The latest from Number One hitmaker Brett Young, an instant winner from songwriter Anthony D’Amato, and a collaboration between Dolly Parton and Sia make up the country and Americana songs you must hear this week.
Anthony D’Amato, “The Oyster and the Pearl”
Anthony D’Amato rolls with the punches on this folk-pop epic, whose lyrics tell the story of a battered and bruised bandleader who is hellbent on moving forward. “I been Lewis and I been Clark, I been third in line for Noah’s Ark,” he sings, while twinkling pianos, acoustic guitars and cooing harmonies form a kitchen-sink symphony in the background. A rallying cry for the bummed and brokenhearted, “The Oyster and the Pearl” was produced by Joshua James in the Utah mountains, where D’Amato recorded his upcoming follow-up to 2016’s Cold Snap. R.C.
Courtney Marie Andrews, “Heart and Mind”
A knockout vocal performance meets a heartfelt message of empowerment. Partially inspired by President Trump’s sexist comments about women, “Heart and Mind” aims to be a soulful salve for those who’ve suffered sexual abuse. The background is a gorgeous swirl of tremolo guitar and astral organ, but it’s Courtney Marie Andrews’ voice — a timeless instrument cut from the same musical cloth as Emmylou Harris and Joni Mitchell’s croons — that leaves the biggest mark. R.C.
Brett Young, “Here Tonight”
After a string of mostly mid-tempo Number Ones, Brett Young picks up the time on “Here Tonight,” the first song off his new album Ticket to L.A. Since releasing his self-titled debut in 2017, the California native has quietly become one of country’s most consistent radio stars — and made the case for being its preeminent singer of love songs. Here, he sells a carpe diem message, promising his lover that “We can just stay here in this minute / lose all track of time.” Being late has never sounded so romantic. J.H.
Drew Beskin, “Pharmacy Girl”
Drenched in layers of reverb and ringing guitars, Drew Beskin’s “Pharmacy Girl” mixes a 1950s pop progression with the lush, lo-fi beauty of a bedroom recording. There are 1980s guitar tones tossed into the mix, too, with everything building toward a song-closing sleigh-bell solo played by co-writer Rick Poss. A proud product of Athens, Georgia, “Pharmacy Girl” was written by two employees of the Georgia Theater and produced by famed Drive-By Truckers collaborator David Barbe. The result is a lovesick, romantically retro tribute to an unnamed female, which doubles as the single for Beskin’s upcoming Nostalgia Porn. R.C.
Rod Melancon, “Westgate”
The lead single from next year’s Pinkville, “Westgate” is equal parts talking blues and bar-band Southern rocker. Melancon glues both halves together with a voice that’s every bit as punchy and pockmarked as the song’s protagonist: a teenage thrill-seeker who falls in love with Lisa during a drug run, quits the high-school football team and winds up in the army. Westgate — a low-income housing complex in the character’s unnamed hometown — figures heavily in each verse, serving as the location of his original rendezvous with Lisa and, later, the setting of his daydreams as he drives a tank through Afghanistan, pining for the one he left behind. R.C.
Dolly Parton and Sia, “Here I Am”
Dolly Parton joins with Sia to reimagine the country icon’s song “Here I Am,” with grand results. An entry on the soundtrack to the upcoming Netflix film Dumplin’ — about a plus-sized teenager who finds comfort in Parton’s music — the song was originally released on Parton’s 1971 album Coat of Many Colors. For the updated version, Parton and Sia fully embrace the bombast, forming their own choir to elevate the song’s message of helping hands and guiding lights to the heavens. J.H.
Devon Gilfillian, “High”
Nashville-by-way-of-Philly R&B singer Devon Gilfillian takes a trip into the more psychedelic side of the genre with his new song “High.” That title can also describe Gilfillian’s vocals, which float and resonate like a religious chant as he sings about the intoxicating power of someone — or something — he can’t put down. Is it a lover? Is it weed? Gilfillian leaves it up to you and your vices to decide. J.H.
Band of Heathens, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”
The Band of Heathens follow up their superb album Duende not with an album of original material, but with an ambitious project that reimagines a 1972 Ray Charles record. It’s not a bad decision. Instead, A Message From the People Revisited is a dynamic listen, featuring the group’s take on the standard “America the Beautiful,” the funky, defiant “Hey Mister” and this John Denver gem, which trades the clip-clop of Charles’ version for an easygoing pickin’ party. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” may always be Denver’s musical roadmap, but the Heathens prove they’re capable of leading the way too. J.H.
Hiss Golden Messenger, “Rock Holy”
Frontman MC Taylor’s North Carolina collective is expert at blending soul with jammy country. (Their set at Forecastle this summer was nothing short of revelatory.) This week, Hiss Golden Messenger showcased that blend with the release of the rarity “Rock Holy,” slated to be included on an upcoming four-LP box set. Come for the funk and harmonies; stay for the all-out brass jam. J.H.
Margo Price, “The Leftovers”
Price’s first release since 2017’s All American Made is a takedown of imitators and the unimaginative, recorded for Amazon Music’s “Produced By” series. “Honey, ain’t it funny, you’re dressing just like me,” she sings during the final verse, staking a claim as Nashville’s stoned Southerner heiress to the cosmic-country throne. Musically, the song looks beyond the influence of her adopted hometown, with melodies that evoke the echoing beauty of old-school California country music rather than the twang of the Bible Belt. R.C. [Listen to the song here.]