She Wouldn’t Be Gone – Blake Shelton
I’ve really warmed up to Blake’s singing over the years, but I’m not crazy about this song. I like the verses, but the choruses sound like they were ripped from Lonestar’s playbook. I don’t think Blake needs to go that big.
Shine – Matt Stillwell
The production and subject matter remind me of “Hicktown.” The similarity is unfortunate, as – considered separately – I would actually prefer this song and performance. However, given the John Rich World into which this single is emerging, it simply sounds too derivative. The strength of Stillwell’s voice lured me to his Myspace, where I found another shine song (“Moonshine”) that I like better.
Shinola – Dolly Parton
(I wrote this review last night and woke up to find that I’d been scooped by The 9513. Which puts me, at least, in good company.)
Dolly, you’re killing me. A song very much like this could push you up the charts again, if only it weren’t built around a phrase popular during World War II that has notably been featured in The Jerk (1979) and on The Golden Girls. (Am I the only one who had to look up Shinola on Wikipedia?) Point being, if I need to call my Grandma to have her explain the title and main idea of the song to me, maybe it’s not the smartest or most timely thing to be releasing as a single.
15 Minutes of Shame – Kristy Lee Cook
This sounds like every other debut by a pretty, young female singer. Yet, for some reason, it works. There’s a natural, girl-next-door quality to Cook’s voice that fits this mild kiss-off song to a T. The song would sound silly sung with a badass delivery ala Miranda Lambert. Cook would sound unconvincing on a song that required her to seem legitimately angry or dangerous. Here, mild song and mild singer come together for a very comfortable fit. It’s not the most exciting debut, but it doesn’t come off as strained or as pretentious as many others.
Roll With Me – (Montgomery) Gentry
The song itself doesn’t do a whole lot for me, but putting Troy on lead vocals with Five For Fighting’s John Ondrasik on harmony was an inspired decision. Give Montgomery Gentry credit for trying something different, and proving that both halves of their twosome can ably take the lead. (Self-restraint… no snarky comments about Kix Brooks…)
Muddy Water – Trace Adkins
When you release a gospel song to country radio, you’re bringing the issue of sincerity right to the foreground. Committing to the song is one thing when you’re singing about kids growing up, but something else entirely when you’re trying to capture salvation in stereo. Trace sings like he always does, guitar solos rip through the sound mix, a gospel choir provides backing… and somehow, it all ends up seeming fine as a radio song but utterly anemic as a statement of faith.