The mesmerizing voice of Shawn James, the sharp wit of Hayes Carll and the in-charge confidence of Tami Neilson are all on display in our round-up of the best country and Americana tracks of the week.
Meat Puppets, “Warranty”
With drummer Derrick Bostrom back behind the kit after a 22-year absence, Meat Puppets are reunited and revitalized, their problems transformed into backwater under the bridge. “Warranty” is the kickoff single from their newest album, Dusty Notes, and it returns the band to familiar territory — a sound rooted in college-rock jangle, cosmic alt-country and campfire singalongs.
Reba McEntire, “Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain”
One country legend salutes another on this Brandy Clark co-write, whose lyrics namecheck songs like “Crying in the Rain” and “Stand By Your Man.” Reba McEntire sings “Tammy Wynette Kind of Pain” as though it’s already become a staple of honky-tonk karaoke nights, ripping into the song’s key change with all the dramatic, sad-eyed gusto of “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.”
Hayes Carll, “Times Like These”
Hayes Carll keeps the dancehall moving with “Times Like These,” a Texas two-stepper whose upbeat arrangement can’t quite disguise the song’s dark, desperate lyrics. “I’m a’losing my mind in times like these,” he admits in his half-sung, half-slurred voice, while a fiddle saws in the background.
Maren Morris featuring Brothers Osborne, “All My Favorite People”
On an album filled with R&B highlights and modern pop gems, “All My Favorite People” reminds listeners of Maren Morris’ country background. She trades verses with TJ Osborne, who just might be modern country’s finest baritone, before yielding the stage altogether to brother John, whose electric guitar steals the show during the song’s final moments.
Twinnie, “Better When I’m Drunk”
U.K. artist Twinnie measures the distance between a fun-filled, liquored-up evening and the all-too-sober morning that follows. With a bright, bouncing arrangement that’s more rooted in the slaphappy swagger of a bender than the slow-moving melancholia of a hangover, “Better When I’m Drunk” celebrates the bad decisions that accompany a night of heavy drinking.
Bailey Bryan, “Perspective”
Bailey Bryan’s got a new crush and a fresh outlook on life. “[I’m] seeing my reflection from a better point of view,” she sings over hip-hop drums and sparse keyboards. Is she singing to her beau? Her audience? Herself? “Perspective” doesn’t offer any real answers, doubling down instead on pop hooks and a percussive pulse.
Shawn James, “Orpheus”
Greek icons meet Southern soul on Shawn James’ newest track, whose blue notes, bass grooves and brass tell the ancient story of Orpheus’ attempt to restore his wife’s life. A folksinger who played sad songs on the lyre, Orpheus’ own music wouldn’t have sounded anything like this loud, lushly-produced banger. Still, it’s fun to hear Shawn James rewrite mythology.
Justin Moore, “Jesus and Jack Daniels”
This sneak preview from Justin Moore’s Late Nights and Longnecks mixes dyed-in-the-denim traditionalism with just enough modern-day sheen. The storyline may sound familiar — there’s a devout mother, a drunk husband and a son who grows up to mirror his parents’ hobbies, pounding a beer one minute and a Bible the next — but “Jesus and Jack Daniels” places most of its focus on the warm rumble of Moore’s voice, which sounds as smooth as the titular whiskey.
Vandoliers, “Sixteen Years”
Filled with mariachi horns, distorted guitars and the barroom bray of frontman Joshua Fleming, “Sixteen Years” plants its rebel flag somewhere between Red Dirt country and punky, ragged roots-rock. It’s an anthem of dedication and driven determination, sung by a lifer who refuses to hang up his Telecaster. “I’m gonna make it if it takes another sixteen years,” he sings defiantly, right before the horn section blasts its approval.
Tami Neilson, “Big Boss Mama”
Once you step into Tami Neilson’s office, you better be ready to follow the CEO’s orders. “I’m calling all the shots!” she announces, delivering each word with the super-sized soul and swaggering sass of Sharon Jones. Shot through with bright, biting bursts of rockabilly guitar, “Big Boss Mama” is everything its title promises — a larger-than-life celebration of the women who run the world.