The debut solo song by ex-Gloriana singer Rachel Reinert, Jon Pardi’s latest blast of modern country, and another wildly adventurous offering from Amanda Shires make up the 10 must-hear country and Americana songs of the week.
Lucie Silvas, “Everything Looks Beautiful”
Lucie Silvas was once British pop star with Top 10 hits and major-label backing. A dozen years later, she’s an independent, soul-singing powerhouse with a voice that’s deepened and darkened since those days on the U.K. charts. In a sneak preview of her new album E.G.O., “Everything Looks Beautiful” dishes up equal servings of Motown hooks and Rat Pack-worthy swagger, with Silvas’ supersized voice stealing the show at every turn.
Blackberry Smoke, “Run Away From It All”
Recorded live at Zac Brown’s Southern Ground studio, this unplugged version of “Run Away From it All” downsizes Blackberry Smoke’s classic-rock stomp into a campfire-worthy singalong. The band’s harmonies take center stage, while their acoustic guitars — pinch-hitting for the band’s dueling electrics — provide an appropriate setting for a song about getting away from the noise of the modern world. A larger EP for acoustic performances, The Southern Ground Sessions, will appear in October.
Calan Mai, “XO”
Filled with mariachi horns, hand claps and a killer Australian accent, “XO” doesn’t sound like your grandfather’s folk music. Instead, Calan Mai delivers a folk-pop gem that’s far more worldly than most roots-music tracks, borrowing sounds from different cultures and swirling them together. For fans of Conor Oberst’s Americana-influenced material and Bon Iver’s hushed acoustics.
Scotty McCreery, “This Is It”
The teenaged baritone who won American Idol has officially grown up. Written two weeks before he proposed to his now-wife, “This Is It” is a carpe diem power ballad that finds Scotty McCreery pledging unending support to the love of his life. The lyrics are straightforward, and the accompanying music video fills in any gaps, stocked with reels of footage from the McCreerys’ wedding in the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Jon Pardi, “Night Shift”
“It’s been a wreck-me week / Sixty plus from dawn to dusk in the red dirt heat,” Pardi sings, nodding to America’s hard-working, blue-collar night owls who clock in at midnight and head home around breakfast time. The premise sounds worthy of a Bruce Springsteen song, but “Night Shift” doesn’t toss many bones to rock & roll fans. Instead, the song doubles down on Pardi’s country roots, with a singalong chorus that’s performed with a hillbilly howl.
Rachel Reinert, “Cool”
A former member of Gloriana, Rachel Reinert spent a decade sharing harmonies — and the spotlight — with her bandmates. With “Cool,” she leaves the group’s shadow and makes her solo debut, introducing a sound that owes less to the mainstream and more to the California-country hitmakers of the 1970s. There’s plenty of gorgeous reverb, Fleetwood Mac-worthy moments and intersecting electric guitars. Cool, indeed.
Dirty River Boys, “Mesa”
Inspired by the anger and anxiety of the modern age, “Mesa” finds Dirty River Boys ending a four-year absence with this blast of guitar-driven country-rock. “Lock all your doors and turn off the lights, ’cause they’re coming tonight,” goes the song’s haunting chorus, before yielding the spotlight to a Wild West guitar riff that’s equal parts Ennio Morricone soundtrack and Black Keys deep cut.
Judy Collins, “Dreamers”
Nearly half a century after topping the charts with her Vietnam-era cover of “Amazing Grace,” Judy Collins returns with another a cappella standout. She taps into a socially-conscious vein once again, turning “Dreamers” into a protest song for all those seeking asylum within America’s borders. The track’s central character is Maria, a Jalisco native and U.S. immigrant whose daughter faces deportation. The story is moving and all too familiar, but Collins’ performance is the real show-stopper here, thanks to a spotless voice that remains untouched by her 80 years.
Amanda Shires, “Parking Lot Pirouette”
Perhaps the most atmospheric song of Shires’ career, “Parking Lot Pirouette” moves between hushed, quivering voices and full-throated choruses. There’s plenty of noisy guitar haze, cocktail lounge keyboards and swung percussion tossed into the mix, too. The result is a nostalgic song for late nights and early mornings, with Dave Cobb sitting behind the soundboard and husband Jason Isbell playing in the studio band.
Chris Lane, “Drunk People”
A modern song about a modern problem, “Drunk People” examines the unlucky alliance between inebriation, cell phones and regrettable hook-ups. “Drunk people do dumb things / They pick it up when the phone rings / Saying things that they don’t mean / Like ‘I want you back,'” goes the chorus, set to a paradoxically sunny soundtrack of guitars, banjos and thumping percussion. Written by Zach Abend, Michael Hardy and James McNair, it’s the highlight of Lane’s summertime release, Laps Around the Sun.