A barreling slice of alt-rock Americana, a raw but cathartic comeback ballad, and a declaration of everlasting love from country music’s reigning vocal duo make up this week’s country and Americana songs you need to hear right now.
You can’t exactly call it a comeback, but Carrie Underwood sings like she has a point to prove on her new single, “Cry Pretty.” Her first new solo material to arrive in almost two years, it soars on spiraling guitars and Underwood’s bravura singing, which turns this ode to vulnerability – penned by Underwood and Hillary Lindsey, Liz Rose and Lori McKenna – into an even more bombastic anthem than her recent sports-themed collaboration with Ludacris, “The Champion.” “Cry Pretty” will make its suitably glitzy live debut this Sunday at the ACM Awards. J.G.
Instead of gazing upward dreaming of a jet-engine escape from his “dot on the map” small town, CJ Solar is focused on what’s down below and right in front of him: a relationship burning so furiously that it’s visible from 30,000 feet. The mid-tempo ballad is a change of pace for the Southern-rocking – and underrated – songwriter, who also has a hit on his hands with Morgan Wallen’s “Up Down.” “Airplane” though is all Solar’s vehicle, a performance so full of bombast and confidence that, unlike jet trails, it won’t fade from your memory quickly. J.H.
The Swon Brothers are in a decidedly Eighties mood on their new single “What Ever Happened,” with a gloriously retro chorus guitar riff that sits somewhere between Prince and Crowded House. Former Voice finalists Zach and Colton Swon use this intoxicating throwback sheen as a way to wax nostalgic about the decline of civilization – from divorce to violence and hatred. It’s debatable whether the “good old days” they long for actually existed at any point in time, let alone the Reagan Eighties, but it sounds so good you’ll wish it were true. J.F.
Most conversation about new music from Kacey Musgraves pointed, appropriately, to her just released album Golden Hour. But she also lent her vocals to a lush song from the Brummies’ debut album Eternal Reach, the sultry duet “Drive Away.” The flirtatious vocal interplay between Musgraves and the Brummies (a band of music geeks from Birmingham, Alabama, that includes the duo formerly known as John & Jacob) makes for a track as intriguing as its escapist premise. B.M.
“We ain’t getting out of this love alive,” sings TJ Osborne, celebrating a relationship that’s so steadfast, only death can break it. He passes the baton to brother John during the song’s anthemic guitar solo, which doubles down on the heartland rock & roll influences and 1970s country twang that separate these siblings from the rest of the Nashville pack. Co-written with Kendall Marvel, “Pushing Up Daisies (Love Alive)” is classic Brothers Osborne: a fresh take on a familiar idea. R.C.
This new tune from the Nude Party doesn’t fit neatly into country, Americana or any genre, really, but it’s the kind of song we’d want to hear playing loud at our favorite Nashville dive bar – which is as good an endorsement as any. Equal parts “I’m Waiting for the Man” Velvet Underground and Exile on Main Street Stones, “Chevrolet Van,” with its twangy swagger and riffs on disapproving adults, is rock’s new “Parents Just Don’t Understand.” Look for the tune on the band’s forthcoming self-titled debut album, out July 6th. B.M.
An alt-rocker with a folkie past – first with the Juno-nominated duo Twilight Hotel, and later as a utility player for Texas-based Americana act the Trishas – Brandy Zdan stretches her legs with her solo career, exploring the middle ground between the Beatles, the Breeders and the Bangles on this hook-heavy garage-rocker. Come for the guitar work, split between Zdan and My Morning Jacket’s Carl Broemel. Stay for the reverb-drenched harmonies, which connect the dots between the poppy and the psychedelic Americana. R.C.
It was the Nineties sheen of ballads like the hit “I Got the Boy” that helped Jana Kramer make a convincing leap from television actress to bonafide country star, but the road since hasn’t been entirely smooth: songs like “Said No One Ever” failed to resonate, her major-label record deal ended and she suffered some personal unrest, too. That fire and fight thankfully makes its way into her new single, “Dammit,” written by Nicolle Galyon and Elizabeth Huett. Lamenting what could have been in love and life, Kramer lets her voice get raw and tender on the slow-burning track that could finally bring the radio comeback she’s been waiting for. M.M.
Neko Case’s latest song, “Bad Luck,” was born of real-life disaster – the Canadian singer-songwriter finding out her house burned down – but its true inspiration comes from everyday neuroses and psychological hang-ups. And, boy, does it sound fun. A barreling embodiment of Murphy’s Law (“I died and went to work,” goes the cooing refrain), Case bats aside a bad day for the ages with an existential shrug and an infectious power-pop hook that makes its own luck with a carefree, hip-shaking attitude. J.G
They say nothing good happens after midnight, and Pat Reedy won’t argue against it – but he won’t argue for it, either. His latest song with his band the Longtime Goners, “Nashville Tennessee at 3 A.M.” is exactly what it claims to be, a gritty, matter-of-fact snapshot of looking for someplace to go after the bars close. “The only thing that’s cheap in these bars is talk,” Reedy deadpans in his deep, drowsy drawl, knowing that his reality extends only as far as his boot steps will take him — an idea both freeing and oppressing, and all the more intoxicating because of it. J.G.