Pistol Annies, “Got My Name Changed Back”
Miranda Lambert celebrates her independence with this countrified kiss-off. “It takes a judge to get married, it takes a judge to get divorced / Well, the last couple years I spent a lot of time in court,” she sings, balancing the Pistol Annies’ honky-tonk humor with a sly nod to her own marital changes. “Got My Name Changed Back” takes an unexpectedly jazzy turn during the song’s final 30 seconds, where Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe join Lambert in piling their voices into Andrews Sisters-worthy harmonies.
Stephanie Urbina Jones, “Rose Garden”
Updating a handful of country classics with a Mariachi twist, Stephanie Urbina Jones builds a bridge between the Bible Belt and the tropics with her new covers album, Tularosa. Here, she replaces the orchestral sweep of Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden” with galloping percussion and bright blasts of brass. It’s a stunning makeover, breathing new life into one of the most heavily covered songs in the country catalog.
Donovan Woods, “Next Year”
The co-writer behind Tim McGraw’s “Portland, Maine” and Charles Kelley’s “Leaving Nashville” seizes the day on this moving, soft-spoken single. “You can’t beg, steal, borrow or make time,” he insists, urging his audience not to put off ’til tomorrow the things that can be done today. “Next Year” packs its biggest emotional punch during the final verse, where Woods ditches work and, instead, takes his dying father on an impromptu trip to see the Grand Canyon.
Sister Sadie, “Losing You Blues”
These bluegrass chart-toppers are finished with heartbreak, ready to embrace a future filled with brighter horizons and more fulfilling relationships. Banjo, mandolin, fiddle and acoustic guitars dance circles around one another on “Losing You Blues,” a song that showcases not only Sister Sadie’s layered harmony singing, but their strength as top-shelf instrumentalists.
Brothers Osborne, “I Don’t Remember Me (Before You)”
TJ Osborne takes a look back, trying to recall the time spent before his lover’s arrival. “I’ve heard stories about the boy I used to be, but I don’t remember me,” he sings in a backwoods baritone, while brother John chimes in with light layers of power-ballad guitar. The song’s missing piece falls into place during the final chorus, where TJ amends his refrain to read, “I don’t remember me … before you.”
Lucie Silvas, “Kite”
You can’t hold a good woman down. The lead single and kickoff track from Silvas’ upcoming E.G.O. is a swaggering anthem of empowerment, aimed at any naysaying men who are looking to limit their ladies’ horizons. Silvas’ vocal power and retro-minded influences — Motown, gospel and smoky soul — align her with show-stopping singers like Adele, but “Kite” happily flies into its own territory, positioning its writer as one of the strongest (and most original) voices in modern country.
Kelsea Ballerini, “Miss Me More”
Ah, freedom. Ballerini revels in the pleasures of the single life with “Miss Me More,” one of the most pop-forward songs of her career. With its dance-floor beat, R&B production and EDM-inspired arrangement, “Miss Me More” points its singer down the same lane Taylor Swift traveled with 1989, the album that led her away far from the country camp and straight into pop territory.
Adam Hambrick, “Rockin’ All Night Long”
Last summer, two of Adam Hambrick’s songs — “How Not To,” as performed by Dan + Shay, and “Somebody Else Will,” as covered by Justin Moore — both topped the country charts. The songwriter is shifting focus to his own solo career this year, kicking things off with the breezy bounce of this nostalgic ballad. Like countless country hits before it, “Rockin’ All Night Long” takes a look backward, glorifying the night-owl highlights of a youth spent awake during the early-a.m. hours.
Josh Turner, “I Serve a Savior”
Turner gets righteous and reverent on the title track for his new gospel album, which bypasses the Saturday-evening revelry of most modern-day country hits in favor of Sunday-morning solemnity. His deep-seated baritone is perfect for the song, whose hymn-like lyrics are balanced by pedal steel guitar, upright piano and gentle harmonies.
The Young Fables, “Crazy”
Stripping Willie Nelson’s country classic to its bare-boned foundations, the Young Fables’ interpretation of “Crazy” is simple and heartbreakingly direct. Laurel Wright’s voice and Wesley Lunsford’s Chet Atkins-worthy guitar playing are the only instruments, resulting in a poignant performance that’s as lonely as the song’s lyrics. Patsy Cline’s version stands as the song’s definitive recording, but “Crazy” has rarely sounded sadder than it does here.