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10 Best Country and Americana Songs of the Week: Brandi Carlile, John Prine and More

Carlile’s “Hold Out Your Hand,” the Oak Ridge Boys’ Brandy Clark cover and more songs to hear now

10 Country, Americana Songs You Must Hear Now: Brandi Carlile, John Prine and More Rolling Stone Editors' Picks

Songs by John Prine and Brandi Carlile are among the 10 must-hear country and Americana tunes this week.

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Too much music, never enough time. In a particularly prolific era for both country and Americana music, with artists from Nashville to Austin releasing songs to radio and online, it’s near impossible to digest every new track. Which is why Rolling Stone Country is launching this new regular series, a curated list of the 10 songs you must hear each week. We’ll do the work; you just press play.

brandi carlile

The Reckless Electric, “Ice Cream and Liquor”

Mary Bragg and Becky Warren are two respected Nashville songwriters known for their delicate craft and thoughtful introspection – it’s won them awards, garnered hefty accolades and slots opening for the Indigo Girls. But with their new joint project, the Reckless Electric, they wanted to get a little less serious and have a plain old good time – all while proving that they’re a force to be reckoned with. It all comes together perfectly on the hilarious and spunky “Ice Cream and Liquor,” which is full of twangy, take-no-shits attitude in the school of Pistol Annie’s “Hell on Hells.” M.M.

brandi carlile

Trent Harmon, “You Got ‘Em All”

A power ballad with all the blockbuster bluster of an American Idol coronation song, “You Got ‘Em All” finds Idol champ Trent Harmon swinging for the country-pop fences. The song starts off quietly, building from a stripped-down, piano-led arrangement into a colossal production. All the usual hallmarks of a radio hit are here, but it’s Harmon’s voice – a genuinely emotive, elastic instrument – that gives “You Got ‘Em All” its human heart. R.C. 

brandi carlile

Brandi Carlile, “Hold Out Your Hand”

Brandi Carlile’s always been an activist for social justice, though she’s generally veered away from being explicitly political in any of her songs themselves. But on the blistering “Hold Out Your Hand,” from her new Dave Cobb-produced LP By the Way, I Forgive You, she creates a roots amalgam that travels through many corners of the splintered American soul: police brutality, nonstop violence, dissolutions, discouragement. Not, however, without a solution. And for Carlile, it’s simple. “Hold out your hand,” she sings in her unparalleled howl. It’s furious, complex and a little punk rock. M.M. 

brandi carlile

John Prine, “Summer’s End”

“Summer’s End” is the first song to be released from The Tree of Forgiveness, John Prine’s first LP of new material in 13 years, and it leaves no doubt that he’s lost none of his gift for a lyric that is at once spare and devastating. Forgiveness is central to this rippling acoustic tune, but what exactly it’s regarding is left unsaid. It’s that cryptic quality that makes the fragile, beautiful ballad so transient and powerful, a fact enhanced by a guest vocal from Brandi Carlile that is positively incandescent beside Prine’s gravelly plea. J.G.

brandi carlile

Oak Ridge Boys, “Pray to Jesus”

“Pray to Jesus” isn’t a gospel song – it’s not even a religious one – but it’s a neat trick that the Oak Ridge Boys manage to make it sound as such. A frayed blue-collar ballad by Brandy Clark, the song is turned into a stained-glass boogie by the Oaks. In their hands, it’s a hustler’s creed with a pious streak that could have been a holdover from a Sun Studio session circa 1954. With its original incarnation dating back to the Forties, the Oak Ridge Boys have a deep history of gospel singing, and they have no trouble picking up the habit here. J.G.

brandi carlile

Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Lindi Ortega, “Lovers in Love”

Lindi Ortega knows how to put the bite in romance, but “Lovers in Love” ­– released on Valentine’s Day – isn’t shy about getting sentimental. Perhaps it’s the influence of her recent marriage and move back home to Canada, but Ortega is decidedly light here, both in tone and in the song’s breezy arrangement. And Charlie McCoy’s harmonica certainly gets the pulse racing, with the Nashville legend making an appearance that adds extra sparkle to the moment. J.G.

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