There’s a handful of new material hitting stores today, from Buzz Cason, Whitney Rose, Fairground Saints to Kip Moore and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats. There’s also a new Bluegrass record with sharp songwriting and Carrie Underwood’s latest single.
Buzz Cason - Record Machine (Plowboy Records)
If you could imagine The Dire Straits Mark Knopfler performing country and rootsy tunes without Emmylou Harris then you have a great base from which to come to Buzz Cason’s Record Machine. Released via Plowboy Records, Record Machine features the 75 year old singer/songwriter, a rare native of Nashville to actually gain notoriety in the music field. He was a producer/arranger for many years and has had numerous songs recorded, including “Everlasting Love” and “Soldier Of Love.” On Record Machine, Cason showcases his strong storytelling style on a record that consistently impresses. Standouts include “Woe Is Me,” “Just My Dreams,” an interesting reggae-like cover of George Jones’s “She Thinks I Still Care” and the great closer “Wait On Your Love,” which features instrumental duo Steelism.
Steve Rivers - No Boundaries (Don’t Look Back Recordings)
This newcomer is a rock-leaning sort of artist and is actually not unlike Kip Moore in that regard. His new seven track EP includes the melodic “Don’t Come Here Tonight” and arena-ready “Where There’s Smoke There’s Whiskey.” He’s not the most-gifted of singers but Steve Rivers uses what he’s got to deliver a sturdy collection of songs with potential to break out as one of country music’s next big things.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (Bottleneck/Concord Music Group)
Once an intense sort of Americana singer/songwriter as a solo act, Rateliff loosens up with his new six piece band The Night Sweats and delivers an impressive collection of rootsy soul/rock numbers that consistently showcase an artist ready to unleash his inner Van Morrison. There’s an instant classicism to the songs on the band’s self-titled album. “I Need Never Get Old” kicks off the 11 track record with gusto and showcases what fans can expect to hear throughout the rest of this fantastic record. Rateliff has always been a gifted vocalist and songwriter and with the new band, he is free to showcase his rangy voice and, on songs like “S.O.B.,” he showcases a rootsy growl and angst not heard on his solo efforts. I can actually see this band finding a home on crossover pop and adult pop radio, a genre that has increasingly been attracted to retro sounding songs. Standouts include the two mentioned tracks and “Trying So Hard Not To Know,” “Wasting Time,” “Shake” and “Mellow Out.”
Chris Jones & The Night Drivers - Run Away Tonight (Mountain Home Music Company)
The talented band returns with their latest album Run Away Tonight and it features a bevy of great material from “One Night In Paducah,” to “Once You’re Gone” and “She’s Just About To Say Goodbye” to the instrumental “Shelby 8.” One of the most-known names in Bluegrass, Jones and his band also have some of the most forward-thinking bluegrass while never leaving the confines of a genre which knows its roots and never will leave the deep, deep roots (“Thinking About You is one fine example of this). Jones has a strong baritone voice that, if he came along at a different time, might’ve been a hugely popular traditional country artist and uses it effectively throughout Run Away Tonight, an album which features Jon Weisberger’s strong IBMA-winning songwriting along with Jones’ own chart-topping, IBMA-winning songwriting skill. This all adds up to make Chris Jones & The Night Drivers one of the best, most unique acts in all of bluegrass.
Whitney Rose - Heartbreaker Of The Year (Cameron House Records)
The talented country traditionalist showcases why Raul Malo and The Mavericks were so blown away with her as a tour opener across Canada to want to work with her on this, her sophomore record. Malo handles the production duties and provides harmony vocals throughout while Paul Deakin and Jerry Dale McFadden of the Mavericks provide the drums and Piano and organs heard on the project. Rose’s sideman Nicol Robertson provides the lead guitars and mandolin on the project while Jay Weaver provides bass and Burke Carroll handles the steel guitars. Rose is a superb songwriter as evidence by the 8 original tracks on this fine record which include the stunning “The Last Party,” Orbison-like “Just A Dream,” “The Devil Borrowed My Boots,” “Lasso” and “Little Piece of You.” The two non-originals are “Be My Baby,” a duet version of The Ronettes classic hit and an interesting take on Hank Williams’ “There’s A Tear In My Beer.” Raul Malo sings the duet portion of “Be My Baby” with Rose. For fans looking for country music that’s real and from the heart and, most importantly to them, actually resembles country music, Whitney Rose’s Heartbreaker of the Year is an album they cannot look past.
