Sugarland’s new Taylor-assisted ballad, Dan + Shay’s harmony-rich hit and Jimmy Buffett protégée Caroline Jones’ fittingly summery sing-along are among the 10 country and Americana songs you must hear this week.
Who needs footwear? This summery blast of roots-pop finds Caroline Jones kicking off her shoes and digging her bare soles into the ground, all in an effort to “feel the world’s heartbeat.” It’s a tribute to an all-natural lifestyle, backed by a glorious clamor of instruments – including baritone guitar, upright piano, dobro, synth, and banjo – played by Jones herself. Co-produced by the singer/songwriter, “Bare Feet” sounds like the countrified cousin to Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles,” making it a candidate for someone’s song of the summer. For Jones, that summer song is likely a Jimmy Buffett jam: she’ll open a new round of six shows for the perennial beach bum beginning in May. R.C.
Back in 2014, Morgan Wallen unsuccessfully auditioned for The Voice with a version of Florida Georgia Line’s “Stay.” Four years later, he’s swapping harmonies with the party-pop duo on “Up Down,” a Gold-certified single that finds all three country bros “holding it down here in BFE.” A song about drinking, fishing and all-around hell-raising, “Up Down” celebrates the big times that can be found in the smallest of towns. R.C.
John Prine’s latest album The Tree of Forgiveness, released earlier this month, was the legendary songwriter’s best debuting album ever, charting 54,000 units (53,000 of which were sold traditionally) its first week. And there’s only one (or 10, if you’re counting) reason for that: the fantastic songs. The closing track on the album is a stunner, and begins with a powerful spoken verse from Prine, who, in his trademark mix of playfulness and gravity, paints such a grand portrait of the afterlife that it almost sounds like a vacation. B.M.
Nashville outfit Birdtalker discover a “garage-folk” sound in their satisfying new song, which has a loose playfulness not often heard in Americana. Tinkling piano, jangly guitar and a call-and-response vocal from husband-and-wife songwriting duo Zack and Dani Green take “Free Like a Broken Heart” out of the coffeeshops and into the bar. “My first reaction is to get pissed, yeah to resist like I can change what is,” sings Zack of encountering life’s roadblocks. It’s infectious and sprightly, proof that songs about hardship needn’t always be dour. J.H.
Relative newcomer Devin Dawson has already made waves on country radio with “All on Me,” a Gold single from his debut album Dark Horse. Now he’ll attempt to top the charts with latest single “Asking for a Friend,” a clever song about rekindling an old flame with a three-act narrative told mostly in questions. The tune features subtle, muted verse arrangements before giving way to cathartic choruses, the build-up mirroring the slow reveal of information throughout its lyrics. Dawson wrote “Asking for a Friend” with Connie Harrington and Brett Beavers. B.M.
This empowering anthem of independence should come with a side of finger snaps. “I’ve never been much of a shouter / but something inside said get a little louder,” sings newcomer Rachel Wammack, announcing her arrival with a roar on “My Boyfriend Doesn’t Speak for Me Anymore.” Mixing the power-pop pipes of Adele with the women-first attitude of Loretta Lynn, the Muscle Shoals, Alabama, native is a dynamic new country voice for the genre – one not just with flourish, but with a message. J.H.
A single that’s every bit as cinematic as its big-budget music video, “Tequila” mixes the sweeping punch of a power ballad with the familiar twang of a country-pop drinking song. “I can still shut down a party / I can hang with anybody / I can drink whiskey and red wine,” the singer begins, painting himself as an extrovert who’s always willing to live in the moment. Whenever he tastes tequila, though, his mood changes, sending his mind back to a highlights reel of memories involving a drinking partner who stole his heart. For Dan + Shay, they stole attention at this month’s ACM Awards, delivering an abbreviated but transfixing version of their potent song, with Shay Mooney hitting a monster of a note. R.C.
Driven forward by vocal harmonies, pedal steel and galloping kickdrum, “Movin’ On” tells the story of a formerly heartbroken female who’s learned to make peace with her past. “The memories all over that town finally ain’t tearing you down,” goes a line in the first verse, sung in tandem by co-frontmen Charlie Muncaster and Gary Stanton. A tribute to healing hearts, “Movin’ On” is every bit as kinetic as its title. R.C.
Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush pick the lock on Taylor Swift’s vault of unused songs for the second single of their comeback, “Babe,” which even features a guest vocal from the pop superstar. The track was co-written by Swift with Train’s Pat Monahan back in her Nashville days, intended for Swift’s 2012 album Red. It didn’t make the cut, but her loss is the duo’s gain. The heartbroken track is built on vivid, lived-in lyrics in classic Swiftian fashion, but contrasted by a relaxed, roots-pop feel that is 100 percent Sugarland. The result is one heck of a chorus: a mix of warm, welcoming melodies and a processed beat paired with Swift’s pulsating vocal. C.P.
Duhon’s soulful croon takes centerstage on this slow-burning tribute to perseverance and self-reckoning. Backed by a cyclical guitar riff that never overwhelms the melody, Duhon takes a hard look at his own path, knowing he’s too far into the journey – wherever it may be leading him – to turn back. Instead, he continues moving forward with renewed purpose, chasing down a new horizon while soft drums and a cyclical guitar riff echo in the background. R.C.