Country Jukebox Jury EPs: Dillon Carmichael and Alexander Ludwig

May 2021 saw five EPs offering different spins on contemporary music from Nashville. Take your pick from the trad-pop of Dillon Carmichael (below), the flawless roots-rock of Counting Crows, the Chesney-Aldean rockin’ country of Alexander Ludwig (below), the Sheeran-pop of Ross Copperman and the radio-friendly unit-shifting country of Jordan Davis.

Dillon Carmichael – Hot Beer EP

I was addicted to the title track of this EP: three chords and an unwillingness to get back with an old fling. Big Truck was written with Jessi Alexander and David Lee Murphy, and the influence of the latter is clear thanks to the chugging rhythm and the song effectively being a rewrite of She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy, although Dillon has lots of other qualities and gifts.

Ray Fulcher, who will always be linked with his mate Luke Combs, pops up in the credits of the groovy and catchy love song Since You’ve Been In It (‘My world’s been better’). The equally addictive Sawin Logs has been out for a few months and showcases Dillon’s croon via lyrics which include the rhyme ‘hickory bundle/all kinds of trouble’. It’s filth flarn filth: ‘I’ve got wood and she’s sawin logs’ is a brilliant way of implying that his beloved is a passion killer.

The EP is intriguing because production is shared by Dann Huff and Jon Pardi; Dillon is on Riser House Records which put out the recent album by Ronnie Milsap. The midtempo leaving song Somewhere She Ain’t, written by Dillon with Jessi and the Peach Picker Ben Hayslip, sounds like a Jon Pardi song produced by Dann Huff, with some spacious guitars (and a patented Huff solo in the middle of the song) and a lovesick narrator who sounds in pain. He can’t even go to Carolina ‘cos that’s her middle name’. What a palaver, expertly told.

On Lucky Man, Dillon counts his blessings in the way that Luke Combs has done before him. It’s a trend but at least it isn’t ‘hey baby girl let’s have sex in my truck by the river’. The country of 1994 is back, although it never really went away.

Dillon needs to hit more ears and I hope to see him come to the UK in 2022.

Alexander Ludwig EP

Alexander Ludwig’s self-titled EP has been produced by Kurt and Tully, two of Jason Aldean’s band of merry men. The pair wrote Summer Crazy – basically a rewrite of Kenny Chesney’s Summertime – with Alexander, whose day job is an actor who worked on Bad Boys For Life and is the lead on the show Vikings. But Nashville embraces performers so long as they throw their heart and soul into their music; indeed, what is Jason Aldean if not a muscular country character whose job is to make money for Broken Bow, which is the label releasing Alexander’s EP?

The other four tunes are outside writes, two from David Lee Murphy and two from Brad Tursi, among others, so we’re in the realm of Chesney/Old Dominion rocking popping country. Love Today is a fist-puncher about beers, optimism and seizing the day. How It Rolls is a gorgeous description of how true love feels: ‘Like honey off of your tongue…Like sunrise into moonlight’. There’s even an outro.

16 minutes of bliss continues with Malibu Blue, another song which compares a girl to California (‘the brightest star on the boulevard’), and Sunset Town, a middle of the dirt road tune on which Alexander imagines life without his woman over a Jason Aldean-type production.

The main impression of Alexander’s work is Kenny Chesney singing Jason Aldean songs, so if you like that, there’s much to enjoy on the EP.

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