Compadre Records signed him up and released a fine ballad “There Is A God” that got lost at country radio.  The title track is the new single and its finding more of an audience.  The problem with the record seems to be that Willmon doesn’t know rather to ditch Nashville for Texas or Texas for Nashville.  It’s a quandary that was present on his first two records as well.  Still, Trent does have a strong voice, writes well and has a few tracks worth seeking out.  “Cold Beer and A Fishing Pole” is as country as they come while the Brett James/Ashley Monroe penned “The Truth” has potential to be a big hit at country radio. 

durrance12.jpg 

Eric Durrance – I Lost It All (EP)

(Wind-up Records)

two

There’s no denying the fact that Eric Durrance has vocal and writing talent.  What I don’t understand is why Wind-up, a label new to the Nashville ‘game,’ would release this digital EP now.  It seems to be under-produced. While this is usually good for a demo, it doesn’t work as the first major release for the artist and label in the genre.  The title track follows the same path as Emerson Drive‘s “Moments” does and it packs as strong of an emotional impact to boot. While I actually love the acoustic nature of the song, I expected a full band to back up Durrance after the first verse.  It’s a problem that plagues the whole effort.  “Wait ‘Til I Get There” was a recent free iTunes “Discovery Download” and with the right production touches, it’s a smash hit.    The closing track, “And Then Some,” which I first heard on songwriter Dan Demay’s own record, closes out the EP with a similarly themed song as the title track. My basic problem with the EP is that country music isn’t exclusively ‘acoustic.’

Tift Merritt (Fantasy Records) 

Tift Merritt – Another Country

(Fantasy Records)

4.5

I fell in love with Tift Merritt the first time I heard her major label debut “Bramble Rose.”  After the acoustic soul “Tambourine,” Tift was unceremoniously dropped by Lost Highway Records and in between that time Tift moved to France and, despite not knowing the language, began to thrive again artistically.  The results are present on “Another Country.”  The title track absolutely sparkles while “My Heart Is Free” rocks and recalls her last record.  There’s something about that crystal clear voice that just hits me hard.  There really isn’t a bad track on “Another Country,” including the album closing French track “Mille Tendressess.”

Jim Lauderdale (Yep Roc)

Jim Lauderdale – Honey Songs

(Yep Roc Records)

4.5

Jim Lauderdale is probably known to most country music fans as the writer of many country songs (for example, George Strait‘s “We Really Shouldn’t Be Doing This“)  but there are more fans out there who know of Jim’s Grammy winning stint as a bluegrass performer (with and without Ralph Stanley).  On “Honey Songs” the prolific artist returns to his roots-rock/country hybrid that he’s been playing since his mid-1990’s days as a Warner Brothers artist.  Featuring a short 10 tracks, “Honey Songs” is the work of a man who’s making music for the sake of making music.  “Honey Suckle Honey Pie” kicks off the record with a rollicking’ melody that recalls Dwight Yoakam while “It’s Finally Sinking In” sits right next to the stone country tracks “Hittin’ It Hard” and “Borrow Some Summertime.” The latter of which wouldn’t be outta place on a Strait or Alan Jackson record. 

Those of you keeping record at home may notice that I haven’t covered the two most recent releases.  That’s because both Alan Jackson‘s “Good Time Ashton Shepherd‘s “Sounds So Good” will both be features here in seperate, longer reviews.  

Under The Covers: Pop/rock songs that would make good country songs.

With “Home,” one of my favorite pop songs, recently getting recorded and released by Blake Shelton, I started brainstorming about what other pop songs would make for good material for country artists to cover.  Some songs will be obvious while others are either out of left field or unknown to many.  Wherever I can I’ll suggest an artist who’d make sense for the cover.   If you have any suggestions to add to what I’ve put forth, or to add your own suggestions, feel free to leave a comment. 

“Falling Slowly”

Original Artist: Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova

Cover Artist: Jon Randall & Jessi Alexander

Falling slowly, eyes that know me
And I can’t go back
Moods that take me and erase me
And I’m painted black
You have suffered enough
And warred with yourself
It’s time that you wonTake this sinking boat and point it home
We’ve still got time
Raise your hopeful voice you had a choice
You’ve made it now

I absolutely love this song (and the movie it comes from) and think that it’d make for a great country duet.  I almost think that the duo singing the song would have to be in love with each other or at least been there, the way the original artists and film stars are.  In that sense I think that Jon Randall and Jessi Alexander would do wonderful with the song and I actually think this could be a great Tim and Faith song too.  The bottom line is the artists singing need to be in love.   

