A weepy barroom number, a country-pop confection from a viral star and a bluesy anthem from duo with a connection to Rod Stewart all make this week’s list of best country and Americana songs to hear right now.
Evans is looking to party. While banjos twang and drum loops bang in the background, he lays out a plan for a wasted afternoon – one that involves leftover champagne from New Year’s, a playlist of old songs and, potentially, a nighttime hangover. Already a household name in his native Australia, Evans swings for the fences with “Day Drunk,” a summery slam-dunk that’s every bit as bright as wife Kelsea Ballerini’s hits.
“Let’s break these chains and go down like the setting sun,” Aaron Watson sings, trading the PG-rated poise of his earlier work – much of which was inspired by the singer’s long-held dedication to “” – for the carnal urges of a road warrior eager for a horizontal homecoming. He keeps things tasteful, favoring animal metaphors and Wild West imagery over anything explicit. Even so, it’s certainly not a wild horse that’s being ridden here.
A toned-down tribute to love and sisterhood, “Till the End of Days” shine a light on the bond shared by Bermuda Triangle’s three bandmates. Jesse Lafser and Brittany Howard both sing their own verses, while Becca Mancari joins them during the song’s harmony-filled final moments, resulting in an acoustic gem that celebrates individuality and collectivity in the same breath.
“Tell me again how you can talk to God and how he tells you what to do. . .and how you’re sure it’s not your own damn voice disguised as something absolute,” Zack Green sings, fed up with the hypocrisy of organized religion. Cut from the same cloth as folk-rock anthems from Mumford & Sons, “Nothing’s Right” builds acoustic instruments, simple harmonies and a repetitive chorus into something towering, celebrating the otherworldly power of ordinary things.
Lauren Alaina finished second on American Idol in 2011, kicking off a career that’s found the Georgia native topping the charts as a solo artist (“Road Less Traveled”) and as the duo partner of her former high-school classmate (Kane Brown’s “What Ifs”). Here, she takes stock of everything that’s been gained and lost during those years. “Six years of missing home for three minutes on the radio,” she sings during the chorus, weighing the human cost of her own fame.
Still four months shy of his 12th birthday, Ramsey is enjoying one hell of a year, having traded his flash-in-the-pan internet fame – the result of a viral video of him singing Hank Williams’ “Lovesick Blues” at a midwestern Walmart – for a genuine career as 2018’s newest (and youngest) country hitmaker. Here, he trades the high-pitched yelps that launched his career for a diva-worthy chorus that soars miles above the treble clef.
Some broken hearts can’t be mended by beer alone. A classic tears-and-twang drinking song, “What Whiskey Does” finds Randy Houser drowning his sorrows one shot glass at a time, relying on the hard stuff to wipe his memory clean. “I’m gonna let that whiskey do what whiskey does,” he croons, while a pedal steel guitar weeps and wails in the background.
Runaway June’s three superwomen bounce back after a bad breakup, celebrating their independence by hitting the town without any men to slow them down. A sneak preview from the band’s upcoming album, “Buy My Own Drinks” whips up its own cocktail of funky-tonk and sunny pop, with the girls’ triple-stacked harmonies stealing the show during every round.
Years before fronting his Nashville-based rock band, the Wans, Simon Patrick Kerr penned songs as a teenaged folkie, taking inspiration from family friends like Guy Clark and John Prine along the way. He returns to those roots with his solo debut, Doldrums. Mixing acoustic guitar arpeggios with astral strings, “God Was a Gambler” is at once stripped-down and symphonic, like a not-so-distant cousin to Ray Lamontagne’s “Be Here Now.”
Fresh from a summer tour supporting Steven Tyler, these sonic sisters bid farewell to a reluctant lover who can’t seem to make up his mind. The duo’s pedigree is strong – Alyssa Bonagura’s parents charted nearly a dozen Top 40 country hits with Baillie & the Boys, while Ruby Stewart is the daughter of rock icon Rod Stewart – and the writing is equally brawny, channeling the bluesy, backwoods grit of Bonnie Raitt one minute and the unchained charisma of John Hiatt the next.