A collaboration between two of country music’s biggest stars, a cheeky kiss-off by one of Americana’s most popular bands and a song about student debt are among the 10 tracks you must hear this week.
Mississippi native Zack Logan comes at country music from the John Prine and Robert Earl Keen side of things (read: more Americana than Nashville), and it serves him well. His debut single “Annalee,” off his upcoming album Raised by Wolves, seeks in vain to purge the memory of a vindictive lover and the way she left him. “I’m so sick and tired of writing songs about you,” he sings. The sentiment stings, but Logan’s delivery is defiant, letting you know that he’s going to be more than alright in the end. J.H.
What do you do when the bottle lets you down? Ideally, write a great country song about it. It helps if you happen to have Miranda Lambert around to help sing it, and in Jason Aldean’s case, the partnership spark a fire under “Drowns the Whiskey,” his new single. A woozy slow-burner, what might otherwise be a lonely lamentation gets a shot of sorrow and vulnerability from the pair’s suitably rough-hewn harmonies, their first collaboration since Aldean’s 2007 album cut “Grown Woman.” J.G.
Rayland Baxter is no ladies’ man – he can barely get out of student-loan debt. In his new song “Casanova,” a crunchy, Beatles-y track, he uses a true 21st-century tale of heartache as a metaphor for a breakup, thinking about crawling “back in the hole [he] came from.” Somehow, Baxter makes financial ruin sound fun with the sun-kissed song, setting the tone for what promises to be a rather different-sounding new album, Wide Awake. While we hope the songwriter gets his accounts in order, we can’t help but feel his destituteness is our gain. J.G.
A former lead guitarist for Chase Rice and Canaan Smith, Jason Nix steps out front on his debut release “Singing for the Money” and croons about the winding, difficult journey many musicians face, along with the still-pure feelings they have about making music. “Before I started singing for the money, it’s like every song I sang was mine,” he sings, the jangling opening verse recalling early Zac Brown Band as it blooms into a lively, road-worthy jam with soaring slide guitar. J.F.
On June 22nd, Lera Lynn will release Plays Well With Others, a new album that finds the folk singer-songwriter performing mostly original collaborations with a stacked roster of guest artists, including Rodney Crowell, Shovels & Rope, Andrew Combs and John Paul White. The final of those appears on “Lose Myself,” a smoky duet that makes the most of the pair’s undeniable vocal chemistry. Lynn and White’s complex vocal interplay mirrors the songs narrative, which warns of the dangers of losing oneself in a love interest. B.M.
Dustin Lynch’s last album Current Mood was a wild departure from the “Cowboys and Angels”-type fare that first landed him on country radio. Alas, those were different times, which explains the pop-heavy sound of his last few singles. On the new “Good Girl” though – a track notably not on Current Mood – he returns somewhat to his roots. While the beats remain contemporary, stringed instruments aren’t verboten, and Lynch sings in a refreshingly natural cadence. After posting a series of confessional videos that suggested he was going through an artistic crisis, it’s good to see him finding himself. J.H.
Ashley Monroe’s recently released album Sparrow is a triumph in many ways (cracking the Top 30 on Billboard‘s Country Albums chart, for example), a major one being its frank depiction of Monroe’s childhood and her relationship to her mom. “Mother’s Daughter” is a standout representation of Monroe’s unflinching vulnerability, intoning in the chorus that “staying forever is a promise that nobody can keep.” It’s heavy subject matter, but it’s made palatable by an optimistic arrangement that includes sunny acoustic guitar and, of course, Monroe’s preternatural sense of emotive phrasing. B.M.
Michael Ray’s recent singles “Get to You” and “Think a Little Less” have made a convincing case for him as a top-notch country balladeer, separating the Florida native from the 24/7 party during which he first arrived on the scene. His new song “Her World or Mine” – from the upcoming album Amos – continues this trend with a desolate tale of heartbreak that looks at the uneven (if all too understandable) responses two people have after their life-altering split. “One of us moved on, one of us got stuck, one of us is drinking just for fun, one of us is drinking to get drunk,” sings Ray. It’s not hard to figure out which one is him. J.F.
A highlight of Lake Street Dive’s new LP Free Yourself Up, the bouncy, dynamic breakup song “Good Kisser” – which the band performed Monday on Colbert – is equal parts flippant and mournful, with lead singer Rachel Price belting a plea to a former lover: “If you’re gonna tell them everything / Tell ’em I’m a good kisser.” Largely driven by punchy keyboard from the band’s newest member Akie Bermiss, the song weaves in gospel-inspired harmonies that blend flawlessly with Price’s subtle gritty twang. “Good Kisser” is in keeping with Lake Street Dive’s biggest strength – writing sincere, soulful songs with a candid sense of humor. S.S.
“Big Time” could be a fitting descriptor for any number of things in the lives of the Milk Carton Kids, circa 2018, but it also happens to be the name of their newest song from All the Things That I Did and All the Things That I Didn’t Do, an LP with a big-time title. Back after three years and some serious personal struggles (breakups, illness and other big-league hardships), the Americana duo of Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale dive headlong into a full-band lineup for the first time. The results are lush and evocative, if suitably subtle and cryptic. J.G.