Country Jukebox Jury EPs – Alannah McCready and Tim Montana

Alannah McCready – Back To Me EP

Here’s some country-pop from a lady who hits current trends. Alannah was born in Minnesota, went to college in Wisconsin but is now based in Music City, having moved away from an intensive career in field hockey.

With a pure vocal tone without much vibrato, she coos lyrics about love and stuff on the fluffy opener Something Like That (‘all I want is a little more conversation’). On the track On My Own, a guitar plonks along while Alannah mourns turning 30: all her friends are getting married but she ‘wasted so much time, put all my dreams aside’ for a man who didn’t love her back. The stacked harmonies add interest to a track which will make the listener empathise with her, with nobody there to dry her tears. Oof.

To counter the sadness, Back To Me is 99% Cowboy Casanova by Carrie Underwood, reversing the narrative and making Alannah the temptress who will lure the object of the song back to her. The chorus contains the line ‘karma’s gonna get ya’ as well as some magnificent guitar hooks that charmed me. Take It Slow has a gentle chug over which the narrator laments going ‘full speed ahead, nowhere fast’, calling for ‘patience to see where this can go’.

Co-writer Will Gittens appears on Can I Call, where Guy and Girl are physically apart and longing to speak to one another. There’s a fiddle line in the chorus to amp up the mawkishness and melancholy, which will chime with many listeners.

Hopefully an album will follow but this is an impressive handful of pop songs.

Tim Montana – Reno EP

Tim Montana, who is from that state, offers a six-pack of country-rock on this EP, where he has worked with some A-List writers and performers and, in Michael Knox, the man behind the Muscular Country sound of Jason Aldean. Tim is out on tour this year with Koe Wetzel and opening for the co-headline tour from Lee Brice and Michael Ray, so he should gain hundreds of new fans.

California Love – yes, THAT California Love – has drums from Matt Sorum, who is Slash’s right-hand man and regular drummer, as well as guitars from Billy Gibbons. Tim appeared with Lee, Michael, Billy and Kid Rock on a pile-up track from Michael’s album last year; here he takes Dr Dre and Tupac’s parts, shouting out the great state of California. I like it, plenty won’t, but it points to a future of country stars looking to hiphop as an influence on their live sets because their fans will chant it back at them.

Tim lands on more comfortable terrain for people scared by Dr Dre who, let us not forget, brought together stars of hiphop for this year’s Superbowl Half Time Show. Adam Sanders, who wrote Ain’t Worth The Whiskey, helps out on American Dream, a four-chord loop with some light whistling over which Tim paints a picture of how ‘we’re all alright…getting by with a Busch Lite’.

Real Good People features Colbie Caillat, who was last heard in the band Gone West which disbanded after her marriage dissolved too; the song is about keeping on keeping on, as Tim and Colbie ally themselves with the ‘hard livin’ folk’ who will probably show up to see Tim perform with Lee Brice and Michael Ray.

Jeremy Bussey, who wrote Ashley McBryde’s career song Girl Goin’ Nowhere, is between the brackets on Stoned On You, a waltz full of melancholy and regret where Tim’s narrator ‘ain’t found an up’ that doesn’t stop him feeling down.

A Guy Like Me is another one of those self-aggrandising, club-friendly tracks about how the singer is going to raise hell as ‘a fistful of bourbon’. The EP’s title track looks forward to how messed up (not the actual lyric) Tim will get ‘trashed in this casino’ while drinking away a ruined relationship. There is a diminished fifth chord (my favourite chord) in the middle section, where someone honks on a harmonica to underscore his loneliness.

Each of the five originals is pleasant, organic and with great production, lyrics and hooks. Give the Dr Dre cover a chance too, as it might well create the G-Funk Country genre.

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