Without a doubt, there’s one album that’s guaranteed to hit #1 this week (at least if DR. Dre’s Compton doesn’t outsell it), and that’s Luke Bryan’s Kill The Lights. Also out this week we have Americana artist Jonathan Tyler, Texas-based soul/country/rockers The Statesboro Revue, Canada's Lindi Ortega, and Michael Ray.
Michael Ray - Michael Ray (Warner Bros. Nashville)
The rising singer/songwriter debuts with the album featuring his Top 2 (and still rising as of this week) “Kiss You In The Morning” and while that song is very 2015 sounding in production and story, the rest of the album feels like a blend of Big & Rich (which isn’t a surprise given John Rich is a frequent co-writer of Michael Ray’s), Jason Aldean and Clay Walker. Another Girl would be at home on any Aldean record while “Real Men Love Jesus” is the kind of song Walker made a career making. Ray’s baritone is a nice instrument and he is a genuine country singer (“Think A Little Less” and “Wish I Was Here” and “Somewhere South” suggest this too). “Run Away With You” is the same song that is the current radio hit for Big & Rich (Ray co-wrote it) while “This Love” has the same kind of modern twist to the Ronnie Milsap country/soul sound that Thomas Rhett and Brett Eldredge are both gunning for while “Drivin’ All Night” is a rockin’ road record. There’s a ton of talent present on Michael Ray’s debut album and he has the potential to be Warner Music Nashville’s next big superstar if this album is any indication of such things.
Statesboro Revue - Jukehouse Revival (Shalley/Vision/Thirty Tigers)
The Mann Brothers who have fronted this band for a few years now, released a fantastic album a couple of years ago entitled Ramble On Privilege reek and immediately scored hits on the Texas Music Chart with their enticing brand of Country Rock music. For Jukehouse Revival, the band delivers eleven new great tracks featuring their crack band which includes Gordy Quist and Scott Davis, their producers. Standouts on the record include vocalist Stewart Mann’s self-written “Every Town,” the jovial southern rocker “Tallahassee,” his co-write with soul/country star Adam Hood; “Hankytonkin,” a song written by the Mann Brothers with Ben Bradshaw. There’s a lot to like about their brand of country/rock sounds and a lot of it feels like it was recorded at Muscle Shoals, a high compliment in my book. There’s just something classic sounding about Statesboro Revue that borders to well-work term of “Timeless.” That’s what Jukehouse Revival is, a collection of well-crafted, timeless tunes from the best band the rest of America has yet to hear.
Luke Bryan - Kill The Lights (Capitol Records Nashville)
The title track certainly works for a title track and while it’s painfully obvious that he could release a song that was basically EDM beats and a chorus and it’d be a hit on Country radio, It’s still good that Luke Bryan has some interesting songs to be found on the record, a record he promised to have more songs on it that would blend his last album with his two earliest records, those more traditional-leaning efforts. The bass may hit hard like a hiphop song on “Home Alone Tonight,” a duet with Karen Fairchild, but the song is far from hiphop, even if the chorus has some sing-song-y parts. The song is a strong duet and it’s likely to be a hit at some point in this album’s lifecycle. It’s an ear worm.
Other more “modern” production songs include “Razor Blade,” and “Kick The Dust Up.” “Fast,” mixes percussive loops in the background with a strong story about “Fast” being an allegory for everything that happens in life. It feels like a huge hit with a big chorus that is arena ready. Just Over has some strong Wallfowers-like moments melodically while “Love It Gone” feels like a follow-up to “Rain Is a Good Thing” and “To The Moon And Back” is a downright wonderful song from top tunesmith Tom Douglas that deserves to be a radio hit. The country power ballad “Scarecrows” closes out the record after the 70s country throwback “Huntin’, Fishin’, and Lovin’ Every Day” and it serves to showcase why Luke Bryan is the biggest star in country music. He knows how to pick songs that work for him and his voice. That doesn’t mean this record won’t have its critics but for me, it’s amongst his most satisfying albums.
Jonathan Tyler Holy Smokes (Timeless Echo)
On “Hallelujah,” Tyler opens up his record with the rockin’ swagger of Led Zeppelin while he explores other various textures of American music throughout the record include some New Orleans soul on “Goin’ Down To The City” and “Honey Pie” is a vibrant rocker. Standout “To Love Is To Fly” features Americana superstar Nikki Lane and feels like an indie delight while “Riverbottom” has a southern alt-rock feel to it a la Cage The Elephant. Overall, Holy Smokes is a record of diverse sounds and textures but is exactly the album Jonathan Tyler fans have been looking for.
Lindi Ortega - Faded Gloryville (The Grand Tour/Last Gang)
The Canada native has won a Canadian CMA Award for Roots Artist of the Year and on her new album Faded Gloryville, Lindi discusses the harsh realities of what life is like as a touring musician, one who lives and loves a lot but may find fame not all it was bargained for. Standouts include the title track where she recalls a young Emmylou Harris, “Someday Soon,” “I Ain’t The Girl,” “I Tell It Like It Is” and “To Love Somebody.” Everything on Faded Gloryville is exquisite and made with the kind of love and artistry that is often lacking these days.