Luke Bryan’s sunny and nostalgic new single, the latest from the wonderfully eccentric Paul Cauthen and Jackie Lee’s personal comeback track are among the best country and Americana songs you need to hear right now.
With “A Day in the Life”-type harmonies, Israel Nash’s new song “Rolling On” is the perfect headphones listen. The Texas singer-songwriter, who mixes folk, rock and psychedelia on his upcoming album Lifted, is proving a master of sonic textures, experimenting tirelessly at his home studio in Dripping Springs, Texas. On “Rolling On,” he finds his inner guru, extolling the virtues of keeping your head in the clouds while still persistently marching forward. J.H.
One man’s spiritual crisis intersects with a murky Louisiana river in “Saint on a Chain,” from singer-songwriter Kevin Gordon’s forthcoming album Tilt & Shine, due out July 27th. Employing a steady, chugging groove that flows like water on its way to the sea, Gordon unfurls the vivid, gripping story of a man who wears his mother’s Saint Christopher for protection. When he’s beset by a devastating loss, he numbs himself with opioids and whiskey, letting his mind wander to the river and the possibility of bringing an abrupt end to his pain. “Water’s moving like the blood pushing through my veins. See how it shines,” Gordon sings, hinting at the darkest possible outcome. J.F.
A longtime staple of Liz Cooper’s live show, “Mountain Man” gets the studio treatment this summer, serving as the kickoff single to her upcoming debut album, Window Flowers. A mid-tempo, slightly off-kilter folk-rocker, it’s a love song to burly, bearded boys everywhere. Come for the shambling charm of the song itself, which rolls acoustic guitars, train beats and cosmic-country headiness into the same package. Stay for the music video, in which Cooper straps on a virtual-reality mask and hangs out with a masked macho man. R.C.
Young love can be sweet, awkward, innocent and lovely. Elise Davis channels all of that into the nostalgic “Married Young,” which finds her ruminating on the adult-sized ups and downs of a relationship whose members have barely left adolescence behind. There’s a moment in every chorus where her lyrics dissolve into a gorgeous, harmonized oooh, and that wordless exclamation of nostalgia sums up young love – with all its thrills, charms and challenges – better than any rhymed verse. R.C.
A creepy, choking laugh, an extended whistling solo (not just whistling, a whistling solo), and as many internal rhymes that’ll fit into three minutes – that’s Paul Cauthen’s madcap “Resignation” in a nutshell, and it doesn’t even cover half the weirdness. Sounding telephoned in from an alternate universe, Cauthen tends his resignation from the “space station,” as though to address the age-old question, “Whatever happened to Major Tom?” (Answer: He’s drinkin’ in his Lincoln.) “Resignation” scuttles across East Texas to a cha-cha-ing beat that sounds like a Schoolhouse Rock! outtake. Eccentricity has never sounded so catchy. J.G.
Trading the folksy lilt of 2016’s My Piece of Land for a Reagan-era spin on modern indie pop, Amanda Shires offer a sneak peak of her upcoming album To the Sunset with “Leave it Alone.” It’s a song that wears its influences proudly, mixing Cyndi Lauper’s geeky chic with Wars on Drugs’ stoned, guitar-arpeggiated sweep. Shires’ voice steals the spotlight, though, and her double-tracked melodies – sung with a sprightly tremble – add a human heart to her most synth-friendly work to date. R.C.
Upon releasing his powerful new song “Long Year,” Jackie Lee revealed he had overcome two battles with testicular cancer after also losing his mother to ovarian cancer. The song chronicles his difficult journey, which he describes as having “lived a whole life between 24 and 25.” Lee wrote the emotional track with Barry Dean and Sean McConnell the day after the first anniversary of his mother’s death. “Long Year” marks Lee’s first release since parting ways with label Broken Bow, and follows 2016 singles “Leave the Light On” and “Getting Over You” – but it’s also country songwriting at its most personal. B.M.
Bryan’s new single “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset” is the quintessential teenage summer love story, packed with imagery that rushes back nostalgic memories of sand, sunshine and the simplicity of summers long past. The mellow, mid-tempo track – off Bryan’s What Makes You Country – tells the tale of two young lovers brought together at a lake house and chronicles their transition from innocence to experience. Written by Zach Crowell, Ryan Hurd and Chase McGill, “Sunrise, Sunburn Sunset,” which the superstar performed on the season finale of American Idol, is what modern-day country does best: reminisce on the glory days of youth. S.S.
Tyler Dial may look the part of a fresh-faced college grad (in fact, he is), but there’s hidden depth in his lyrics and vocal style. The Texas singer arrives with this thumping jam about the ambiguous end of a relationship – and the inevitable hookups that come after it. He’s just fine with that though, as he begs his lover to come hither and not let “the truth get in the way.” It’s a cavalier request, but Dial, the latest artist under Jay Joyce’s Neon Cross roster, proves persuasive enough to be irresistible. J.H.
If you’re one of those folks always itching for something new from Jamey Johnson, you’re in luck. The elusive singer joined up with bandmate Chris Hennessee for the latter’s new song “Wrong End of the Rainbow,” off Hennessee’s forthcoming album Ramble. The tune’s a honky-tonk ode to “brokenhearted dreamers” and being in the wrong place at the wrong time, with Hennessee and Johnson sharing lead vocal duties. Johnson’s low country croon sounds as fine as it ever has, serving as the perfect complement to Hennessee’s twangy grit. B.M.