Secret Smile”

Original artist: Semisonic

Cover artist choice: Keith Urban or Josh Turner

Nobody knows it but you’ve got a secret smile
And you use it only for me
Nobody knows it but you’ve got a secret smile
And you use it only for me
So use it and prove it
Remove this whirling sadness
I’m losing, I’m bluesing
But you can save me from madness

Written by Grammy winning songwriter Dan Wilson, “Secret Smile” has always ‘screamed’ out to me as a song that would make for a killer country record.  Lyrically, the song is about longing for a secret, forbidden love or is it about a deeply private and personal relationship with God?  I don’t know which I’d interpret the lyric to be but I really think the song would hit home for both men and women of any age.  Melodically, I can see where the right producer would add flourishes of banjo, steel guitar and fiddle to make the song work.  As for an artist that could deliver the song, I feel that the vocalist would have to be someone like Keith Urban or one could go completely in the other direction and have a great vocalist like Josh Turner wrap his baritone around it.  This song is over 10 years old and still hits home whenever I hear it. 

Song:  “The Distance”

Original Artist: Evan & Jaron

Cover Artist: Trisha Yearwood

“The sky has lost it’s color, the sun has turned to grey, at least that’s how it feels to me whenever you’re away, I crawl up in a corner, as I watch the minutes pass, each one brings me closer to, the time when you’ll be back, you’re coming back,

I cant take the distance, I cant take the miles, I can’t take the time until the next time I see you smile, I cant take the distance, and I’m not ashamed, that I can’t take a breath without saying your name, I can brave a hurricane, and still be standing tall when all the dust has settled down, but I can’t take the distance”

That’s the first verse and chorus of this haunting ballad.  Sung of a simple acoustic guitar and simply elegant cello, this song really could make for a brilliant country song, be it a ‘simple remake’ like Blake Shelton did with “Home” or a more inventive reading that mixes in steel guitar and fiddles and dobro.  It’s the kind of song that needs an emotive vocalist to give it the justice that Evan & Jaron created with their original (pre-radio remix).  I believe that Trisha Yearwood would knock it out of the park but at the same time I can also see Tim McGraw taking a chance this moving ballad.

“All Will Be Well”

Original Artist: Gabe Dixon Band

Cover Artist: Keith Urban

“The new day dawns
And I am practicing my purpose once again
It is fresh and it is fruitful if I win
but if I lose, ooh, I don’t know
I’ll be tired but I will turn and I will go
Only guessing ’til I get there then I’ll know
Ohh, I will know And all the children walking home past the factories
Can see the light that’s shining in my window
As I write this song to you
And all the cars running fast along the interstate
Can feel the love that radiates
Illuminating what I know is trueAnd all will be well
Even after all the promises you’ve broken to yourself
All will be well
You can ask me how but only time will tell”

A brilliant song that’s been used for some TV shows, surprisingly not American Idol, written with Semisonic’s Dan Wilson, “All Will Be Well” might not make for a great radio single, but it’d make for a great album cut or a song featured on a record of ‘covers.’  Again I hear Keith Urban doing this one simply because he has a similar voice to Gabe Dixon but I really think he could arrange the song to suit his guitar playing much like how he made Elton John’s “Country Comfort” his own.  Dixon, after all, is from the Elton John/Paul McCartney school of songwriting. 

“This Kind of Love” 

Original Artist: Sister Hazel

Cover Choice: Brad Mates (Emerson Drive)/James Otto

Sister Hazel had one really big hit/album in the late 1990s and seemingly ‘disappeared’ from the mainstream music.  What really happened is that the adult rock-oriented band just toured relentlessly and released strong album after strong album.  Their 2006 release “Absolutely” featured a few songs that could cross-over but “This Kind Of Love” is one of those no-brainer power ballads that suit weddings and anniversaries.  The lyric is straight forward “This kind of love is what I dream about/well baby it leaves no doubt./this kind of love is why I’m standing here/it’s something that we can share/I can’t get enough of this kind of love.  Because the song is such a huge power ballad, it demands a singer that can actually sing it and not ‘over-sing it.’  The verses start low and the chorus is an absolute belter.  I think it’d be in worthy hands of Brad Mates from Emerson Drive or James Otto.  I especially would love to hear Otto take this song and wrap his soulful vocal around it. 

