Magic from the King of the Road

Roger Miller

During the 1960s and 1970s, the late, great Roger Miller was well known for his unique blend of humorous country/pop songs. Among the Miller classics that are packaged on this 18-song release are “Dang Me,” “Chug-A-Lug” and “Do-Wacka-Do.” Then there’s “King of the Road,” Miller’s classic of classics, which spent five weeks at the top of the country charts and peaked at number four on the pop chart. Gosh!

In the mid-’80s, Miller went into the recording studio to re-record his many hits with his friend and legendary producer Buddy Killen. The result of their effort is Classics. In addition to the re-recordings, there are original versions of some of his ’70s work that have never appeared before on a Miller collection, including “Open Up Your Heart,” “I Believe in the Sunshine” and “Husbands and Wives” with his wife Mary Miller. A fantastic glimpse of this fantastic talent – that’s my summation of Classics.
Grade: A-

Knock on the Sky

Country music’s leading Mormon trio is back at it with this sophomore release (if you aren’t counting the remix and Christmas CDs). Their freshman arrival, The Whole Shebang, sold a ton of copies and made the Utah sister act celebrities. As good as the first single, “Little Goodbyes” was, the rest of that CD was literally full of pop.

Now, Krystin, Kassidy and Kelsi Osborn hope to expand their success with songs like “Get Over Yourself,” which was meant to be humorous. “It appears as though I have been deemed a bit bitter and quite the man-basher,” Krystin said. “Interestingly enough, the first verse I brought to Marcus Hummon [co-writer] was actually inspired by another female. You must agree that we have all wanted to utter those very words to someone, whether it be a co-worker, a sister or brother, a girlfriend, a boss. Need I say more?” Another grooving tune worth a listen on the album is “Mine All Mine.” This act still needs work to make the jump to superstardom.
Grade: B

Chase the Sun
Shannon Lawson

Kentucky boy Shannon Lawson is an exceptional singer with a fairly-earned bluegrass and R&B background. He’s a hard-working, smart, career-minded musician. This album is a bit of that Mississippi soul and Kentucky twang mix that Marty Stuart has embodied for years. There are world-class pickers like mandolinist Chris Thile, dobro man Jerry Douglas and banjoist Ron Block gracing the tracks of Chase the Sun. Lawson’s voice can do just about anything, just listen.

A natural and relaxed sound is rarely enough for producer Mark Wright, who has been hot recently with smash projects for Lee Ann Womack and Brooks & Dunn. The first single from this Lawson album, “Goodbye on a Bad Day,” was a bona fide radio hit. “This Old Heart” offers up sweet and edgy verses with Michael Bolton choruses. “Dream Your Way to Me” has a bit of a Roy Orbison/Chris Isaak vibe, but even here Lawson tries to break the sound barrier. If you want to hear a newcomer with a lot of vocal fortitude, check out this shining collection.
Grade: B+

Mark Chesnutt
Mark Chesnutt

After 12 years of hard work at MCA Records, Mark Chesnutt is hanging his Beaumont, Texas, hat at a new label, Epic. The singer behind the hits “Too Cold At Home,” “Bubba Shot the Jukebox” and “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” – the Aerosmith remake – has a new vibe with the change.

The songs were all co-written or tri-written (none were written solo by Chesnutt,) and “I’m in Love with a Married Woman” stands out from the pack as a well-crafted gem. Those who bemoaned Chesnutt’s pop-country “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” period will be glad to know he’s back in traditional trappings. “She Was” is a great tribute to Momma, and Mark belts it out like the Mark of yore.
Grade: B

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