Eilen Jewell’s lyrically rich “79 Cents,” Miranda Lambert’s new “Bluebird,” and Lady Antebellum guitarist Slim Gambill’s jazzy numbers journey “54321” make up this week’s list of the best country and Americana songs.
Jamie Lin Wilson, “Alice”
A tribute to an old neighbor who’s “pretty as a flower [and] tough as saddle leather,” Jamie Lin Wilson’s “Alice” tells the story of a tough Texas woman who farms the bottomlands. To vividly paint a picture of southeast Texas, she fills the song with chiming acoustics, pedal steel, and her own Lone Star State drawl.
Dalton Domino, “Love Is Dangerous”
“I look a little weathered from your winds and your rains,” sings Dalton Domino, reflecting upon a relationship that’s left him bruised and battered. The song helps set the stage for Songs From the Exile, whose tracks were written during the peak of Domino’s addiction and released during his newfound sobriety.
Spirit Family Reunion, “One Way Ticket”
With its blend of old-time rootsy saunter and kitchen-sink jazz, “One Way Ticket” could’ve served as a jingle for the American railroad back in the early 20th century. Come for the unchained gang vocals; stay for the combination of tremolo-laden electric guitar and backwoods banjo. Ride on.
Slim Gambill, “54321”
In his spare time as Lady Antebellum’s longtime touring guitarist, Slim Gambill makes instrumental music rooted in the freedom and smooth delivery of jazz. Here, he changes time signatures and burns up the fretboard with the funky “54321,” which also features a horn solo from the Dave Matthews Band’s Jeff Coffin.
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Eilen Jewell, “79 Cents (The Meow Song)”
Inspired by modern-day sexism and inequality, “79 Cents (The Meow Song)” blends satire with scathing indictments. The song’s mix of gypsy jazz and old-timey folk music goes down easy, but it’s Jewell’s clever writing — particularly her final verse, where she references President Trump’s comments about grabbing women’s genitals — that delivers the knockout blow, adding substance to a song that’s also rich in old-world style.
The Talbott Brothers, “Run No More”
A pair of harmony-singing siblings who were raised in rural Nebraska, the Talbott Brothers make cinematic folk-rock for open highways, widescreen skies, and the limitless reach of the American heartland. “I don’t wanna run, run, run no more” goes the chorus of this slow-burning anthem, delivered by Tyler and Nick Talbott with the conviction of two road warriors who’ve logged plenty of highway miles.
The Highwomen, “Highwomen”
The leading ladies of Americana and country music team up to remake a staple from supergroups past, turning the Highwaymen’s signature song into a hauntingly woke ballad with brand-new lyrics about the fates that befall powerful women. Guest star Yola steals the show as a freedom rider who dies during a historic bus ride to Mississippi, but there’s plenty of road here for each Highwoman to shine.
Cam, “La Marcheuse”
Who knew Cam was a Francophile? On her cover of Christine and the Queens’ “La Marcheuse,” she turns a French pop hit into an Americana ballad, replacing the original’s synthesized electronics with banjo, acoustic guitar, and a lovely vocal performance. Appropriately, the song arrives weeks before Cam’s European tour, where she will play Paris on September 11th.
Tenille Townes, “Jersey on the Wall”
One year after its original release as a raw, acoustic track, Tenille Townes’ “Jersey on the Wall” is reborn as a stirring, full-bodied anthem about loss and faith, with production from country super-producer Jay Joyce. “If I ever get to heaven, you know I got a long list of questions,” she sings, frustrated by a world filled with death and injustice.
Miranda Lambert, “Bluebird”
Miranda Lambert rolls with the punches on “Bluebird,” another mid-tempo highlight from the upcoming Wildcard. Produced by Jay Joyce, the song doubles down on Lambert’s ability to pack a punch without relying on bombastic arrangements or vocal fireworks. “If love keeps giving me lemons, I just mix ’em in my drink,” she sings over a cyclical chord progression that makes room for spacey pedal steel, drum loops, and a taut, hypnotic bass groove.