“Advertising Space”

Original Artist: Robbie Williams

Cover Artist: George Strait

For most of America, Robbie Williams is probably known as the dude behind that “Angels” song that Jessica Simpson destroyed or perhaps as the member of that “one hit wonder” boy band Take That.  To the rest of the world, he’s the most successful solo artist of the last 20 years.  The lyrics don’t follow the typical country music trends but that’s exactly what makes this song so appealing to me.  Yes, it’s another ballad and would be an ‘album track’ only, but y’know, it’s a damn good record.  Too bad Cash isn’t around to sing this one.   It would take a brilliant artist to record this one so that’s why I’m choosing George Strait. 

“Jealous Man” 

Original artist: Tyrone Wells

Cover Artist: Gary Allan

Tyrone Wells’s “Hold On” was probably my favorite pop/rock record from 2007 and that’s saying a lot.  This singer/songwriter with an insanely strong voice is from the same neck of the woods that James Otto came from and I’ll be damned if they don’t actually have similar voices.  That aside, It’d take a gifted vocalist to interpret “Jealous Man” since the song is already a damn great tune.  With a theme that was playfully covered by Garth Brooks with “Papa Loved Mama” and Blake Shelton with “Ol’ Red,” “Jealous” is the kind of song that builds and builds to the tidal wave of an ending.  I think Otto could do this justice but I’d really love to hear Gary Allan’s gritty voice take this one on.  If you only listen to one Tyrone Wells song, it’s gotta be this one.

“Just Like That”

Original Artist: Marc Broussard

Cover artist: Sugarland

Many people would think that Broussard’s universally praised “Home” would be on a list like this but I think his similarlly gritty, southern rock/soul track “Just Like That” (from his EP “Momentary Setback”) would actually make for a better cover, especially since not as many people have heard the tune.  Again, a strong vocalist is required to record a song like this.  Honestly, a female could sing this as much as a guy could. So for that, I’d say that Sugarland could do it (Jennifer Nettles can sing anything).  The lyrics are interesting and the funky melody is just too groovy to not make for a killer album cut.

“Everything To Me” 

Original Artist: Mark Schultz

Cover Artist: Jimmy Wayne

I’ve often thought that many of Mark Schultz’ songs would segue well into the country music world.  They’re structurally sound, have great hooks and are heartfelt.  They really fit the genre to a T. right now.  Mark Schultz was adopted and wrote this chestnut about his experience.  Another strong vocalist is needed to do this song justice and I can think of no body better than Jimmy Wayne.  He hits the right notes and would really be able to dig into the lyric, especially given his own backstory. Another good choice, belive it or not, would be Rascal Flatts, if only because of all the ‘money notes’ in the song.  No matter what people think of the band, Gary LeVox does sing well, when he doesn’t over-sing.

“Do You Even Know Me Anymore”

Original Artist: Mark Schultz

Cover Artist: Montgomery Gentry

Yep, another Schultz song.  You know, this song talks about a man’s relationship with his family and, ultimately, himself.  He thinks he’s doing the right thing but in the end he realizes that he has to change some things if he’s gonna be the man he hoped he’d be.  Since Montgomery Gentry’s mature enough to sing the song and seems to be singing songs like this, they’re an obvious choice. 

“Two Beds and a Coffee Machine”

Original Artist: Savage Garden/Darren Hayes

Cover Artist: Trace Adkins

Another bruise to try and hide

another alibi to write

another ditch in the road, you keep moving

another stop sign, you keep moving on

and the years go by so fast,

wonder how I ever made it through

I’ve always thought that this ‘unknown’ Savage Garden track would make for one hell of a country music song.  It’s a simple, piano and cello/orchestra backed lyrical gem that discusses how domestic violence impacts a family and the harsh reality of how often people have to go back to the abuse just to survive.  The song is sung in the third person but reveals itself as the story of the child in the song (it’s about the original singer Darren Hayes’ family).   This is another case where Jimmy Wayne might be a logical choice to sing the song but I also think a deeper voiced artist like Trace Adkins would absolutely bring the song to life. 

