The latest chart-topper from the format’s biggest star, a welcome comeback by an underrated vocalist and a poignant anti-violence statement by new artist Bill Eberle make up this week’s country and Americana songs you need to hear right now.
Rooted in bar-band boogie and retro rock & roll riffage, Canadian kings the Sheepdogs channel the stomp and swagger of the 1970s with this track from the band’s February release, Changing Colours. Come for the chorus, where the band’s five members stack their harmonies into thick slabs of defiance; stay for the harmonized guitar leads that run throughout the song’s second half, channeling everyone from Thin Lizzy to the Eagles. R.C.
Midland’s latest single off their acclaimed debut album On the Rocks is “Burn Out,” a mid-tempo heartbreak song that plays off the strengths of their debut single (and Number One hit) “Drinkin’ Problem.” The track smolders with a decidedly Nineties country feel, buoyed by aching three-part vocal harmonies and shimmering pedal steel, with the occasional bit of clever wordplay (“The smokin’ memory that ain’t nothin’ but ashes”) that never feels forced or gratuitous. B.M.
Who says you can’t teach an old country traditionalist new tricks? Nashville vet Craig Campbell can be counted on to deliver a stellar vocal rooted in the fundamentals, but on “See You Try” he puts a fresh spin on the form. The “Keep Them Kisses Coming” singer gets dizzy-headed on the stomping track, but rather than finding a new love, he’s falling back into it with his wife. It’s a big, bold song that shoots for the nosebleed seats of arenas everywhere, but Campbell doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. J.G.
A modern-day, first-rate folkie on his 2016 debut, Matter and Time, Bill Eberle gets weird, woozy and topical with this off-kilter pop song about the violence of the 21st century. “I can’t get used to this,” he insists during the song’s chorus, refusing to grow nonchalant. Behind him, psychedelic surf-rockers the Beech Benders serve as his backup musicians, layering the song with Beatles-worthy harmonies and pillowy keyboards. Like the rest of Eberle’s upcoming LP, Soft Light, “Groceries” contrasts the simple pleasures of everyday life – including a trip to the market alongside your partner – with a modern age punctuated by xenophobia, a gun epidemic and other byproducts of Trump’s America. Call it repurposed protest music. R.C.
You may know Trixie Mattel as the winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, but the performer is also a talented musician, having released a capable album of country songs called Two Birds in 2017. This week, Mattel returns with the appropriately titled One Stone, a follow-up to Two Birds that explores Mattel’s traditional country and folk influences with wit, style and occasional humor. One standout is “The Well,” a yearning acoustic track with clever lines like, “Running’s just how I won the race,” offering a sepia-toned counterpoint to Mattel’s brightly colored day job. B.M.
Robert Ellis, Cory Chisel, and Jonny Fritz are three of Nashville’s most beloved songwriters, so the announcement that their supergroup Traveller – a project they teased in 2015 – had a full-length album on the way was a welcome one. Western Movies is out May 4th, and its first single, “Hummingbird,” is a fitting introduction to the music these three artists make together: playful, endearing, and an eccentric homage to the influences (traditional country, folk, roots-rock) that makes each such a success in his own right. B.M.
Maggie Rose turns a new page in 2018 by turning back the clock, dropping the soulful new slow-burner “It’s You.” Mixing the vocal prowess of Adele and Aretha, Rose becomes a full-throated chanteuse, building things up from near a cappella to a full-on swoon with the choral assistance of her 11-piece backing band. “It’s You” is only an opening salvo, as Rose – channeling the example of the soul singers and girl groups of yore – has a slew of “digital 45s” coming down the pipeline. J.G.
“Most People Are Good” is this week’s Number One on Country Airplay and its message – coming from a star on the level of Luke Bryan – is important in the country music world. The mid-tempo ballad, a statement of acceptance that includes a subtle nod to same-sex relationships, recently received a new music video. The touches remain subtle, with images that suggest natural disasters and police violence, but seeing Bryan surrounded by mothers and minorities is a powerful celebration of diversity from the format’s biggest voice. J.G.
Tami Neilson may have gotten her start with her family band, the Neilsons, but make no mistake, the Canadian who resides in New Zealand is a fire-breathing R&B belter on her own terms. She says so in roughly so many words on her rollicking new track “Stay Outta My Business,” a crackling, hand-clapping soul vamp that would do Amy Winehouse proud for its swagger and defiant self-reliance. J.G.
Nashville can be a competitive place, but it can also be a collaborative one. Erin Rae, a gifted singer-songwriter, has never seemed to shy away from lending her vocals – which evoke the effortlessness of Nick Drake with the velvet coo of Mary Travers – to the projects of her friends, like Margo Price and Andrew Combs. But her solo work, particularly her new track “Can’t Cut Loose,” feels equally generous – just in emotion, this time. From her forthcoming LP Putting on Airs (on Single Lock Records), it’s a hauntingly honest folksong for the frank, modern mind. M.M.