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10 Best Country and Americana Songs of the Week: Ashley McBryde, Del McCoury

McBryde’s epic “American Scandal,” bluegrass great’s honky-tonker, Band of Heathens’ Stonesy rocker and more songs to hear now

Del McCoury Ashley McBryde

Songs by Del McCoury and Ashley McBryde are among the 10 country and Americana tracks you must hear this week.

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A bluegrass great, an alum from The Voice with a Stapleton vibe and a powerhouse vocalist with a fresh slant on a love song make up the 10 country and Americana songs you must hear this week.

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Lindsay Ell, “Criminal”

Guitar shredder Lindsay Ell cracks the Top 40 for the first time, updating the sounds of Y2K-era pop/rock – think Michelle Branch, Matchbox 20 and the rejuvenated Liz Phair – for country audiences. Sugarland’s Kristian Bush makes a cameo as the song and its album’s producer, stacking the arrangement high with vocal harmonies, keyboards and interlocking guitar arpeggios. “Criminal” focuses not on Ell’s playing, though, but on her voice, which packs as much of a punch as her fretwork. R.C. 

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Ashley McBryde, “American Scandal”

Ashley McBryde’s forthcoming album Girl Going Nowhere is one of the year’s most anticipated new releases, and for damn good reason: Her songs boast thoughtful, narrative lyrics that recall Brandy Clark with a sound that should please fans of both Nineties country and today’s new traditionalists. While “American Scandal” may sound (based on title alone) like a stab at political commentary, it’s actually an affecting love song, simple in its message and powerful in its sentiment. As for the titular scandal? Well, let’s just say JFK and Marilyn Monroe still have a few folks in their corner. B.M.

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Del McCoury, “To Make Love Sweeter for You”

“To Make Love Sweeter for You” is the first tempting taste of the durable Del McCoury Band’s upcoming LP, Del McCoury Still Sings Bluegrass (out May 25th, the same weekend as the bluegrass legend’s 11th annual all-star DelFest event). A classic honky-tonk ballad penned by Glenn Sutton (Tammy Wynette’s “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad”) and songwriter-producer Jerry Kennedy, the song was the first chart-topping country hit for Jerry Lee Lewis after signing with Nashville’s Mercury Records’ subsidiary, Smash. McCoury’s high lonesome vocal is accompanied by rolling piano and weepy fiddle, turning the romantic tune into one that could easily pivot toward unrelenting regret. S.B.

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Chris Cornell, “You Never Knew My Mind”

The first previously unreleased recording from Chris Cornell to emerge since his death in May 2017 is every bit as haunting as could be expected – if not more so. “You Never Knew My Mind” sees the late Soundgarden singer put a pair of old Johnny Cash poems to music for the Forever Words compilation, and Cornell definitely channels the world-wearied austerity of the Man in Black’s American Recordings. The musical accompaniment gradually builds to a crackle of drums and feedback, but the beating heart of the performance is Cornell’s voice – wounded and soaring, triumphant and tragic. J.G.

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Courtney Marie Andrews, “I’ve Hurt Worse”

Courtney Marie Andrews first got our attention with her 2016 album Honest Life, which drew the young songwriter comparisons to greats like Joni Mitchell and Emmylou Harris. On her forthcoming follow-up May Your Kindness Remain, the songwriting and vocal chops that earned such praise are present, but Andrews and producer Mark Howard incorporate elements of soul, roots and rock, providing Andrews with a bigger sonic palette worthy of her huge, versatile voice. On album cut “I’ve Hurt Worse,” Andrews channels her inner Bob Dylan, triumphantly stretching out her vowels while singing of a fickle lover likely unworthy of such jubilation. B.M.

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