A defiant anthem headed to country radio, a disco party off an eagerly awaited new album and a breezy island jam from a Nineties kingpin make up this week’s list of songs you need to hear right now.
Ace Nashville songwriter Gretchen Peters (“Independence Day,” “You Don’t Even Know Who I Am”) will release her new LP Dancing With the Beast on May 18th, bringing together stories of women from different backgrounds. The first taste of it is the dark and slinky “Disappearing Act,” premiering here on Rolling Stone Country. A vivid portrait of a woman who’s lost too much to care about appearing genteel, Peters’ character sounds like she knows better than to get too comfortable. “Good things come, good things go. If it lifts you up, it’ll lay you low,” she sings in the refrain, shrugging at the implications. “There’s a brutal honesty in this character that I love,” Peters explains. “She’s one part Zora Neale Hurston, one part my mom, and – I hope – one part me.” J.F.
Elton John is one of our foremost living legends, and the diversity of performers represented in his pair of forthcoming tribute albums, Revamp and Restoration, is a testament to his outsized influence. Chris Stapleton contributes to the Restoration disc, which pulls together country and Americana artists to celebrate John’s rootsier output. He tackles John’s 2001 track “I Want Love,” a Grammy-nominated song off the also nominated album Songs From the West Coast. Stapleton adds a little grit where John would offer bombast, his vocals so suited to the tune that, to casual ears, it could be a cut from one of his own albums. B.M.
More than 20 years after “Dust on the Bottle” knocked Garth Brooks’ “She’s Every Woman” from the top of the Hot Country Songs chart, David Lee Murphy is back with a new solo album. No Zip Code was co-produced by Kenny Chesney, who scored his own Number One with a 2006 cover of Murphy’s “Living in Fast Forward.” Appropriately, Chesney makes an appearance on this breezy, island-friendly single, whose mix of reggae rhythms, programmed drums and beach-bum wisdom (“Don’t go hitting the panic button; it ain’t worth spilling your drink”) makes “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” a timely single for warmer weather. R.C.
A sideman for country artists like Sam Outlaw and Michaela Anne, Elijah Ocean returns to his solo career with this blast of California-inspired folk/rock. “Down This Road” was hatched in Los Angeles and finished in Las Vegas, days after Tom Petty’s death. The head Heartbreaker’s ghost looms large over the track, from the overdubbed 12-string acoustic guitars to the cyclical vocal hook that runs throughout. Petty would be proud. R.C.
“Somebody blazed this trail I’m treading on,” Lambert says, tipping her hat to the songwriters who came before her. Fueled by arena-rock percussion and chiming guitar riffs, “Keeper of the Flame” doubles as a power-ballad empowerment anthem, with Lambert finding courage to move forward by looking back at the craft and courage of her songwriting idols.
With Mumford & Sons no longer dominating the public eye, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats have moved in to quietly to claim the lead spot in Americana’s mainstream crossover. “You Worry Me,” from their new LP Tearing at the Seams, is holding strong in the Number One spot on both Billboard’s Triple A airplay and Americana singles charts – a pretty serious feat for a song that rests on a pulsing R&B beat and gritty soul instead of the soaring harmonies and aggressive kick drums that usually straddle genres. Maybe it’s the message: opening with Rateliff softly singing to himself, “I’m alright today,” it’s a reminder to stay sane in troubled times. M.M.
SmithField, the duo of Trey Smith and Jennifer Fiedler, take a new approach to a familiar topic: “Hey Whiskey” turns one of country music’s most prized motifs – the alcohol-soaked power ballad – onto its hungover head. Here, Fiedler talks directly to the vices that have turned her former flame into a drunk-dialing, unpredictable mess. “Why’s he only call me up when he throws you down?” she sings, while all the twangy tricks of the trade — crashing guitars, mournful pedal steel and stacked harmonies — swirl in the background. R.C.
It goes without saying that Kacey Musgraves’ forthcoming album Golden Hour is one of the year’s most anticipated releases, but on “High Horse” she reminds us all why, just in case. A sparkling slice of country disco, “High Horse” owes as much to the Bee Gees as it does the rodeo. With a four-on-the-floor beat, percussive acoustic guitar, and throbbing bass, the track is dance-club ready and may challenge some fans’ notions of what sounds can work in a country setting. That is, of course, assuming they can stop singing along long enough to spit out an argument. B.M.
Jason Aldean is packing up and heading out, bound for somewhere – anywhere, really – that’s different than the trampled turf of his old stomping grounds. Musically, though, this is Mr. Hicktown as we’ve always known him, working post-grunge guitar tones and programmed snare hits into his urbanized country sound. The title track from Aldean’s eighth LP, “Rearview Town” paves the way for a full-length album release next month. R.C.
Duo Escondido comprises longtime Nashville favorites Tyler James and Jessica Maros. As the two get ready to release their new album Warning Bells, they’ve also shared a new tune, “You’re Not Like Anybody Else.” The bittersweet song looks at the painful complications wrought by unrequited love, and does so with a melody so sweet that being a jilted lover doesn’t sound so bad after all. B.M.