May 2021 saw five EPs offering different spins on contemporary music from Nashville. Take your pick from the flawless roots-rock of Counting Crows, the trad-pop of Dillon Carmichael, the Chesney-Aldean rockin’ country of Alexander Ludwig, the Sheeran-pop of Ross Copperman and the radio-friendly unit-shifting country of Jordan Davis.
Ross Copperman – Somewhere There’s a Light On EP
Ross was briefly marketed as a Radio 2 middle-of-the-road singer-songwriter – his hits includes As I Choke and All She Wrote – before he found his true calling as a top songwriter and producer in Nashville. His CV includes production for Keith Urban, Dierks Bentley, Eli Young Band, Jake Owen and Darius Rucker. He has so far written 26 country number ones, which sounds absurd until you see that Ashley Gorley, his great mate, has about 50; Ross’s chart-toppers include Love Ain’t by Eli Young Band, Living by Dierks Bentley, Break On Me by Keith Urban and the Blake & Gwen pair Happy Anywhere and Nobody But You.
Ross is best known as Brett Eldredge’s wingman and if you like soulful pop music there will be much to enjoy on his EP. We’ve heard much of it over the last few months: Somewhere There’s a Light On is the title track, written with Ross’s mates Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally; buried within the poppy production there’s a country song but that’s not where Ross is pitching himself. The same criticism can be made of Holdin’ You (Copperman-McAnally-Osborne again), a song of devotion in the face of parental disdain and being unaware that ‘the world could be ending’.
Sam Hunt is a good analogy for what Ross is trying to do, though the EP as a whole steers more into the messianic pop of Coldplay or One Republic. Opening song Not Believe skips along like a Ryan Tedder composition and mentions ‘something out there bigger than us’. It’s about love and stuff, set to a plodding but commercially appealing track.
Electricity (‘most people would call it love but this feeling is more than that’) and Therapy (‘I feel like I’m in a video game’) both sound like Ed Sheeran because Ed wrote them with Ross. In the same way that Ross Copperman 1.0 wanted to be Chris Martin or Liam Gallagher, Ross 2.0 is desperate to be Ed Sheeran, standing on a stage in front of 90,000 lights singing how ‘your love is my therapy, ay!’
Jordan Davis – Buy Dirt EP
For something closer to country, there is a snatch of John Prine that begins Jordan Davis’ new EP. Blow Up Your TV is used as an intro to Buy Dirt, a track written with Jordan’s brother Jacob and featuring Luke Bryan. That’s useful because it sounds like a Luke Bryan song, a passing of wisdom from elder to junior: ‘Do what you love but call it work…Add a few limbs to your family tree.’ ‘Buy dirt’ means buy some land, and is a bumper sticker or T-shirt waiting to make Jordan some money. We can’t do that here because the Queen owns all the dirt; maybe ‘go to the Land Registry’ would be a UK translation.
Need To Not and Lose You both sound like country radio in 2021: middle of the dirt road mush about the perils of getting back with an ex and the joys of fidelity respectively. Brett Young does this but without Jordan’s Louisiana rasp, while Dan + Shay share producer Paul DiGiovanni with Jordan. It’ll be perfect for the 18-34 demographic who will see him support Kane Brown later this year.
This eight-track set is somewhere between an EP and a mini-album which is united by the sonic touches of DiGiovanni and Jordan’s impassioned vocals of Jordan who mostly preaches about the joys of love. I loved Jordan’s debut single, the catchy smash Singles You Up but I found his debut album a bit samey on the whole.
He sure can sing, as demonstrated on his latest smash Almost Maybes, which is three chords and the truth about love and stuff. It’s another philosophical country toe-tapper which works on the radio, as befits a song co-written with A-Listers Jesse Frasure and Hillary Lindsey.
Drink Had Me is another jam which lodges in your frontal lobe and won’t move from it. Luke Bryan or Morgan Wallen or Brett Eldredge could have done this funky pop-country meet-cute, doing that ‘break up make up thing’. As with that song, Trying is also a Davis-DiGiovanni-Gorley-Weisband composition, this time a song of devotion, climbing mountains and ‘fighting’ to control one’s demons: ‘I might never love you right but I’ll die trying.’ Oof, that’s vulnerable and relatable.
I Still Smoked is another song with the touch of the Luke Combses, a midtempo reminiscin song painted by Jordan with A-Listers Randy Montana and Jonathan Singleton. Eminem is on the stereo and there’s football on TV and Jordan wanted to seize the day in his jeep with his girl ‘and I still smoked’. It’s country music, a three-minute movie with real drums.
Later in the year Jordan is due to become a dad for a second time, so mazaltov to him. He seems friendly and grateful to do what he loves for a living; it’s the family business as his uncle also wrote songs for a living and gave Tracy Lawrence two of his big hits.