Single Review Roundup: Vol. 3, No. 2

Good efforts all around this week, with some more successful than others.


“Tears Falling Down”

George Ducas

Written by William K. Hermes

JK: What’s so immediately striking about “Tears Falling Down” is how fantastic George Ducas’ voice still sounds. Sure, he sounded great on the re-recorded “Lipstick Promises” we covered here a few years back, but this is an even more forceful and controlled performance. I don’t even mean it as a backhanded compliment that Ducas is singing Music Row A-listers half his age the entire way off the field.

The song itself is pure trad-country storytelling. The simplicity of the lyrics and structure belies a realistic and well-drawn relationship between two actual adults. That these characters are recognizable is the only real drawback: If anything, they’re perhaps just a bit too familiar, making the song play like an exercise in genre tropes. 

The production, like on Ducas’ best singles, is a spit-shined blend of honky-tonk and Bakersfield that just sounds cooler than what his contemporaries– and in this case, that referring to veteran acts and current stars– are recording. We’re in the midst of a full-on 90s revival in terms of style and quality, and how refreshing to hear Ducas, an act who deserved to be far bigger in that era than he was, proving that there’s still no substitute for the real thing. A-

KJC:  What’s tricky about getting a nineties revival going is that the genre was so much more diverse in sound than seems to be remembered now. Yoakam was the precedent that opened the the door for the Bakersfield revival, and it was so cool hearing him on the radio alongside the Mavericks and, for at least a brief period of time, George Ducas.

It isn’t a coincidence that his only big hit was “Lipstick Promises.” That was his only record that fully realized his talent beyond an ability to revive a classic sound and sing well over it. He still sounds great in 2024, singing beautifully over a cool backing track. But I’ve already forgotten the song itself.  He’s a great talent who can make a decent song sound better than it is, which is what he’s doing here.  B


“I Tried a Ring On”

Tigirlily Gold

Written by Pete Good, Josh Jenkins, Kendra Slaubaugh, and Krista Slaubaugh

KJC: Monument Records has a storied history of subverting the expectations created when Music Row signs peroxide blondes, going all the way back to Dolly Parton and Jeannie Seely. The previous revival of the label launched the Chicks to superstardom, and Caitlyn Smith is among the best artists signed to the label’s latest incarnation. 

Time will tell if Tigirlily Gold joins those storied ranks, and if they get there, it will be on the strength of their unique storytelling as songwriters.  

“I Tried a Ring On” is an excellent early effort from a developing young act. The song has enough specificity to resonate with sincerity, and it’s about the kind of relationship ending that isn’t sung about enough: the engagement that never makes it to marriage.  (“I ain’t even mad you’re gone. I just feel stupid I tried a ring on.”

A promising start that is full of future potential. B+ 

JK: My only real reservation about this single is that I believe the duo’s name is going to hold them back from long-term success: Tigirlily is a wordplay that is literally hard for most native speakers of American English to say fluently because of its specific consonant-vowel pivots. The character of Tigirlily is already a girl, so the wordplay itself is redundant as an attempt at being self-referential. And adding “Gold” to it has no real significance at all beyond giving the duo a name that arbitrarily has two words in it. It’s a bad name that the A&R team at Monument never should’ve let out the door.

But the single? The single’s pretty terrific. The harmony work is intricate and lovely, and the arrangement includes plenty of country signifiers that fit naturally with the duo’s vocal style and with the song’s narrative. Like Kevin noted, I love the specificity of the emotion this taps into: “I just feel stupid I tried a ring on” is such a phenomenal line that I’m eager to hear even more from them as their songwriting matures further. A-



Sarah Shook & The Disarmers

Written by River Shook

JK: A disappointment only in the sense that I dug the twangier “Backsliders,” released at the very tail end of 2023, a whole lot more, “Revelations” bristles with all of the nervy energy of Sarah Shook & The Disarmers’ best tracks. There are few acts in modern country who tap into this exact vein better. As a songwriter, River Shook rivals greats like Todd Snider and Lydia Loveless for their capacity for withering self-assessments that can both cut to the marrow and be savagely funny. But as the bandleader for The Disarmers, they bring a sweaty, bar-band heaviness and a punk ferocity that splits the difference between alt-country behemoths like Slobberbone and contemporary insurgents like The Dead Weather.

The content is always heavy, and the aesthetic spits and kicks as if the band is literally hauling Shook’s entire lifetime of emotional freight. What’s so great about “Revelations,” then, is now neither Shook themselves or The Disarmers ever once sound like they’re about to buckle under all of that pressure. Shook’s confidence has only deepened over the years, and “Revelations” suggests that their forthcoming album’s going to be a real barn-burner. But if you’re in the mood for something with an even punchier hook than this? Do give “Backsliders” a listen. A-

KJC:  There’s a monotony to the sound of “Revelations” that pairs well with the “collapsing under the weight of capitalism” darkness of the narrative. They certainly sound as miserable as they’re saying that they are.

I think this would work better for me with a few more of the sonic flourishes that signify their resilience.  I love the steel guitar that’s gone as quickly as it appears, and the guitar outro is the most interesting part of the record to my ears.  B


Halfway to Hell

Jelly Roll

Written by Jessi Jo Dillon, Jesse Frazure, Jelly Roll, and Matt Jenkins 

KJC:  Jelly Roll performs with such intensity, which is understandable given his personal journey from suffering to stardom.  

It’s also refreshing to hear faith paired with doubt, which rings with so much more authenticity to my ears than empty platitudes about how trusting in God will make everything all right.  

But it’s very, very hard to take this record seriously when the first verse is a dark rewrite of “A Little Bit Alexis,” and when Jason Hawk Harris just made his own spin on “This Little Light of Mine” that cuts so much deeper than Jelly Roll’s does.  B-

JK: He’s released enough material to the country market now that I think it’s fair to call Jelly Roll a one-trick pony. I’m all for albums that boast a purposeful sense of thematic focus, but there needs to be an actual range of emotion or some variety of experience reflected within that broad theme.

“Halfway to Hell” is his third straight single that goes to the well of trying to reconcile unseemly life choices with the conventions and judgments of contemporary Evangelical Christianity. That’s interesting in and of itself, and I think Jelly Roll brings a very different perspective on matters of religion into the country mainstream at a time when so many of its artists are doubling-down on a very narrow worldview.

But this doesn’t say one single thing that he didn’t already say on “Son of a Sinner” or “Need a Favor.” And, while Kevin’s spot-on that this isn’t done any favors by comparisons to Jason Hawk Harris or Alexis Rose, he’s also not done any favors by direct comparisons to his own previous two hits. This one is just louder than the other two. C

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