A searching bit of electro-tinged pop from Hunter Hayes, a psychedelic duet from Lera Lynn and a grand tribute to a family hero by Tucker Beathard make up the 10 must-hear country and Americana songs this week.
Cordovas, “I’m the One Who Needs You Tonight”
With plenty of parlor piano, pedal steel and stacked harmonies, “I’m the One Who Needs You Tonight” mixes the unpolished country-rock of Workingman’s Dead with the woodsy warmth of Music From Big Pink. The result is a song that wears its countercultural influences proudly, performed by a band that’s not interested in mimicking its source material as much as paying tribute to those influences. Released today, That Santa Fe Channel marks the band’s label debut for ATO Records.
Hunter Hayes, “Dear God”
Hunter Hayes has a conversation with the Man Upstairs, soundtracking his prayer with electronic drums, R&B keyboards and all the atmospheric ambience of an Avicii breakdown. The lyrics themselves are downcast and desperate, which Hayes questioning his own worth in front of his maker. At the same time, “Dear God” sounds epical and ethereal, like an anthem for the anxious.
Lera Lynn and Andrew Combs, “Breakdown”
A collection of collaborations with John Paul White, Rodney Crowell and other Americana A-listers, Lera Lynn Plays Well With Others reaches its psychedelic peak with this anti-love song. Lynn recasts herself as Andrew Combs’ toxic partner, the two singers lobbing expertly harmonized insults at one another over acoustic guitars and minor-key melodies. Collapsing relationships never sounded so lovely.
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Shooter Jennings, “D.R.U.N.K.”
Jennings spells out his plans for a tanked afternoon. “Tell you what I’m gonna do with my whole day; I’m getting D-R-U-N-K,” he sings, looking to chase away the sour taste of heartbreak with several bottles of harder stuff. A Telecaster honks its approval in the background, while a handful of southern soul singers shout their harmonies alongside Jennings’ voice.
Tucker Beathard, “Hall of Fame”
Bobby Beathard, Tucker’s 81 year-old grandfather (and a former general manager for the NFL), was inducted into the Pro Football Fall of Fame earlier this summer. Here, his grandson pays tribute to the family patriarch. “Even if the folks who made that call never would’ve called his name,” he sings, “[it] wouldn’t change that spot that he’s got on the wall in my real world hall of fame.” Fittingly, Tucker co-wrote the song with father Casey Beathard, creating the soundtrack for future Beathard family reunions in the process.
Danielle Bradbery with Thomas Rhett, “Goodbye Summer”
Sounding like the sonic sequel to Rhett’s “Craving You” duet with Maren Morris, “Goodbye Summer” mixes modern pop with the sound of its 1980s cousin, creating an anthem that’s heavy on the keyboards, ringing guitars and general bombast. This is still Bradbery’s vehicle, though, and she remains in control, even when her chart-topping duet partner takes a turn at the wheel. If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because “Goodbye Summer” is essentially a souped-up revision of Bradberry’s 2017 single, “Hello Summer,” which Rhett coincidentally co-wrote.
Aaron Lee Tasjan, “The Rest Is Yet to Come”
Supertramp-sized prog-pop meets Supergrass-worthy slink. The second single from this year’s Karma for Cheap, “The Rest Is Yet to Come” waves its freak flag high, making room for cabaret organ solos and glammy percussive stomp along the way. For those who boarded Tasjan’s Magical Mystery Tour years ago, back when he was playing guitar for groups like Semi Precious Weapons and the New York Dolls, this is another reminder that East Nashville’s Cosmic Cowboy rides wherever he damn well pleases.
Dawn Landes, “Traveling”
Like a long-lost song from Lucinda Williams’ 1988 self-titled album, “Traveling” borrows the bright, bouncing guitar arpeggios of “Passionate Kisses,” molding them into a breezy song about open highways and nagging wanderlust. “I’m not searching at all; I’m just traveling,” Landes sings during the chorus, while the band strums along at casual highway speed.
Donnie Fritts, “I’d Do It Over Again”
Back in 1974 — right around the time he began touring the world as Kris Kristofferson’s keyboardist, a job he’d hold for more than 40 years — Donnie Fritts recorded his solo debut in Muscle Shoals Sound Studio. He comes full circle with this classic-sounding R&B ballad, whose gospel harmonies (provided by the Secret Sisters) and burbling church organ (played by the Alabama Shakes’ Ben Tanner) create the soundtrack for a new kind of Sunday Morning Coming Down. Originally recorded by Marshall Crenshaw, the revamped “I’d Do It Over Again” is being released by Single Lock Records, a Muscle Shoals-area record label co-owned by the Civil Wars’ John Paul White.
Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis, “I Just Lived a Country Song”
Tongue-in-cheek twang meets honky-tonk heartache. Robbie Fulks and Linda Gail Lewis revel in some of country music’s proudest traditions while hamming up their own hillbilly bonafides, turning “I Just Lived a Country Song” into a cry-into-your-whiskey ballad delivered with a sly wink. For fans of meta musical moments and genuine country craft. The pair’s collaborative album Wild! Wild! Wild! is out today.