Mark my words – 2005 is going to be a landmark year for great country music that will rival the 1991-1997 artistic explosion that has overshadowed everything released in the genre since. Already, there are more great singles at country radio than any time in recent memory. There’s still some duds, but they’re becoming few and far-between. Best of this week’s bunch: Sara Evans and her haunting “Tonight.”
REBA McENTIRE “He Gets That From Me” (MCA)
It’s been 8 years since the last truly great Reba single (“The Fear Of Being Alone”) but this is much better than most of her recent output. It’s easy to forget what a skilled vocalist she is; this story song about a widow and her son is a timely reminder.
LeANN RIMES “Nothin’ ‘Bout Love Makes Sense” (Curb)
Pleasant enough; but am I the only one who thinks she hasn’t been able to sing since “Blue”? Her voice seems to have no power and is more than a little grating.
JOSH GRACIN “Nothin’ To Lose” (Lyric Street)
This sounds like warmed-over mid-90′s John Michael Montgomery, which still makes it admittedly good filler. It’s a bit scary that American Idol has produced better country artists than Nashville Star, but that’s not saying much.
SUGARLAND “Baby Girl” (Mercury)
After suffering through so many Rascal Flatts duds, it’s refreshing to hear a trio that puts substance over style. It’s a great track made even better by the bold warning to ladies looking for success on Music Row: “Girl, you’ll remember what your knees are for.”
BROOKS & DUNN “It’s Getting Better All The Time” (Arista)
A killer heartbreak song. Ronnie Dunn’s voice just keeps getting better.
JAMIE O’NEAL “Tryin’ To Find Atlantis” (Capitol)
A welcome return from the talented singer-songwriter. She’s still got the raspy Aussie thing going on.
TOBY KEITH featuring KRYSTAL “Mockingbird” (DreamWorks)
Playing in every elevator in hell. This song was annoying when James Taylor and Carly Simon did it, and they were MARRIED. Why is Toby singing this with his daughter?
TERRI CLARK “I Think The World Needs A Drink” (Mercury)
I think Hank Williams, Jr. needs a lawyer. Pronto.
JO DEE MESSINA “My Give A Damn’s Busted” (Curb)
Don’t mess with Messina. She’ll rip you a new one. A welcome return to form.
SHANIA TWAIN “Don’t!” (Mercury)
Damn you, vile woman, and your incessant exclamation points! People won’t know this is a gorgeous ballad! Her voice is shot from two years of touring; it actually helps the song’s message shine through.
SARA EVANS “Tonight” (RCA)
This is suffering a bit at radio for two reasons: one, they can’t stop playing “Suds In The Bucket”; and two, it is almost identical in theme to Lee Ann Womack’s “I May Hate Myself In The Morning,” which got to radio earlier and is now just outside the top ten. It would be a shame for this to go on being ignored, as it’s a haunting, vulnerable and downright beautiful love song. She’s never been one of my favorite artists, but she’s put out one great single after another off of Restless. Hopefully, this will get the attention it so justly deserves.
JULIE ROBERTS “Wake Up Older” (Mercury)
This should’ve been the first single, was supposed to be the second single, and now has finally been released as the third single from her overly hyped debut album. This is actually a great song and she delivers it well. Don’t buy the album thinking there will be more of this; buy the track at iTunes and save your money.