Brantley Gilbert - "Stone Cold Sober"
Gilbert backs up the excellent "One Hell of an Amen" with another brilliant track. "Stone Cold Sober" is a well written, heartfelt lyrical composition anchored by an impassioned performance and a strong melody. The vocals get a bit rough at times and the production goes a bit over the top in places, but overall don't detract from the listening experience. Another winner from an artist that has taken another step towards shedding his bro-country reputation.
Dan + Shay - "Nothin' Like You"
Listen, this record is nothing spectacular. The lyrics are exceptionally lightweight and nothing about the production stands out as particularly country, but the light guitars and the pleasant melody, along with the strong vocal performance, elevate it to above average. As far as fluff goes, "Nothin' Like You" isn't too bad.
Blackjack Billy - "Night Light"
Ladies, gentlemen, and people that identify as other genders, I present to you, the first halfway decent thing Blackjack Billy has ever done. "Night Light" is a decently written pop-country tune with a strong melody and a respectable vocal performance. The production is fairly vanilla and unexciting, but that aside, this is a solid record from a previously much-maligned band.
Lady Antebellum - "Long Stretch of Love"
After the dreadful "Freestyle" failed to make much of an impact on the charts, Lady Antebellum released "Long Stretch of Love", and while an improvement, still isn't overly impressive. The production and melody, while passable, feel relatively lifeless, while the lyrics read as merely 'OK'. What kills the record is Hillary and Charles' unenthusiastic, disconnected performance, a somewhat rare occurrence for the pair. Dissapointing, considering it could have been a decent single with a more commanding vocal.
Scotty McCreery - "Southern Belle"
There's really nothing to say here. "Southern Belle" is a song about an attractive girl from the South, with no depth or intricate details to make it even a halfway passable composition, while the melody and production do little to elevate it. McCreery has one of the genres strongest male voices, and this record is just a waste of those talents.
The Band Perry - "Live Forever"
"Live Forever" is a pop song. Not pop tinged country. Not country tinged pop. It is pop. It's not a bad pop record, with Kimberly's naturally strong vocal and the pleasant melody, but this is 100% not a country song, and will be graded as such. They had a good thing going with their rootsy pop-country style, and changing has yielded disastrous results so far, both on the quality and commercial fronts.
By Markus Meyer