The Weekly Single Recap: May 11, 2012
By: Matt Bjorke
It's hard to beleve it's been another week yet here we are taking a look at another ten new singles for country radio. In addition to new offerings from Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts and Rodney Atkins, we have new 'comeback' singles from Don Williams and The Mavericks in additon to tracks from up and comers Jason Sturgeon, Michael Dean Church, Dee Hilligoss, Dala, and The Voice's Gwen Sebastian.
Each single has their own merits but we find our ears drawn to the simplicity of Williams single along with The Mavericks retro-cool sound. Of the newcomers, Gwen Sebastian's stands out the best in both melody and lyric. Rascal Flatts and Lady Antebellum's latest offerings are compelling power ballads with swirlling production which enhances the emotion of each lyric. OF the two, we're drawn to the Lady A single the most. As for Adkins, he may have this week's most easy-going, radio-ready track, something we couldn't say about his last single "He's Mine."
Lady Antebellum - "Wanted You More"
It's most definitely clear by now that Lady Antebellum is a master at emotional 'of the moment' types of songs, songs that cover quick events on ones life. Well, "Wanted You More" finds the band taking on another emotional moment but instead of being just about a 'heat of the moment relationship,' this one's all about regrets and the emotions that come with such regrets. It's masterfully produced, if a bit too 'orchestral,' for some tastes and feels more ready for AC radio than country radio but if things aren't broken, why try to change them?
Watch a live performance here
The Mavericks - "Born To Be Blue"
Now here's a fantastic surprise. Find me a country music band that is more universally loved, praised and successful as the Mavericks. They've sold millions of records, play to sold-out houses and yet, they've never scored a #1 hit. With "Born To Be Blue," the band retains their retro-cool sound and with a vocalist like Raul Malo leading the group, how could they ever sound anything but retro and cool? This single may never score better than Top 20 (if that) given the current radio climate but it doesn't mean that "Born To Be Blue" is a terrible song. Quite the contrary. It is a charming, melodic slice of ear candy. Welcome back guys, country music missed you.
Don Williams - "What If It Worked like That"
What's funny about this single is that if somebody like George Strait, Easton Corbin, Billy Currington or even Kip Moore recorded this single and released it, it'd be getting massive airplay. But since a 'veteran' like Don Williams has recorded it, he's not gonna get a chance to score another hit. It's a shame because "What If It Worked Like That" is a hit and the Gentle Giant deserves praise for being able to deliver the goods. Like Kenny Rogersl, Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson, Don Williams is proving that age doesn't necessarily mean they cannot still record at a top level and keep up with the youngsters. In fact some new artists could learn a thing or two from Don Williams.
Dee Hilligoss - "Too Soon."
The mother of an autistic son, Dee Hilligoss presents her debut nationwide single and on "Too Soon" she delivers a message she's clearly lived in finding a way to continue forward with things, despite whatever obstacles ("it don't matter if you fall down, 'cause everybody does/the story never chances unless you get back up"). This uplifting song showcases Hilligoss' strong vocals and the production is nice but I can't help but thinking that the production could've been tighter and the background vocals done in a slightly different message to help showcase the great vocal.
Michael Dean Church - "That's How We Roll"
This independent country singer came on our radar a couple of years ago with a strong single called "Why Can't You Forgive Me." Now he's back with this single and I definitely wanted to not 'like' the song based on title and first listen alone. But Michael Dean Church remains a strong vocalist with the ability to sell even marginal material which this tune is. Then again, I don't think it's meant to be anything more than a fun little tune and in that regard, it's a clear winner that would sound very nice on a playlist (iPod or radio).
Gwen Sebastian - "Met Him In A Motel Room"
What a special song. A contestant on the early rounds of the just concluded season of The Voice, Gwen Sebastian has a voice that makes you stand up and pay attention. She has a pure voice that simply was made to sing country songs and with "Met Him In A Motel Room," a song co-written by Rory Feek (of Joey+Rory), Gwen sings of a woman's redemption and second chance on life. It's a song that's similar to "Moments" in that it finds a person in their deepest despair finding God in that dark place and time of her life. It is a song about the healing powers of faith and redemption and would sound really great on the radio but it may be to 'slow' and 'country' for mainstream radio and that, in itself, is a sad thing. Hopefully it can garner some sort of audience.
Jason Sturgeon - "Time Bomb"
Sturgeon is a fiercely independent singer who self-released an album in 2010 called That's Me which featured indicator chart hits "Simple Life" and "The Cover." He had a sound that recalled Chris Cagle and other mainstream country acts but certainly still sounded country. On "Time Bomb" Sturgeon gets so loud and metal-like that he makes Brantley Gilbert and Jason Aldean's loud rock songs feel downright traditional by comparison. There certainly is a market for this kind of loud rock-infused music but just don't expect it to end up on country radio nationwide. It's just too loud. This is a disappointment because Sturgeon's debut album and singles showed such great promise.
Rascal Flatts - "Come Wake Me Up"
After a few years of 'stale' albums that didn't showcase much outside of their singles to country radio, Rascal Flatts's Changed represents a slight departure for the band as they work to evolve their sound a bit. "Come Wake Me Up" may be a power ballad but it certainly fits well with their classic ballads while also having a slightly different sonic landscape to the past songs along with a return to more of their classic harmonies on the choruses. Gary LeVox doesn't drown out Joe Don Rooney or Jay DeMarcus in the chorus and the story of a lonely man looking to be revitalized and looking to find a way back to the woman who put him in his trance. It's a strong ballad and the production accentuates the emotion of LeVox's vocal much like "Here Comes Goodbye" instead of detracting from it like many other ballads that have peppered past Rascal Flatts records. There's no way this single is not a big hit for the band.
Dala - "Life On Earth"
Blending vocal harmonies that recall SheDaisy with strong story-telling songwriting a la Sherrie Austin, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Matraca Berg and Lori McKenna, Dala's lead single from upcoming Compass Records album Best Day is sweet and acoustic and the kind of melody-infused ear-candy that used to dominate country radio. While it may now have to find a home on stations like AAA or Adult pop, "Life on Earth" certainly is nonetheless worthy of any an all attention it gets for Dala
Rodney Atkins - "Just Wanna Rock N Roll"
Rodney Atkins' single "He's Mine" wasn't as listenable and as immediate to the country fans as "Take The Back Road" was and the results were that the single stalled in the Top 20 and didn't go Gold. "Just Wanna Rock N Roll" is a groove-filled, laid-back summer time song that as easy on the ears and subversively catchy like "Take A Back Road" was. It has the sound of a hit and lord knows Rodney needs to have another hit to avoid having two middling hits back-to-back like he did with the "It's America" album's single choices. This smart single was written by hit makers Rodney Clawson and Chris Tompkins.