Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, “Devil Got My Woman”
With help from producer Dan Auerbach, the owner of Mississippi’s oldest juke joint gives a nod to Skip James by reimagining the title track from the bluesman’s 1968 release. The result is a loose, thumping slice of Bentonia blues, performed with greasy grit and minor-key menace by one of the genre’s unsung heroes.
Ariel Posen, “Familiar Ground”
A modern-day guitar hero, Ariel Posen balances his membership in the Bros. Landreth — whose newest release, ’87, features not only his fretwork, but his songwriting, as well — with an acclaimed solo career. Here, he sets up shop in the same Canadian recording studio that birthed his debut album, How Long, to perform live for a seated audience. Boosted by thick harmonies and expert guitar runs, Posen and company keep things cooking at a slow, swaggering simmer, never letting the pot boil over.
Ron Pope, “Wait and See”
Ron Pope ponders his future while recounting the darker twists and turns of his past, from days lost in a haze of aimless wandering to nights spent drinking “tequila so cheap that they should’ve paid me.” Released on next year’s Bone Structure, “Wait and See” is a sad, slow ballad rendered beautiful by Pope’s vocals, whose vibrato is punctuated with a bruised, believable rasp.
The Lone Bellow, “Count on Me”
Powerhouse vocalists Zach Williams, Kanene Donehey Pipkin, and Brian Elmquist are back with Half Moon Light, an album of soulful standouts boosted by the group’s three-part harmonies. “Count on Me,” the album’s first single, finds the trio literally singing the praises of camaraderie, promising to lift one another during moments that threaten to bring us to our knees.
Honey County featuring Spencer Crandall, “Under Your Influence”
This cross-country duet between L.A.’s Honey County and Nashville’s Spencer Crandall chronicles the chemistry between two hot-blooded partners who are looking to share more than a mutual wine buzz. Come for the rich, four-part harmonies; stay for the dreamy guitar tones, which help whip up an appropriately atmospheric soundtrack for gettin’ busy.
Jamie McDell with Robert Ellis, “Worst Crime”
While minor chords ring and drums shuffle in the background, Jamie McDell rattles off a laundry list of sins. “Breaking your heart might have been the worst crime,” she confesses to her victim, whose testimony is then heard in the second verse. A sad duet between two estranged lovers, “Worst Crime” is one of multiple highlights from McDell’s newly-released Botox EP.
Lauren Alaina, “The Other Side”
Lauren Alaina honors her late stepfather with an uplifting anthem chronicling his final moments. “I’m in God’s glory and I can see his face; it’s amazing,” she sings, delivering the chorus from her relative’s perspective as he slips his earthly bonds and heads skyward. Country and contemporary Christian musician have always been close cousins, but here, they might as well be twins.
Lady Antebellum, “What I’m Leaving For”
A tear-jerking tribute to the relatives who stay at home when bands hit the road, “What I’m Leaving For” pairs Lady Antebellum’s triple-stacked harmonies with a music video full of family footage. Sam Ellis, Laura Veltz, and Micah Premnath wrote the song, but Charles Kelley, Dave Haywood, and Hillary Scott stock it with their own experience as parents, resulting in a heartwarming, Hallmark-worthy ballad that suits the group’s approach.
Mumford & Sons, “Blind Leading the Blind”
“My generation’s stuck in the mirror,” Marcus Mumford sings over a breakneck drumbeat, before anthemic guitar chords usher in the song’s Coldplay-worthy chorus. A plea for true human connection in a cynical world, “Blind Leading the Blind” marks the band’s first release since 2018’s Delta.
Anthony D’Amato, “Wrong Shade of Blue”
“I’m the wrong kind of stoned and the wrong shade of blue,” Anthony D’Amato sings over washboard percussion and acoustic guitar. An indie-folk ballad about the lonely, listless tedium of traveling alone, “Wrong Shade of Blue” is both lovely and melancholy, evoking Elliott Smith with its hotel-bedroom intimacy.