“I Don’t Know You Anymore”

Original Artist: Savage Garden

Cover Artist: Gary Allan

I know, I know, putting the names Savage Garden and Gary Allan in the same sentence is blastphemy to some but y’know, Gary would knock this brilliantly written, singer/songwriter-like song out of the proverbial park.  It’s from the same damn album that “Two Beds and a Coffee Machine” was from and both were my favorite tracks from it (I’m not afraid to admit owning the record).  Darren Hayes sings the song over a simple piano track but I think there’s alot to be done with the melody to make it fit Gary Allan.  He just seems like the perfect guy to sing this song. 

“Crazy”

Original Artist: Seal

Cover Artist: Keith Urban

I would’ve never thought of this one as a potential song until I heard Seal’s acoustic version.  It’s a ‘deep’ song that suits Keith’s nature to ‘rock out’ while also having great lyrics and a killer melody.  It’s a song that’s 17 years old and still hits me every time.  That’s all we can ask for a song.  This one’s a favorite of mine and I think Keith might be the only country artist who could even work this one up. 

Well, friends, that’s all I can think of at the moment, and I know I forgot many songs, but here it is.  What do you think?

Jimmy Wayne – “Do You Believe Me Now”

Jimmy Wayne

It seems that The Valory Music Group (Big Machine Records’ new sister label) has decided to go a different route towards release for two of their artists.  Instead of releasing the single to radio, Valory has released Justin Moore‘s “I Could Kick Your Ass” and now Jimmy Wayne‘s “Do You Believe Me Now” on iTunes, where I picked up Jimmy’s song.  Previously an artist on the shuttered DreamWorks Nashville label, Jimmy Wayne is an artist who had a completely horrific life that he turned into some strong songs. He had four Top 20 singles (two of which were Top 10s) but it seems that his distinctive country-pop style hasn’t caught on to well as of late.  Originally signed to Big Machine, Jimmy slid over to Valory when the label opened up.  Big Machine had released one strong single in the Summer of 2007 but radio didn’t do anything with “That’s All I’ll Ever Need” so when Valory offered up a chance to be a bigger priority and a chance to release actual product quicker, Jimmy changed labels. 

When I first listened to “Do You Believe Me Now” I thought I was listening to a hit from the 1980’s.  The production, with distorted guitars and steel guitar buried deeply into the mix, certainly lends itself to that.  But then I remembered how Jimmy was fond of Hall and Oats and that explains the production. Hey, if it works for Rascal Flatts, why not Jimmy Wayne?  The thing that Jimmy’s got going for him is that he sounds a hell of a lot more genuine on the song than Rascal Flatts has recently.  The lyric deals with a guy who is playing the “I told you so” game with an ex-flame.  It’s an interesting song that covers a well-worn theme but Wayne manages to make the song stand out more with an engaging vocal.  “Do You Believe Me Now” should be the song that re-introduces Jimmy Wayne to country radio.  It’s a song worthy of being a hit by an artist who’s worthy of any and all success he achieves.

Grade: B

What Country Music Is All About

Bluefield Butterfly.  Image (C)Bluefield

Bluefield – “Butterfly”

(Country Thunder Records)

There are times when I’ve wondered if I have somehow grown too jaded to enjoy country music, then a song comes along and reminds me why I love country music.   Butterfly is one of those songs.  Written by vocalists Rick Ferrell and Jennifer Hicks, the song beautifully discusses, over the course of five minutes, a story of how a young couple unexpectedly finds themselves with the dilemma of unexpected pregnancy.  Where Eric Church‘s “Two Pink Lines”covered similar territory, “Butterfly” goes a different route. 

While the song starts off with the couple planning on aborting the child, it goes on to, in a way that is not preachy at all, find the couple having second thoughts.  The lyrics themselves are so good, so well thought out and the use of the butterfly as a metaphor for an incubating child is a good one.  It’s a powerful song that people on both sides of the abortion debate should be able to appreciate.  Vocally, Rick Ferrell is as strong and unique as he was when he recorded his DreamWorks solo album in the early part of the decade. Former Nashville Star contestent Jennifer Hicks supports him quite well and the duo seamlessly blend their voices well (a la Little Big Town). 

