Ned LeDoux celebrates the old ways of livin’, Joel Crouse returns with an Ed Sheeran co-write, and Kelsea Ballerini just wants to stay home in this week’s list of the best country songs to stream now.
Levi Hummon & Runaway June, “Cowboy Take Me Away”
A Dixie Chicks staple is reborn. When “Cowboy Take Me Away” hit the radio airwaves in November 1999, the song represented a woman’s yearning for a storybook romance. Two decades later, it unfolds like a conversation between two lovers, with Levi Hummon’s first verse adding a male perspective. For those who may deem that sort of integration sacrilegious, consider this: Levi is the son of Marcus Hummon, who co-wrote the track with Dixie Chick Martie Maguire.
Nicholas Jamerson, “Perspective”
Sundy Best called it quits last year, but the duo’s singer Nicholas Jamerson hasn’t missed a beat, releasing two solo records that highlight his evolving mix of country-funk and Bluegrass State-influenced roots music. He keeps things greasy with “Perspective,” a soulful standout fit for the 1970s.
Luke Combs featuring Eric Church, “Does to Me”
Luke Combs’ run of Number Ones has turned him into country music’s newest arena-filler, but he certainly doesn’t dress the part, proudly playing some of America’s biggest stages in his old baseball caps and fishing shirts. He delivers a tribute to Average Joe humility on this collaboration with his chief inspiration Eric Church, who takes a turn at the mic during the final stretch.
Larry Fleet, “Lied About Love”
File this country-soul home run beside songs by Chris Stapleton, Zac Brown Band, and Kendell Marvel. Bound together by a cyclical guitar riff and elastic vocals, “Lied About Love” shows the full range of Larry Fleet’s baritone, which earned him an early champion in Jake Owen and gigs with Willie Nelson.
Joel Crouse, “On My Way”
Years after appearing as the opening act on Taylor Swift’s Red Tour, Joel Crouse is rubbing shoulders with another crossover superstar, teaming up with Ed Sheeran to write this stirring track about mental breakdowns and the friends who are there to pick up the pieces. Sheeran, who also collaborated with Crouse on a track from Hootie & the Blowfish’s Imperfect Circle, makes a cameo during the chorus.
John Henry, “American Pain”
A garage-rock stomper, “American Pain” funnels frustration and political discontent into three and a half pissed-off moments. John Henry sings with the chewed-glass rasp of Tom Waits, sounding as fed-up as a newspaper hawker who’s barked himself hoarse with recounts of the day’s bad news. Behind him, the band kicks up plenty of amplified dust with an arrangement that nods to Jack White one minute and Gary Glitter the next.
Kelsea Ballerini, “Club”
Don’t let the synthesizers and drum-sampled dance beats fool you; Kelsea Ballerini isn’t bound for any nightspot. “I don’t wanna go to the club,” she sings, turning this modern pop gem into a defiant anthem for empowered, self-made women who just want to stay home. Consider it a dance song for wallflowers.
Ned LeDoux, “Old Fashioned”
The leadoff track from Ned LeDoux’s new album Next in Line is a down-the-middle country-rocker about traditionalism and dyed-in-the-wool cowboy conservatism. “The old ways suit me fine,” he declares in a tone that’s half-spoken and half-sung, while his band plays a tight, simple progression better suited to a roadhouse than a dancehall.
Kathleen Edwards, “It’s Christmastime (Let’s Just Survive)”
Alt-country’s great Canadian hope returns after a long break from the spotlight, having quit music in 2014 to open a coffeeshop outside of Ottawa. She breaks her retirement with this tongue-in-cheek ode to holiday hell, sung in the same half-listless, fully lovely drawl that evoked the North American heartland on her earlier releases. Edwards still knows her way around an achingly beautiful, lonely song — just listen to the track’s pedal-steeled haze — but “It’s Christmastime (Let’s Just Survive)” makes more room for the humorous than the heartfelt. “I get that you’re loving the new John Mayer, but I don’t even have a CD player,” she sings, reminding us all of the family-reunion awkwardness that awaits in late December.
Zac Clark w/ Andrew McMahon, “Mountains”
For the past seven years, Zac Clark has balanced his career as a piano-pounding songwriter with a high-profile sideman slot in Andrew McMahon’s band. With this stripped-down revision of “Mountains,” he bids goodbye to the McMahon gig and rededicates himself to the solo artist’s struggle, channeling Jackson Browne’s mix of classic pop progressions and simple, stirring melodies along the way. “I move mountains with you,” Clark sings, his voice flanked by McMahon’s harmonies and Joe Pisapia’s acoustic guitar.