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10 Best Country and Americana Songs of the Week: Caitlyn Smith, Cody Johnson

Smith’s smoldering ‘Starfire’ B-side and Johnson’s reflective new single highlight this week’s list

Cody JohnsonCody Johnson in concert, New York, USA - 10 Aug 2018

Cody Johnson's "On My Way to You" is among the 10 best country and Americana songs of the week.

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Maggie Rose’s buoyant “Hey Blondie,” Travis Meadows’ inspirational “Underdogs” and Logan Brill’s clever “Good Story” are among the 10 country and Americana tracks you must hear right now.

Chase Rice, “Eyes on You”
The country songwriter who professed his faith in “Three Chords and the Truth” takes a joyride here, heading from the beaches of Big Sur to the streets of Paris with an unnamed lover on his arm. Blindsided by her beauty, he winds up missing most of the scenery unfolding in the background. “Don’t matter where we’ve been. … Ain’t no better view than you in my arms with my eyes on you,” he sings, channeling Sam Hunt’s delivery of spoken verses and crooned choruses.

Logan Brill, “Good Story”
“Might wake up lost, might wake up sore / But if you don’t wake up dead then it made a good story,” Logan Brill sings, shining a light on the bruises and blunders that, in hindsight, appear more humorous than hurtful. A tribute to the real-life details of every tall tale, “Good Story” moves at a kinetic pace, driven forward by an acoustic guitar that gives way to the choruses’ anthemic, electrified stomp.

Cody Johnson, “On My Way to You”
Johnson cut his teeth as an independent musician for more than a decade, slowly climbing his way toward the big leagues. He arrives with this year’s Ain’t Nothing to It, a major-label album stocked with Johnson’s own brand of Texas-cowboy country-pop. He looks back on a similar journey with “On My Way to You,” a power ballad that finds him detailing the steps leading to his relationship with his wife.

Heather Morgan, “Your Hurricane”
The chart-topping songwriter behind Brett Eldredge’s “Lose My Mind” and “Beat of the Music,” Morgan makes her solo debut with this October’s Borrowed Heart. “Your Hurricane” is the album’s first single, mixing Morgan’s elastic vocal runs with a melody written during a spontaneous trip to Joshua Tree after the 2016 ACM Awards. For someone who’s spent the bulk of her career behind the scenes, Morgan wears her future-star threads well.

Austin Jenckes, “Home for the Summer”
Jenckes named his recent West Coast tour after this single, whose summery stomp and open-armed choruses channel the uplift of a homecoming trip. “Soon as I drive by that welcome sign, I don’t need no map,” he sings during the first verse, as he cruises into town in a swirl of nostalgia. By the song’s end, he’s retraced his steps from adolescence to adulthood, looking to heartland rockers like Bryan Adams for musical cues along the way.

Caitlyn Smith, “If I Didn’t Love You”
Released on the deluxe vinyl edition of her debut album Starfire, “If I Didn’t Love You” is a torch-song showcase for Caitlyn Smith’s voice. She’s a show-stopping singer, capable of a bluesy belt one minute — just listen to the song’s final moments, where she repeats the song’s title to electrifying effect — and a hushed croon the next.

Justin Hiltner and Jon Weisberger, “I’m Not in Love With You”
An openly gay musician in the relatively straight-laced world of bluegrass, Justin Hiltner wrote “I’m Not in Love With You” after falling for a straight man. The result — from Watch It Burn, Hiltner’s collaborative album with songwriter Jon Weisberger — is a song that dresses up its traditional twang in contemporary clothing, building a bridge between the genre’s buttoned-up past and a looser, unscripted future. IBMA winner Molly Tuttle makes a cameo on acoustic guitar, beefing up a band that also includes Della Mae’s Kimber Ludiker on twin fiddle.

Travis Meadows, “Underdogs”
“Underdogs” is a roots-rock anthem for dark horses and long shots, delivered by the songwriter behind Kenny Chesney’s new single “Better Boat,” Dierks Bentley’s “Riser” and Eric Church’s “Knives of New Orleans.” Travis Meadows rasps the song’s melodies in a voice pockmarked by years of hard living, and the effect is electrifying, like a bloodied boxer climbing to his feet for another chance at the title.

Maggie Rose, “Hey Blondie”
Inspired by the pissed-off pizazz of Blondie’s Debbie Harry, “Hey Blondie” was recorded live in Nashville’s Starstruck Studios with members of Steven Tyler’s solo band. The result is a funky battle cry of empowerment that finds Maggie Rose turning the color of her hair into an armor-tough nickname. Stocked with call-and-response vocals, slide guitar, gospel organ and R&B grit, “Hey Blondie” isn’t just a fine song — it’s a stellar performance, too.

Michigan Rattlers, “Didn’t You Know”
With last year’s Wasting the Meaning, Michigan Rattlers tipped their hat to those who came before them, covering songs by artists like Haim along the way. They return to their own sound with this year’s Evergreen, a debut album rooted in alt-country sway and trad-rock swagger. “Didn’t You Know” is the record’s breezy single, built around a chorus that’s as rural and lovely as their north Michigan origins.

In This Article: Caitlyn Smith, Cody Johnson

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