After a couple of weeks off because of the Thanksgiving holiday here in the USA, we’re back with a brand new collection of singles and songs from recent albums. The tracks featured here include new songs from Jana Kramer, Carrie Underwood and Montgomery Gentry, along with seven others! Note, the purpose of these reviews is to give a brief showcase of new singles you can look for on radio or to buy on iTunes or Amazon and thus do not have ‘star ratings’ like our long-form single reviews do.
Jana Kramer – “Whiskey”
A smart choice as the follow-up to “Why Ya Wanna,” the highest rising debut single from a female artists since 2006 (Taylor Swift “Tim McGraw”), “Whiskey” is another mid-tempo ballad that shows off Jana Kramer’s natural alto vocal delivery and her ability to wring each emotional note out of the lyrics. another Catt Gavitt co-write (like “Why Ya Wanna”), the song (Sam Mizell also co-wrote) equates with the love a guy gave with how powerful Whiskey can be for some people when drinking socially.
Steve Luscombe – “I’m A Natural”
Now here’s a surprise. The production is smooth and traditional with a melody that rivals some of Alan Jackson’s best ballads with a vocal that recalls Steve Wariner’s countrypolitan soul. In a just world this child of a Church of Christ minister would have just as much of a shot at mainstream country radio success with “I’m A Natural” because he’s, well, a natural and gifted vocalist.
Carrie Underwood – “Two Black Cadillacs”
The powerhouse vocalist follows up the strong #1 hit “Blown Away” with yet another strong single. This one has an interesting, engaging melody and of course a strong vocal from Underwood. Quite simply, “Two Black Cadillacs” is the kind of stunning recording we’ve come to expect from Carrie and thanks to her position as a superstar, the fact that she delivers two ‘dark’ singles in a row, singles with lyrical content that’d be hard to get radio play otherwise, is all the more impressive. There’s no denying this one from following her other smashes up the charts.
Rosehill – “The Bible And The Gun”
This song finds the up-and-coming Texas band showcasing a strong intuition in recording some strong songs on Crooked Thoughts that sound downright awesome and perhaps nothing on the record is as good as “The Bible And The Gun,” a song about a guy who avoids becoming another casualty to suicide. It’s an emotive mid-tempo with sterling production (Jay Clementi) and one of this year’s best lyrics. It’s not a single yet and may never be a big mainstream hit on country radio but if released, this song deserves the chance to be as big as can be.
Montgomery Gentry – “I’ll Keep The Kids”
Written by Eddy Montgomery about his own crumbling relationship with his now ex-wife, he sings about a bitterly contested divorce which she wants everything thing of ‘financial value’, things like the house, the car, the harley, his dad’s old guitar, his grandma’s ring, etc. so Eddy kindly sings “I see there’s two little things not there on your list, so if you don’t care, I’ll keep the kids.” It’s a stark, emotional and well-performed performance by Eddy and the strongest single from Montgomery Gentry in at least 3 or so years and a great example of what country music does much better than most every other genre.
Florida Georgia Line – “Get Your Shine On”
They’re not even on this single yet but it’s coming. Already getting played on SiriusXM’s “The Highway,” “Get Your Shine On” is going to ensure that the talented country/rockers Florida Georgia Line remain top-selling mainstream hit makers after “Cruise” falls from #1 on the charts. Their album Here’s To The Good Times releases next week and while I can and will likely get a copy of the album for free, I’ll head out Tuesday AM and buy my own copy of it. These guys are superstars.
Craig Campbell – “Outta My Head”
After scoring a couple hits with “Fish” and “Family Man,” Craig Campbell looked for just the right set of songs to make up his sophomore album. Taking a slightly different approach to the songs, Campbell gives us his “Outta My Head,” his most ‘catchy’ and immediately accessible song outside of “Family Man.” A sturdy traditionalist, Craig takes a page outta George Strait’s book by selecting a contemporary radio song but making it fit his style. It may have a similar theme to Love and Theft’s “Runnin’ Out Of Air” but that doesn’t mean both of ‘em can’t be hits on radio. They take different approaches and are both ear worms in their own right. I’d be outright shocked if Craig Campbell doesn’t get at least into the Top 20 of the radio charts with “Outta My Head.” His EP featuring this single will be released on Tuesday, December 4, 2012.
Rascal Flatts – “Changed”
Rascal Flatts’ lead singer Gary LeVox is always at his best when singing in his more natural, softer tenor range, which he does for much of this title track from the trio’s sophomore album for Big Machine Records. “Changed” is a lyrically strong song about giving up the past transgressions for a better path. This tune clearly is as much CCM and AC as it is Mainstream Country but that doesn’t make it any less impactful a song to listen to particularly if you’ve gone through – or know somebody who has gone through – the metamorphosis that the band sings about here. It’s a power ballad of the highest order and one of LeVox’s best performances, ever.
LeAnn Rimes – “Borrowed”
The lead single from her upcoming introspective album for Curb Records, “Borrowed” finds LeAnn showcasing her amazingly strong vocals as she sings and immensely personal song about a relationship with a man who isn’t yet free from his marriage. LeAnn sings about a very real emotion about the impact such a relationship has on ‘the other woman’ or ‘mistress’ of a relationship. This is country music at it’s best and is written and performed with knowing grace, not an easy thing to do given her own well-known history. Here’s hoping country radio still has room for her talent as this is one of LeAnn’s finest vocals and singles to date.
Uncle Kracker – “In Between Disasters”
It’s not technically the single (“Nobody’s Sad On A Saturday Night” is) but dang it if this isn’t the exact kind of song that could help Uncle Kracker and his new label Sugar Hill score a massive hit with country radio. It’s jovial, memorable lyrically, features some interesting musical instruments (horns and a saxophone solo after a guitar solo). It’s the kind of song that could also fit a montage for a buddy comedy film too. Keith Stegall’s production is spot-on and Matt Shafer’s vocal (he’s “Uncle Kracker”) is the best he’s ever been on his Midnight Special album.
Well, there are our thoughts on this week’s 10 new singles. We’ll be discussing some of the top Christmas singles released for 2012 in this space next week! As always, check back here on Friday to see what we think of the latest singles.