Fairground Saints - Fairground Saints (Verve Records)
This talented trio of Mason Van Valin, Megan McAllister and Elijah Edwards arrives on the scene out of Los Angeles and on their self-titled album, which blends country with Americana, AC and pop, showcases a band which definitely plays in the same playing field as The Band Perry, Lady Antebellum, Thompson Square and other arena-ready artists who have a male/female vocal dynamic. Standouts on the record include the closer “Somethin’ For Nothin,” a song with multi-part harmonies and it’s easily a song country radio could do well to play (but probably won’t). The jangle-pop vibes of “Can’t Control The Weather” and the sharp lyrical musicality of “Gossip” and rockin’ storytelling of “Until Then.” There’s a classic folk-pop vibe to “Turn This Car Around” which is one of the many moments that McAllister shines vocally (she and Van Valin swap lead vocals throughout the record). Here’s a band who has managed to make a record with diverse mainstream sounds that blends genre influences yet doesn’t feel as if it’s shredding country music’s traditions in the process and that’s something that should be cherished and championed. Fairground Saints is one of the best new albums from one of the best new bands making music today.
Kip Moore - Wild Ones (MCA Nashville)
One of the moodiest and most unique artists in all of country music, Moore, much like UMG Nashville label mate Eric Church, makes music that isn’t always easy to digest from a mainstream country radio point of view. But, when he does craft something radio can play (like lead single “I’m To Blame,” now a Top 20 hit), it often connects. Honestly, when listening to “Come And Get It” and the title track, the first two tracks on the album, I’m wondering why Moore and MCA didn’t release one of those songs as a single instead. They feel more immediate and vibrant than the introspective “I’m To Blame.” “Girl Of The Summer” feels like a future hit as well but by the point the U2-like “Magic” comes across the speakers, it’s easy to say that those expecting Up All Night, Part 2 may not be in for the ride this time around as Wild Ones is very much a different record as it’s sonic scale is bigger, bolder and more arena-ready than Up All Night was. And that may be the rub with Kip Moore as he navigates his sophomore release. The album is full of radio-ready songs but it doesn’t repeat what he’s done before. Instead he feels like his generation’s Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp, navigating the heartland of America’s pulse to bring in music that relates to all of us, even when we least expect it. Standouts include “That Was Us,” “Wild Ones,” “Come And Get It,” “Magic,” “Heart’s Desire,” “That’s Alright With Me” and the closer “Comeback Kid.”
New Singles out this week:
Carrie Underwood “Smoke Break” (19/Arista Nashville)
The superstar vocalist returns with what may be the best, most-immediate debut single she’s released from an album since “Jesus, Take The Wheel” a decade ago. There’s a strong melody pulsating behind the vocals that instantly showcases the influence of Jay Joyce sitting in the producer’s chair. There are mandolins, B3’s and other interesting instrumental flourishes and a signature Joyce guitar solo backing up Underwood’s powerful delivery of the lyrics which serve as a metaphor for needing a break from the routine that is our daily lives. So, it’s best to not take the lyrics literal or even think for one moment that Carrie Underwood is talking about being a cigarette smoker or alcohol drinker. Instead, she’s talking about the need to unwind and leave behind the tough stuff for a bit of rest and relaxation. This is a powerful new single from one of the superstars in all of music (not just country music) and it’s certain to deliver another chart-topper for her and to get there rather quickly, perhaps in time for the release of the next album Storyteller in October.
Tim McGraw - "Top Of The World" (McGraw Music/Big Machine Records)
There’s a catchy melody and interesting production backing up a strong lyric about living life with the one you love and that it really doesn’t matter where you are with them, just that you’re with them. It’s a great choice to start off his third album’s ‘era’ and less divisive than previous tracks.
Scotty McCreery - “Southern Belle” (19/Interscope/Mercury)
This country-rocker may be a bit different for McCreery compared to his other hits but it’s still very much a country music single. It just has a melody that has a percussive backline that hits harder on the bass lines than previous singles but it’s also still very much a Scotty McCreery record and should find him rising up the charts again.