Jimmy Wayne: Sara Smile


RIYL: Restless Heart, Dierks Bentley, Billy Currington

Jimmy Wayne became a country music star so fast in 2008 when the title track to his Valory Music debut, Do You Believe Me Now? rocketed to #1 on the Billboard country music chart, Wayne and his label did not want to waste any time before issuing the follow-up. Fast forward to November 2009, only 15 months later, and Wayne returned with Sara Smile. The title track, as you have likely already gathered, is a cover of the Hall & Oates hit from 1976 that ultimately reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and has been a staple on soft rock radio for decades. And really, if you consider how much success the country music genre has had “borrowing” songs from the pop/rock world, releasing a track that already was a hit is a good strategy when trying to follow up on what was basically overnight success. The problem, though, is that “Sara Smile” is easily the best track on Wayne’s sophomore release, and it’s made better by the fact that Daryl Hall and John Oates sing backing vocals on Wayne’s version. The rest of the songs, while mostly catchy and serviceable, and having been written by the likes of Keith Urban as well as Nashville powerhouse songwriters like Hillary Lindsey and Rivers Rutherford, are pretty good, but not great. Along with the title track, the best of the rest are the upbeat opener, “Things I Believe,” written by Urban and John Shanks; and the sugary power ballad “Counting the Days.” And lest we fail to mention, Wayne is surely one of the better male vocalists in Nashville today, and he has the supporting cast for staying power. (Valory Music 2009)

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Now That’s What I Call Country

Aside from the pop/punk genre, there really isn’t a more tired style of music than “new country,” a.k.a. the kind of country music that is coming out of Nashville’s Music Row these days, which is more like classic pop with steel guitars, and lyrics that try to make you remember your youth or complain about your lot in life today. This is opposed to the country music of your parents and grandparents, which wasn’t nearly as forced or made to fit into a pattern musically or lyrically. So anyone with a musical brain is likely going to be insulted if someone tries to convince them to like this stuff. Enter Now That’s What I Call Country, a compilation of some of the biggest chart-toppers of the past year or so. For fans of new country, it’s not really any different than what’s been beaten to death on your favorite radio station. For the rest of us, it’s mostly the same bland fare that gives us headaches—the nasally Carrie Underwood (“All-American Girl”), Lady Antebellum’s “Love Don’t Live Here;” a song with the same chord progression and melody as about 300 other songs you’ve heard in this genre alone. Ditto for Brad Paisley’s “Letter To Me” and Kenny Chesney’s “Don’t Blink” — seriously, in any other genre those two guys would be bagging groceries. We’d be remiss, of course, if we didn’t point out some of the bright spots here, such as Keith Urban, who actually makes his songs compelling on “Everybody” (maybe it’s because he can actually sing); and George Strait’s “I Saw God Today,” a stunning number about the beauty of becoming a father that any parent can relate to. At some point, someone is going to step in and shake this genre up, but not until advertisers stop ruling terrestrial radio. (LABEL: UMG Recordings)

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