Despite my personal appreciation of this musical masterpiece, I don’t know if radio will ‘get it;’ especially being a five-minute ballad and being pimped by the newish Country Thunder Records.  Still, I hope it at least manages to crack the Country Top 50.  It’s too good of a song to not get a chance.  Perhaps, even a shot at AAA or CCM radio is in order for the song.  It’s too good of a song to not get a chance. 

Grade: A

Truth in Advertising?

Chris Cagle - My Life’s Been A Country Song (C) 2008 Capital Records.  Used With Permission.

Chris Cagle – “My Life’s Been A Country Song”

Capital Records (2008)

3

 Chris Cagle has stated that his career goal is to have teenage fans crank up his music much in the same way he did with AC/DC.  When I heard the “Anywhere But Here” CD in 2005, I immediately felt that he could fill a similar void in country music: just plain ole party music.  He even started out that way with the song “My Love Goes On and On and On…” and later “Chicks Dig It.” The song on “Anywhere But Here” that grabbed me was “Hey Y’all.”  It was a groovy little song yet somehow the label didn’t release it and instead chose to release ballad after ballad to radio.  So with his own statement and my own feelings about where Cagle could turn out to be a huge star in country music, instead of a ‘b’ or ‘c’ level artist, does he manage to do it with his new release, “My Life’s Been A Country Song?” 

In a word, no.

However you slice it, “My Life Is A Country Song” isn’t gonna showcase Cagle as the country version of AC/DC.  There are a couple of songs that do come close.  One of them is “It’s Good To Be Back.”  I first heard this song on the little watched “American Band” music contest.  Former Warner Brothers recording artist Sixwire sang the song, which members Andy Childs andSteve Mandilewrote, and the judges on the show said it was radio ready.  And I didn’t doubt that then and I don’t doubt it now.  The song is a radio smash.  No matter who sings it.  Cagle sings the fast-paced lyrics quite well and it is a song that reminds me of his old songs. 

As good as the song is, the rest of the album slides into mid-tempo ‘love and loss’ songs or lite heartland rock.  Cagle is an engaging vocalist and, for the first time in his career, has recorded a record where he didn’t write one of the songs.  The lead-off single, “What Kind of Gone,”  is a good example of Cagle’s career so far.  It’s also a perfect example of what is wrong with country music these days.  The song’s lyrics find Cagle wondering aloud about all the ways that “gone” can be interpreted.  He then wonders if it’s a ‘whiskey’ or ‘a couple of beers’ night at the bar.  The song itself is catchy, performed well and produced just as we expect country music to be produced (it’s the best Cagle’s sounded, no doubt because he changed producers) but how many of these kinds of songs does country radio need to play.  It just rides the fence and doesn’t pick any kind of side.  That’s what’s wrong.  I generally like Craig Wiseman‘s songs but his “No Love Songs” I just don’t get (even if the hook is pretty good).  The spoken verses are just too much for me. 

With a title like “I Don’t Wanna Live” you’d expect Cagle to be singing a stone-country song but what instead comes out of the speakers is a Keith Urban-like track.  The lyrics of the song, written by Brett James and Blair Daly, are fine but they really could’ve benefited with a few fiddles and steel guitars in addition to the tuned up Telecasters and drum loops.  It’s a middle of the road “I want you back” kind of song that doesn’t help lead any credence to Cagle’s hopes of getting those teens to listen to the record.  “Keep Me From Loving You” DOES manage to prominently feature fiddles and the steel guitar is mixed in the background somewhere and that, along with well placed b-3 and harmony vocals manages to recall the 90s era of country music.  It’s a nice diversion from the other tracks.  

Rhett Akins co-wrote “Little Sundress” and the song is a fun little summer song.  If “Good To Be Back” isn’t released as a single for the summer, then Capital Nashville better release this track.  The southern rock melody isn’t bad and the fiddle backed vocal helps set a fun mood.  Also, since it is an Akins song, the song doesn’t head towards Rascal Flatts territory.  Again with the title of “My Life’s Been A Country Song,” I expected at least noticeable fiddles and maybe a touch of steel guitars and, fortunately, Cagle and Scott Hendricks deliver.  As far as the lyrics go, Cagle should’ve done what Garth often does and added or changed a verse of the song (without taking credit) to fit his own crazy life, because he did go through some “country song” moments.  Still, as it is, the song is a strong, radio-ready song that bridges the gap of older country songs and modern country songs. 

