A Nineties vocal group’s sentimental and welcome return, an all-star collaboration led by Darius Rucker, and the most bitchin’ Beach Boys-esque summer song not recorded by the Wilsons make up this week’s best country and Americana tracks.
Mama may have tried, but in Kevn Kinney’s case she also apparently had some pretty harsh words. Almost 30 years removed from when Kinney’s underrated band Drivin’ N Cryin’ released “Straight to Hell,” Darius Rucker has beefed up the barroom dirge into a party-starting romp, drawing on three country stars who all hail from Drivin’ N Cryin’s home state of Georgia to help pay it proper tribute. The would-be super group, which Rucker has dubbed the Troublemakers, trade lines as though they’re trying to one-up each other’s wrongdoings, all while a fiddle saws away over the din. J.G.
One of the finest country and bluegrass singers of his generation, Marty Raybon returned to his role as lead singer of Grammy-winning band Shenandoah for the release of Reloaded, featuring the group’s first new music in two decades. Produced by Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus, “That’s Where I Grew Up” is a heart-tugging walk down memory lane where the events of our lives, whether tragic, joyous or, in some cases, completely transformative, define the ways we see ourselves today. Raybon beautifully conveys that emotional complexity in every single tear-stained note of this sweeping, sentimental ballad. S.B.
Mark Fredson, formerly of the Lonely H, is the kind of guy that helps keep Nashville’s independent creative community thriving: a frequent face on the scene for years, his songs have been covered by Margo Price (she offered a version of his “How the Mighty Have Fallen” on her debut LP, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, and recently played the tune at the Ryman) and he’s sung with the likes of Caitlin Rose. Now Fredson is prepping a solo LP, with first single “Bitchin Summer” offering a taste of delicious Beach Boys-gone-synth vibes for anyone who wants to ditch their desk jobs, light a joint and just have a bitchin time – or at least pretend to for these 3 minutes and 56 seconds. M.M.
Nicki Bluhm’s new album To Rise You Gotta Fall is out today, marking her first studio release since parting ways with both her band the Gramblers and her fellow band member/husband Tim Bluhm. One of the LP’s standout tracks is “Battlechain Rose,” a Ryan Adams co-write that chronicles the emotional difficulties she faced in the wake of her divorce and her relocation from San Francisco to Nashville. The track retains the Americana rock sensibilities of her earlier work, but incorporates a smoky Southern Gothic vibe that fits the difficult subject matter. B.M.
“Beaches of Biloxi” made its first appearance earlier this year on Texas honky-tonkers Mike and the Moonpies’ Steak Night at the Prairie Rose, and earlier this week the Elvis-in-Vegas-worthy vamp got a fresh spin with a David Bellarosa-directed video. Putting the spotlight on Moonpies’ pedal-steel player Zach Moulton, the video follows the bearded gambler as he rides a cold hand and goes for broke (after going broke) by hocking his Gretsch for one more shot at redemption. The song, however, doesn’t need saving, or even luck: it’s an instant winner, a snapshot of a true-blue country band on a hot streak. J.G.
Get out while the gettin’s good, preaches Jerry Castle in this lush jam. The Virginia-raised singer-songwriter who found inspiration for his last album by floating in a sensory-deprivation tank emerges refreshed on his new LP Brand New Hello. Or does he? Peer beneath the sunny vibes of “Lil Bit” and you find a narrator who is fed up with the bullshit of Trump’s America and overloaded by the daily propaganda. But Castle’s frustration is our gain, as he delivers one of the most instantly catchy – and danceable – songs about being pissed off this year. J.H.
Kassi Ashton trades a notch on the bedpost for a trophy on her bedroom wall in the funky “Taxidermy,” about giving a hurtful lover his comeuppance. The Nashville-by-way-of-Missouri singer is all sass here, upending the objectification of women by ogling the man she’s stuffed for her enjoyment. “Rug on the floor / couch made of leather / you sure know how to bring a room together,” Ashton sings in the bridge, revealing herself to be a devilish songwriter who isn’t afraid flip convention on its head. J.H.
The lead-off track from Bentley’s upcoming The Mountain may not be a single yet, but it sure needs to be. A hard-charging rocker, “Burning Man” is a high-water mark for Bentley – his most affecting song since 2015’s magnificent “Riser.” “Burning Man” builds on that ballad’s theme of evolution, as Bentley assesses his place in the world as a 40-something troubadour: “I’m a little bit steady / but a little bit rolling stone.” Brothers Osborne also turn up, with singer TJ offering a verse and guitarist John delivering a solo as white-hot as the song’s title suggests. Insert fire emoji here. J.H.
In the lead single off her forthcoming album The Tree, Grammy-winning songwriter Lori McKenna wistfully reflects on her youth, facing the reality of a fleeting, ever-changing life. Inspired by McKenna’s father, “People Get Old” is flush with nostalgia, delivered via lyrics that are both simple and incredibly evocative. The story chronicles her journey from childhood to adulthood to parenthood, uniquely capturing the treasured bond between dad and daughter – one that shifts with time but never loses its value. At times a tough listen, “People Get Old” is the latest reminder of McKenna’s status as one of country’s most poignant storytellers. S.S.
Any day with a new Dwight Yoakam single is a good one, even if it is a song about Mondays. The iconic artist dropped “Then Here Came Monday” (and b-side “Pretty Horses”) last week, debuting them on his SiriusXM channel Dwight Yoakam and the Bakersfield Beat. Co-written with Chris Stapleton, “Then Here Came Monday” tells of the all-too-real pain that rolls around Monday morning after a long weekend of drinking your troubles away. B.M.