An infectious new radio anthem from Tyler Farr, a slice of compassion from Tenille Townes and Walker Hayes’ half-rapped thank you to a guardian angel make up the 10 country and Americana songs you need to hear this week.
There’s nothing quite like a good prison song, and Ruston Kelly, one of Nashville’s sharpest emerging writers, turned his experience behind bars into cutting alt-country gold. An acoustic version of a new track he debuted on the road, “Asshole” is an Elliot Smith-evoking tale from the handcuffs to the awkward ride home with a spouse who isn’t too pleased with how things went down. Kelly’s forthcoming new LP isn’t due until the fall, but “Asshole” shows just how fearless he is when it comes to lyricism: “He cuffed me and brought me in like a prize / I spit on the floor just to piss him off,” he sings to an echoey strum about his police encounter. “He pulled out his Taser ’cause he’s got no cock.” M.M.
Los Angeles blues trio the Record Company will release their new album All of This Life on June 22nd. On Friday, they shared new single “Life to Fix,” a rough-and-tumble ode to hitting rock bottom and building yourself “back up, brick by brick.” Fans of the band’s rootsy take on rock & roll should dig the track, which isn’t so much a return to form as it is taking that form to a big new level. B.M.
Bluegrass band Nefesh Mountain, led by singer Doni Zasloff and her multi-instrumentalist husband Eric Lindberg, perform old-time Appalachian mountain music yet also weave their shared Jewish heritage into their material, singing some lyrics in Hebrew. Like a blanket passed down as a family heirloom, the results are warm and comfortable, and their 21st century approach never overshadows those old-world traditions. “The Narrow Bridge,” from their lovely and refreshingly eclectic LP Beneath the Open Sky, features acoustic legends Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and David Grier, and its message, never more relevant in these turbulent times, suggests that love and hope are there to be found. You just have to know where to look and listen. S.B.
Exhaustion never sounded as thrilling as it does in Donovan Woods’ “Truck Full of Money,” from the newly released album Both Ways. Evoking the grandeur of Britpop and the quirky, literate folk of Sufjan Stevens in equal measure, “Truck Full of Money” is a view of a life spent on the road – boring stretches of nothing between gigs, and the inevitable disappointment felt by loved ones. “Maybe someday we’ll be closer to what our fathers had / Plenty of love, never been in some truck full of money,” sings Woods, but even he sounds uncertain. J.F.
On May 4th, Austin-based guitarist Jeff Plankenhorn will release Sleeping Dogs, a new album featuring collaborations with Ray Wylie Hubbard, Patty Griffin and Emily Gimble. Hubbard lends vocals on “Tooth and Nail,” a hypnotic psych-rock track that manages to allude to both the Bible and the Old 97’s. Hubbard’s deep deadpan and Plankenhorn’s crackling guitar go together like thunder and lightning, a combination consistent with the song’s ominous, stormy imagery. B.M.
“Live by the sun, love by the moon:” It’s a mantra for Tyler Farr in his new single “Love by the Moon,” a sky-blue ode to romance, getting your hands dirty, and living life in the great outdoors. The “A Guy Walks Into a Bar” singer, now three years removed from his most recent LP, revels in the country life, dropping his voice for low, gruff asides and laughs that counter the pyrotechnics of a pinwheeling guitar line. “Love by the Moon” is all about the simple pleasures, like a summertime dip in the creek – and the perfect song to welcome Farr back into the fold. J.G.
Last week, new Sony Nashville signee Tenille Townes released the EP Living Room Work Tapes. One of the EP’s tracks is “Somebody’s Daughter,” an acoustic ballad that, based on its title alone, could venture into patriarchal territory, but mercifully doesn’t. Instead, the song turns a compassionate eye to the plight of a presumably homeless woman begging for money at an intersection, imagining what her earlier life was like and imploring listeners to take a closer look at folks in similar situations in their own towns. B.M.
Written in response to the racially charged attacks in Charlottesville, this acoustic anthem mixes pop, gospel and folk into the same lively package. It’s a bright song for darker times, with three singers — Drew Holcomb, Amanda Sudano and Abner Ramirez — all taking a turn at the mic. Those vocalists share songwriting credit, too, turning “Ring the Bells” — the lead single from the musicians’ Goodbye Road EP — into a collective call to action. R.C.
Trading their Americana roots for the skyward sweep of Reagan-era college rock, Sons of Bill introduce their upcoming release, Oh God Ma’am, with this Eighties-leaning anthem. The electric guitars, whose reverb-heavy chimes and chorus-pedaled punch nod to everyone from Echo and the Bunnymen to the War on Drugs, will draw you in. But the double-tracked vocals, which swoon one minute and sweep the next, will hook you. R.C.
The closing track on his new Boom LP and now his latest single, Walker Hayes’ “Craig” was inspired by a real-life guardian angel that he met at church while he and his family were on hard times. The song’s titular character goes above and beyond, gifting the Hayes clan a minivan when they need more room for their six kids. It’s a simple, spare tune, given a half-sung, half-rapped delivery by Hayes over a stuttering beat and appropriately stained-glass organ, just the kind of a story to make a believer of a man like Hayes. J.G.