In the end Chris Cagle has made a decent enough mainstream country record that has four or five single-worthy songs.  The “filler” tracks, however, are not any better than his own self-written tracks.  But I guess if his and the label’s goal was to get him back on radio then this album truly is truth in advertising, even if it often is exactly what is wrong with country radio. 

New Labels and Artists Still Smell Money In Nashville

craig-morgan.jpgWith the news that Craig Morgan has exercised an option in his contract to part ways from Broken Bow Records, I started to wonder if ‘non-traditonal’ models for getting music to fans is the best way to further a successful career. That is, after all, what Morgan stated as the reason for leaving the label that he helped turn into a Nashville ‘player.’  But more recent news has come about speculating that Morgan has left Broken Bow for the ‘greener pastures’ of a ‘bigger’ label.  The rumor says it’ll be Valory Music Group (AKA the label created because of Taylor Swift’s success) but it could also very well be an actual major label.  Or, maybe, he’s looking to be a flagship artist for one of the plethora of labels sweeping into town to open up Nashville branches. 

Wind-Up Records is a BMG distributed ‘indie’ label that has found HUGE success in the durrance12.jpgalternative rock and Christian rock worlds with their artists like Creed, Seether, Evanesence, and Finger Eleven.  Recently, the label has started to branch out in other areas and  Eric Durrance, the former lead singer of Wind-Up’s Christian band Big Dismal, recently released a country music EP through I Tunes.  The EP, “I Lost It All” is only 6 songs but it shows that Durrance’s southern roots aren’t lost in translation to country.  While he’s certainly a promising artist, I am wondering if he’s just the first of Wind-Up artist to get a shot at country radio.  Another NYC label, Robbins Entertainment,has opened up shop in Nashville with Robbins Nashville.  The BMG distributed label has found success with dance music and now is hoping that Rockie Lynne can deliver some hits and sales as well.   Perhaps the biggest surprise of the labels ‘going nashville’ is major label Decca Recordings re-entering the Nashville scene.  A heritage label that once was home to Patsy Cline has signed One Flew South and sent him into the studio with songwriter Marcus Hummon to record their Eagles-inspired vocal country rock.  The interesting tidbit about the re-emergence of Decca is that it’s not affiliated with Universal Music Nashville or even Universal Records South.  It marks the third self-sustained UMG-owned label in the City, more than any other major recording company. 

All of this investment into Nashville by NY/LA based labels should be seen as good for the Nashville community as a whole.  With the influx of labels with true shots of marketing and promoting their artists, Nahville artists can get signed and offer their music to the music industry at large.  It’s good for the business and expands the chance that an artist with ‘left-of-center’ appeal, say like Mark McGuinn, can have a good shot at getting their material out there to the masses. Whatever Craig Morgan’s true motivation for leaving Broken Bow Records was, I’m sure he was feeling at least some of what I see happening in Nashville these days. 

Michael Dean Church – “Why Can’t You Forgive Me?”

Michael Dean Church - “Why Can’t You Forgive Me”

Sometimes a single will come seemingly out of nowhere.  Michael Dean Church’s debut single “Why Can’t You Forgive Me” is one of those songs.  Michael Dean has built a loyal MySpace.com following and with his strong voice, it’s not hard to see why.    “Why Can’t You Forgive Me” is a song with an immediate hook and a humorous lyrics.  The melody is modern and the production is tight and crisp.   If given a chance at radio, Michael Dean Church certainly could have himself a big spring/summer hit.  As it is, the sub-three minute song is impressive.  Check out MySpace and what you will hear are a couple of songs written by popular songwriters like Brett James and Jimmy Wayne.  I have a feeling the young and handsome Church will have himself a big-time record deal sooner rather than later.  Michael Dean Church at least as good as Josh Gracin and Chuck Wicks, if not better. 

Written by Jeb Stuart Anderson and Steve Dukes.

Listen and buy: http://www.myspace.com/michaeldchurch

Grade: B+