Quick Draw Single Reviews Vol. 6

Quick Draw is a recurring feature where I cover multiple new country airplay singles in a gauntlet style format, in order from best to worst.

In this edition of ‘Quick Draw Single Reviews,’ we take a look at new singles from Dillon Carmichael, Lindsay Ell and LANco, in that order!

Dillon Carmichael – “I Do For You” (written by Dillon Carmichael and Jimmy Melton)

Even though I knew of Dillon Carmichael’s relation to uncles Eddie and John Michael Montgomery, when I heard his debut album last year, I didn’t think he had a shot at mainstream success. That’s not an indictment of its quality (though I wasn’t as won over by it as much as others were), but rather an observation of where mainstream country radio is at right now. Even if the metropolitan trend is (sadly) experiencing a slow-creaking revival, though, one can’t discount the ‘90s country revival either, especially when Carmichael’s newest single, “I Do For You,” is currently sitting outside the top 50.

Honestly, “I Do For You” is the kind of track that doesn’t leave me with much to say, but that’s because it’s a lightweight love song that manages to be charming for its little details. The production is bright and rollicking, and judging by the tones present, this could have been recorded in the ‘90s and no one would be able to tell the difference. The electric guitars have a gruff texture that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Montgomery Gentry record, and the fiddle and steel combination helps to keep the song feeling loose and easy.

As always, Carmichael is a dead ringer for Eddie Montgomery, and he manages to sell this track with both humor and maturity. On one hand, considering he exhibits more of the rough-edged side of Eddie more than he does the tender side of John Michael, it’s hard not to believe him when he goes through the list of things he never thought he’d do until he fell in love. On the other hand, though, the brighter tone of the song always gives the listener the impression that he’s happy about shedding that outlaw persona in favor of finding love and something substantial, even if it means dealing with all of those little things like having to give 30-minute back rubs or living with scented candles all around the house. Basically, it’s the more subtle, easy-going (and better) version of Brad Paisley’s “I’m Still A Guy.” Not a world-beater by any means, but a solidly enjoyable tune that shows Carmichael heading in the right direction. (Light 7/10)

Lindsay Ell – “I Don’t Love You” (written by Adam Hambrick, Melissa Fuller and Neil Medley)

Up until now, Lindsay Ell’s success has been strange, at least depending on who you ask. While she’s managed to attain quite a few hits on Canadian country radio, she only just recently got her first No. 1 hit over in the United States … and that came from joining a Brantley Gilbert song. In any case, it appeared that Ell looked to strike while the iron was hot, as her newest single, “I Don’t Love You,” was just sent to country radio. As for the verdict, while the song contains a solid idea for a hook, it’s a bit lackluster in its execution.

For as talented of an instrumentalist as Ell is, “I Don’t Love You” is the kind of a song with a mix that doesn’t know what it’s trying to go for. Sure, the electric guitar has a gloomier tone to it to capture the inevitable mood, but that comes with an in-your-face drum machine that fades out later in the mix anyway (and sadly reappears, too). The guitar solo is unimpressive, but by the end of the song, between the piano, real drums and lingering electric guitar supporting the mix, the song finally manages to find a nice tonal balance; again, though, that’s sadly at the end of the track. Ell is a talented vocalist, but it only shows on the chorus (which I’m hesitant to even call it that, given that it’s basically just the hook), as her flow on the verses is incredibly choppy. And as for the lyrics, while the hook of not loving someone but still missing them is a solid idea, the verses feel oddly hollow and unfinished. The memories are tied to little, seemingly unimportant things; aside from having to rearrange her dinner habits and feeling too down to listen to old Stevie Wonder albums, the song seems to put all of its power into that hook, and it’s just not that remarkable without the deeper details. Basically, the memories are linked to standalone items over experiences, and it’s hard to care one way or the other. (Decent to strong 5/10)

LANco – “What I See” (written by Brandon Lancaster, Tripp Howell, Chandler Baldwin and Jeremy Spillman)

I get the general impression that no one in LANco knows what they’re doing anymore. Sure, the band started off alright with a few mildly enjoyable singles, but after the hard crash of their last single, “Rival,” it seems like they’re already in survival mode. But, considering their biggest hit thus far comes from a nostalgia trip in “Greatest Love Story,” it’s no surprise that their newest single, “What I See,” pulls from that same well … and comes up dry.

Now, this is a band that’s jumped from bro-country to lightweight pop country to (their stab at) overblown country-rock (with “Rival,” that is), so I’m not surprised that “What I See” fares closest to the warmer instrumental mix of “Greatest Love Story.” The acoustic foundation is nice, as is the dobro supporting it, but these also have to be the strangest-sounding drums I’ve ever heard before. They appear to be real, but they’re buried under a mess of audio effects, and it ends up hindering an otherwise decent, if not spectacular, mix.

Sadly, though, instrumentation and production is probably this song’s best asset, as while front man Brandon Lancaster has shown earnest charisma on past singles, he sounds painfully thin here, especially on the higher notes of the chorus. The lyrics, however, may not be as abrasive as they were on “Rival,” but this song still caries the same smug, arrogant attitude as that song did. The entire premise is Lancaster pining for the glory days of his youth in a small town (bet you haven’t heard that one before), and while it doesn’t fit into bro-country, it still contains just about every cliché you could think of for a country song: two-lane roads, high school football fields, and thin odes to ‘Merica for good measure. It shows an obsession with a small town that’s as generic as can be, and when the entire focus is looking back at the “good ol’ days” and showing visible frustration with the way things are now, the sentiment is oddly hollow. Sure, this is better than whatever “Rival” was supposed to be, but not by much. (Decent 4/10)

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