And so our top 10 becomes a top 11…
Martin Skidmore: Ooh, this is surprising: she’s an actress and musical performer, so the banjos and fiddles were unexpected, and then there is punchy brass in the choruses. Her vocal wasn’t what I had imagined we’d get either — strong and confident was predictable enough, but the Dollyish phrasing and occasional intonation wasn’t. The song is a fuck-off to an unfaithful guy, and delivered with appropriate forcefulness, though it is rather cheery for that message. Still, a very delightful surprise.
Katherine St Asaph: From Broadway to country? It’s more plausible than it seems. There’s a long tradition in musical theater of shows either set in the heartland (Oklahoma!, The Music Man, as far back as Show Boat) or about a small-town girl making it big in the city, where “small town” can pretty much stand in for any non-NYC locale (42nd Street, Wonderful Town, etc.) You’re just as likely to hear Broadway as Nashville in your average rural pageant. And theater stars try to make this leap all the time, even ones who aren’t young, blonde, pert-voiced Kentucky natives. If Renee Fleming can do Muse covers, Laura Bell Bundy can sure as hell make a country album. She’s trying really hard with her emoting and “lookie, I’m making a COUNTRY SONG!” fiddle/banjo flourishes, and I keep waiting for her to break into “popular, you’re gonna be popular!“. But like Galinda and Elle and every other role she’s played before this, she’s damn near impossible not to love.
Pete Baran: I have a soft spot for hokey country, but coming in with the fiddle and then putting on your best Dolly Parton impression is not enough to distract me from the fact the song is called “Giddy On Up”. I am assuming the song comes from an album called “Yeee-Haw”. Put it like this: a song about being stood up shouldn’t sound quite so jolly, but the jolly does win out on some pretty good storytelling. But “Giddy On Up, Giddy On Out”? There should be a statue of limitations on that kind of cliche.
Michaelangelo Matos: By-the-numbers feistiness, though I do like the banjo picking a lot; its rusty quality gives the song some oomph. So do the horns. And to be fair, so does Bundy’s occasional Dolly-esque growls. Not terrible, but not good, either.
Frank Kogan: Undeniably funky bass that Laura hicks up w/ banjos and fiddles, then she souls it up w/ horns, hicks it up further by peering sleuthfully at napkins rather than cellies, swings her hips soulfully, makes guy stay in his seat, dumps him in his bed, dances like it’s his grave.
Alfred Soto: The bass hook from the Stones’ “Too Much Blood” and fiddle lassoed me without forethought. The aptly named star has oodles of personality, and intonations to match; she’s not that many degrees removed from Gretchen Wilson and the Miranda Lambert of “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” but who cares? Still, I wish she had more to work with. Someone write her a “Guilty in Here” or “You’re Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” right quick.
Chuck Eddy: Modern-day jig-pop with soul horns and Rednexy fiddle breaks and a readymade silly title chorus and a cowboy whorehouse saloon floor-show video, plus cute drawling turning into deep growling and spoken verses that flirt with rapping. Recalls Dolly Parton in dance mode. One of my favorite country singles (and anything singles) this year.
Jonathan Bogart: Country is the last repository for the whole broad unfashionable expanse of American roots music; which means that this is as much Southern soul as Nashville twang. Any country singer who can remind me of Betty Davis, even if it’s only in the corners of her mouth, is to be taken notice of. And the spacious gumbo behind her, banjo and fiddle and Memphis horns, goes down crisp and funky.