This week we look at 10 new singles from some interesting stars, there's Randy Rogers Band's latest Jay Joyce-produced track that the band hopes to breakout nationally with while Jana Kramer hopes to keep her radio star status flowing with "Whiskey." Newcomers Joe Bachman, Mark Cooke, Blackberry Smoke, RaeLynn and Greg Bates all are looking to make an impression while Train looks to break out with Pistol Annies Ashley Monroe with what may very well be this week's best song "Bruises." Finally, Big & Rich and Kix Brooks look to return as radio stars with their latest singles. Read on to see our thoughts on each of these songs in this week's Weekly Single Recap!
Mark Cooke - "Stay With Me Tonight"
A talented neo-traditionist, Mark Cooke's scored some success with hits like "Anyway The Wind Blows" and "Can't Cheat In A Small Town" and has come back to radio with this new ballad, a song which showcases Cooke's vocal talent perhaps better than the other two songs did. He's able to emote the lyric in an easygoing way that recalls Ricky Skaggs. The production from J. Gary Smith (Andy Griggs) is solid and allows room for both fiddle and steel guitars to be heard in the mix along with the gorgeous piano and it all lends itself to "Stay With Me Tonight" being a strong, timeless feeling ballad.
Blackberry Smoke - "Pretty Little Lie"
Signed to Southern Ground Artists, Blackberry Smoke's The Whippoorwill is one of my favorite albums from 2012. While the band's never had a big country radio hit, the southern rockers are well-known for their touring and have sold over 33,000 copies of this record without anything but rabid tour support and it's a number that rivals the albums of Hit radio stars and should the Southern Rockers gain headway at country radio, they'll see that number soar. There's certainly room on country radio for more tight, cohesive bands like Blackberry Smoke and songs like "Pretty Little Lie" on country radio. This song which was written by lead singer Charlie Starr and Travis Meadows is as hook-filled and harmonic as anything from Eli Young Band's up tempos and given the success Southern Ground is having promoting Zac Brown Band's own hits, look for this one to at least make a dent on the charts, if not becoming a big hit when officially released in early 2013.
Train Featuring Ashley Monroe - "Bruises"
Train tried to release "Hey Soul Sister" to country radio but aside from slipping a mandolin in for the ukelele that provided rhythm for the song, the track was virtually unchanged and by the time of release, it was a tad too overplayed so country radio steered clear of it. Train's not really a country band but who cares if outside bands release songs to country radio, particularly when there as good and as lyrically strong as "Bruises." Pat Monahan and Ashley Monroe's voices blend together here and honestly, it's just dang good to hear Ashley Monroe on a song that isn't just Pistol Annies. The melody isn't outta bounds for today's country radio and the lyrics are universal and easy to understand, not always a hallmark of Pat Monahan's lyrics.
Randy Rogers Band - "Fuzzy"
Their first Top 40 song "No More Sad Songs" was damn good but country radio was somehow not feeling the song enough. Perhaps "Fuzzy" can change that. The sound of "Fuzzy" is downright interesting musically and it's easy to hear Jay Joyce's influence on the scared Red Dirt Band's sound. Their fiddle is still here but it's more ominous and dark (to go with the lyrics of a guy who cannot remember much of what went on during a weekend). This is as cool as anything on Eric Church's records and as artistically strong as any other song from Randy Rogers Band. Here's hoping this can get one of America's best country bands added to Mainstream Country Radio's royalty.
Greg Bates - "Fill In The Blank"
"Did It For The Girl" was a Top 5 success for Greg Bates but the Republic Nashville newcomer didn't exactly set the single sales world on fire so it'll be interesting to see if "Fill In The Blank" can get him a bigger hit. This feels like a 90s throwback in every way and while that could make it feel "old" with any number of any artists, Greg Bates is one of the rare artists who is able to make something feel timeless. I hear hints of George Strait, Neal McCoy, Brad Paisley and even Easton Corbin in this song and they're all 'traditionalists' so it makes sense. Greg Bates will never be a singer who releases stuff like label mate Florida Georgia Line or Jason Aldean but he can and should find a home as one of the new traditionalists. He's just gotta find a song that moves the needle sales wise. Here's hoping it's this charming 2 and a half minute ditty.
Raelynn - "Boyfriend."
"Little Annie" as Miranda has Christened her after her run as part of The Voice's #TeamBlake from season 2, has come out with her first Republic Nashville single and, working with fellow season 2 alumni Nicolle Galyon as producer has helped her find a sort of identity that works for RaeLynn. This is another 2 and a half minute track that not only sounds good, it finds RaeLynn singing with a quiver in her voice that was rarely heard on the TV show. The 18 year old has grown into her voice a little more and I think this one'll not only be a country radio hit but I can see it becoming a pop radio crossover hit too.
Joe Bachmann - "Small Town Rockstars"
Well produced by NV (Thompson Square, James Wesley), "Small Town Rock Stars" is also a well-written song from Nashville's A-list writers and showcases Joe Bachman as an artist to keep your eye on. The whole One record from Joe Bachman is downright solid with a lot of likable songs and performances like "Small Town Rock Stars" on it. Bachmann melds the country music with roots rock and while his voice won't be confused with David Nail, Joe is still able to sing and emote his lyrics in a way that just sounds cool and unique, something all labels should be looking for as they search for the next "Florida Georgia Line" like 'overnight sensation.
Big & Rich - "Party Like Cowboyz"
If there's anything the cosmic cowboys known as Big & Rich can do very well its songs like "Party Like Cowboyz," a song which showcases their twin lead-singer vocal approach that somehow works for Big & Rich more than it has ever worked for any other modern group or duo in Country Music. I don't know how much country radio is willing to open their doors back up to a band that was huge six years ago (and the leaders of the harder rock infused sound) but this one certainly should remind fans of the duo's more raucous hits.
Kix Brooks - "Moonshine Road"
Kix Brooks is radio royalty with his new overnight show joining his weekly American Country Countdown show, not bad for an artist assured of a Country Music Hall of Fame slot as the best-selling duo (Brooks & Dunn) of all time. Now working his underrated album New To This Town, "Moonshine Road" is the third single from the album and like Joe Walsh of the Eagles and James Gang, Kix Brooks' voice is naturally not something that will necessarily appeal to everyone but don't let that fool you into thinking that he isn't talented as a vocalist. It's just a wee bit more nasally than the average country singer (that's saying something) but when connected to a strong sounding song like "Moonshine Road," Kix can and should be able to have a hit. It just remains to be seen if country radio wants to play any of the songs on New To This Town as much as they did Ronnie Dunn's first two solo hits.
Jana Kramer - "Whiskey"
She already has the highest-charting new single from a Female singer since Taylor Swift's "Tim McGraw" and now Jana Kramer is looking to go two for two with "Whiskey," a song written by one of "Why Ya Wanna"'s writers, Catt Gavitt, and Sam Mizell, a writer of numerous Christian hits and Jordin Sparks. "Whiskey" is washed in gorgeous fiddles and mandolins which ground an otherwise country/pop song in a traditional-leaning context. Kramer's vocals are once-again very good and showcase a natural, easygoing twang. There's likely no way this one's not a big hit for Jana and may very well be her first #1 hit.
Well, there you have 'em y'all. The Ten songs featured on this December 14 Weekly Single Recap. We'll bring you one more recap from 2012 next week and that one will be a recap of 10 songs we hope are singles at some point in 2013. Then we'll take the following week off and see ya again in early January! Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!