Sam Hunt’s tense new single about being alone in a crowd, Clare Dunn’s summer-ready love song, Chuck Westmoreland’s tale of an LGBTQ youth and Priscilla Renea’s stark recollection of finding her independence are among the 10 new country and Americana songs you need to hear right now.
Popping up every now and then in his live set, Luke Combs’ new song “Beautiful Crazy” isn’t unknown to his passionate fans. Now the track gets the proper studio treatment, appearing on the deluxe reissue of his breakthrough debut This One’s for You. A ballad about dedicating yourself to the one you love, despite their quirks – “she’s crazy, but her crazy is beautiful to me” – the rough-around-the-edges Combs sells it like the secret romantic he really is. J.H.
King Leg is one cool cat. The Dwight Yoakam-endorsed singer-songwriter fully embraces the early rock that shapes his vintage sound in this cover of Little Richard’s “Lucille.” But while Richard fueled his rave-up with piano, the Leg employs a sick guitar lick, giving “Lucille” a little extra kick. Expect to hear it on the road when he opens Yoakam’s tour with Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams this summer. J.H.
Powerful vocalist Priscilla Renea paints her life story in “Family Tree,” which she was forced to sprout anew with herself as held of the household after being kicked out of her mother and father’s home at only 17. A song of personal empowerment and overcoming one’s situation, it also carries with it an air of suspense, as you wonder just how Renea will fare on her own. Judging by the early reaction to her upcoming LP Coloured, due June 22nd, the answer is pretty damn good. J.H.
Siblings Abigail and Lily Chapin got their start singing on their father Tom Chapin’s children’s albums, perfecting the harmonies they now employ on this title track to their new EP Ferry Boat. A delicate folk song that uses the boat as a metaphor for traversing over love’s often turbulent waters, it bluntly asks if a romance can “exist once more.” It’s sad but moving stuff, delivered by sisters who know from heart-tugging lyrics: their uncle was “Cat’s in the Cradle” songwriter Harry Chapin. J.H.
A standout from Parker Millsap’s new Other Arrangements LP – a collection of songs he describes as “gospel sex music” – “Fine Line” showcases a more visceral side of the 25-year-old singer-songwriter. Here he’s stuck between stations: screaming about the ambiguous ground between “the feast and the famine” and “the thought and the action.” All of it is punctuated by stabbing guitar notes, making “Fine Line” Millsap’s sharpest single to date. J.H.
Sam Hunt may not be the most prolific performer in country and pop, having released just three new songs since 2014’s blockbuster LP Montevallo, but he knows how to make each one an event. His latest, “Downtown’s Dead,” invites us back inside his head, where going out all night ain’t what it used to be while he remains haunted by a loss he can’t shake. “I see people that I know, but I feel like there’s no one here but me,” he sings, as ghostly snippets of guitar and digital snaps swell into a full-bodied refrain with booming drums and a chorus of harmonies to support Hunt’s emotive vocals. His character finally has a bit of a breakthrough: “Free drinks, bright lights. What am I doing with my life?” he asks. As always, Hunt manages to wring pathos from utterly ordinary situations, just by allowing himself to be vulnerable. J.F.
It’s a crime that Clare Dunn isn’t a legit star by now. The Colorado native – and wicked guitar player – has released a string of radio-ready songs like the swaggering “Tuxedo” and the brutally emotional “Old Hat” that, for some reason, country radio has all but ignored. That could (and should) change with “More,” a sunny summer love song about exceeding one’s capacity for affection. J.H.
Country up-and-comer Abi arrives with the catchy and heartfelt “A Day Without.” At first glance, it’s a perfect breakup anthem, but its meaning is much deeper for Abi, who recently lost her father. Surging with a pop beat, “A Day Without,” co-written by Andrew Dorff, Jimmy Robbins and Lucie Silvas, spotlights the Texas native’s emotive vocals that earned her a spot on tour with Jesse McCartney, Kelly Clarkson and Pentatonix. At times, the song is touchingly mournful, but it closes with a poetic moment of hope: “a day without the sun would have me pretty bummed / but I would learn to love the moon.” S.S.
Chris Janson’s piano ballad about how young men should properly behave around women has been on the charts for some time now, inching its way upward. Why country radio hasn’t seized on it as an example that they champion more than just party songs is anyone’s guess. Still, it’s a good sign that it’s charting at all, all while helping cement the new Grand Ole Opry member as one of the genre’s most versatile – and sensitive – future stars. He’ll drop the official video for “Drunk Girl” on Tuesday. J.H.
Portland, Oregon-based singer-songwriter Chuck Westmoreland makes an empathetic statement in “Denim Tears,” imagining a young gay man who struggles to come out and take the risk of being cut off from his family. Westmoreland’s conversational delivery describes the kind of violence and discrimination LGBTQ people face just by daring to exist, along with the heartbreak of frequently having nowhere to turn when faced with crisis. “Save your prayers, son. Hold it steady. Ain’t nobody gonna miss you if you let them down,” sings Westmoreland in the scruffy, guitar-driven chorus, channeling Tom Petty’s streamlined version of rock & roll in this first offering from his forthcoming Long Winter Rodeo, out June 1st. It’s a perfectly fine song to crank with the windows down, but as an exercise in attempting to understand someone else’s pain a little better, it’s absolutely vital. J.F.