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10 Best Country and Americana Songs of the Week: Sam Hunt, Clare Dunn and More

Hunt’s brooding lament “Downtown’s Dead,” singer-guitarist Dunn’s fresh single “More” and other tracks you need to hear right now

10 Best Country and Americana Songs of the Week: Sam Hunt, Clare Dunn and More

Songs by Clare Dunn and Sam Hunt are among the 10 best country and Americana tracks to hear this week.

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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.

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Sam Hunt, “Downtown’s Dead”

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.

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Clare Dunn, “More”

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.

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Abi, “A Day Without”

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.

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Chris Janson, “Drunk Girl”

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.

Chuck Westmoreland, “Denim Tears”

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.

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