Will Hoge’s eviscerating “Gilded Walls,” Colter Wall’s folksy “Plain to See a Plainsman” and Rachel Wammack’s marvelous “Damage” are among the 10 country and Americana tracks you must hear right now.
Jenny Tolman, “Rock & Roll to My Country Soul”
A country-blooded crooner who grew up within Nashville’s city limits, Tolman pines for a boy from the wrong side of the tracks — musically speaking, that is — on this honky-tonk shuffle. It’s a classic opposites-attract situation, with the singer reaching across the aisle to seize her rock-loving beau’s hand. More than a half-dozen guitar gods and country singers receive shout-outs along the way, and “Rock and Roll to My Country Soul” winds up being not only a love song to Tolman’s crush, but a celebration of music in general.
Scott Sharrard, “High Cost of Loving You”
The former music director for Gregg Allman, Scott Sharrard recorded this bluesy stomper in Memphis and Muscle Shoals, rooting “High Cost of Loving You” in Southern history and swaggering soul. He’s also backed by legendary Memphis sideman Hi Rhythm. The result – off Sharrard’s upcoming album Saving Grace – is a blast of brassy grit, full of vocal harmonies and white-hot, Allman Brothers-worthy guitar moves. Gregg would’ve been proud.
Colter Wall, “Plain to See Plainsman”
While producer Dave Cobb strums along on acoustic guitar, Colter Wall delivers this classic-minded cowboy song in a leathery, lived-in baritone. There’s some soft percussion and honking harmonica tossed into the mix, too, but Wall’s voice is the biggest attraction here, sounding less like the croon of a Canadian-born Millennial and more like Roger Miller after a long night of drinking.
Rachel Wammack, “Damage”
Country-soul singer Wammack recasts herself as a bartender on this piano-propelled power ballad, which finds her sifting through the memories (and melancholia) of a life spent slinging drinks to lonely patrons. “Love can do some damage,” she summarizes, accompanying herself on a baby grand along the way. For fans of Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” insights and Carrie Underwood’s glory notes
Jamie Lin Wilson, “The Being Gone”
Years after swapping harmonies with Austin’s leading ladies as a member of the Trishas, Wilson kicks off the promo cycle for her second solo album with “The Being Gone.” It’s a biographical, road-worn country song about weighing the lure of the open road against the comforts of home, and it doesn’t offer any easy answers. “I can’t tell if all this leaving is worth the being gone,” goes the poignant refrain, set against a backdrop of swelling guitars and coed harmonies.
Ian Fisher, “Idle Hands”
Written and recorded overseas by an American-born ex-pat, “Idle Hands” is a slow-moving, soul-streaked pop song about the troubled times that always seem to find the broken-hearted. “I’ve been moving earth to get down to hell, to find some work to do,” sings the song’s desperate narrator, while a piano pulses in the background. When a string section swirls into the picture during the song’s final stretch, the effect is half Americana and half Abbey Road-worthy pop.
Ryan Kinder, “Stay”
Co-written and co-produced by Kinder himself, “Stay” is a showcase not only for the elastic electricity of the singer’s voice, but his fiery fretwork on the Stratocaster as well. A love song that’s as desperate as it is devoted, it builds its way toward a show-stealing guitar solo, nodding to John Mayer one minute and Sam Smith the next. A full-length album is slated to follow the single’s release in early 2019.
Carl Broemel, “Starting From Scratch”
Jim James isn’t the only member of My Morning Jacket with a blooming solo career. On his third solo album, Wished Out, Broemel mixes guitar-god heroics with heady lyrics about science, family and the artistic struggle. He keeps things breezy on this record’s kickoff single, “Starting From Scratch,” layering a spacey, cyclical melody atop a tight R&B groove.
Will Hoge, “Gilded Walls”
“I don’t believe in the devil, but you might make me go and change my mind,” sings a pissed-off Hoge, directing each lyric from this barbed blues-rocker at President Trump. He doesn’t pull any punches, taking jabs at Trump’s Twitter addiction and vast family inheritance while organs, drums, and slide guitars simmer in the background. “I work two jobs to raise a family, while you’re living on everything your daddy left behind,” he adds just before the first chorus. Expect more politically-charged mic-drops this October, when Hoge releases the new LP My American Dream.
Josh King, “Dreamer’s Dream”
“Dreamer’s Dream” grows from an acoustic ballad into a lush, layered tribute to the challenges (and victories) of a life spent on the road, with Josh King mining the influence of soft-spoken tunesmiths like Jackson Browne and Paul Simon. During the song’s final moments, multiple singers join him for a cathartic refrain of “whoa” vocals. The effect is seismic, like a solo songwriter pulling back the stage’s curtains to reveal a full backup band.