Lauren Alaina tugs at the heartstrings, John Calvin Abney bids farewell to his father, and Jason James gets bombastic in this week’s list of must-hear country and Americana tunes.
Jillian Cardarelli, “I Never Do This”
Produced by behind-the-scenes powerhouse Alex Kline, “I Never Do This” finds Jillian Cardarelli getting her groove back over Shania-sized rhythms and banjo hooks. It’s a song about dressing up and getting down, rooted in the same supersized stomp as your favorite hit-the-town epics from the Nineties.
John Calvin Abney, “Maybe Happy”
Written during a European tour with John Moreland, “Maybe Happy” nods to Elliott Smith with its woozily lush arrangement and classic pop turns. The song’s accompanying album, Safe Passage, was released shortly after the death of Abney’s father, and “Maybe Happy” — the record’s closer — feels like a farewell to a longtime friend, with its nostalgic haze and warm, bittersweet bite.
Maren Morris and Hozier, “The Bones”
Already a Top 40 hit, Maren Morris’ “Bones” gets a souped-up update courtesy of guest duet partner Hozier, another big-voiced songwriter who, like Morris, blurs the borders between genres. The revised “Bones” is a showcase not only for Morris’ writing, but also the way her acrobatic voice pairs well with others — an attribute she’s also been flexing as a member of the Highwomen.
Carly Pearce & Lee Brice, “I Hope You’re Happy Now”
“I don’t know why it’s called a goodbye,” Carly Pearce singing during this song’s first verse, while Lee Brice’s harmonies ring through the background like a distant memory. Co-written by Pearce, Luke Combs, Randy Montana, and Jonathan Singleton, “I Hope You’re Happy Now” finds Brice playing Pearce’s former flame, with both singers delivering verses about what happens when the fire forever goes cold.
Lauren Alaina, “Getting Good”
Lauren Alaina learns to stop pining for the promise of the future and, instead, appreciating the bright reality of the present. Written by Emily Weisband, whose past cuts included Keith Urban’s “Same Heart” and Hilary Scott’s CCM hit “Thy Will,” “Getting Good” tugs at all the right heartstrings, hitting upon everything from a daughter’s relationship with her dad to a wanderlust-haunted woman’s attempt to “learn to grow where I’m planted.”
Jason James, “Move a Little Closer”
Opening with a deep roar of baritone guitar and driven forward by a steady train beat, Jason James’ “Move a Little Closer” nods to the burly, bombastic hits of Waylon Jennings. “I’ve got more bags underneath my eyes than the ones you left with last night,” he sings, playing the part of a jilted lover with a mix of classic Texas twang and piss-and-vinegar urgency.
Aoife O’Donovan, “Nebraska”
Aoife O’Donovan smooths the rough edges of Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” during this folksy cover, singing each line in a voice that’s as fluid and unblemished as Alison Krauss. The song joins “Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” as one of two stunning, stripped-down covers from In the Magic Hour Solo Sessions, an acoustic EP that also includes sparse, unamplified versions of songs from her recent studio album.
Joseph, “Green Eyes”
The vocal chemistry between the three Closner sisters dominates this live-in-the-studio performance, which spotlights not only the women’s harmonic blend, but also the anthemic sweep of their newest release, Good Luck, Kid. Big sister Natalie, who sang the band’s career-launching, Triple A chart-topping single “White Flag,” concentrates on guitar here, allowing twins Allison and Meegan to co-captain this song about navigating a relationship’s next steps.
Tebey, “The Good Ones”
A powerhouse power ballad, “The Good Ones” would’ve aced all its exams at the Lady Antebellum School of Country Hitmaking. Tebey and Marie Mai each sing their own verses before joining forces during the chorus, playing out the nostalgic aftershocks of a breakup from both sides. “Need You Now” just got a new cousin.
Maddie & Tae, “Everywhere I’m Goin'”
Madison Marlow and Taylor Dye co-wrote every song on their new EP, Everywhere I’m Goin‘. The title track finds the pair singing about their ideal man — perhaps a composite of their respective fiancés Jonah Font (who appears in the video for lead song “Bathroom Floor”) and Josh Kerr (who helped co-write the tune) and — like a pair of well-traveled road warriors, likening the beau to Kentucky bourbon, a Kansas breeze, and Parisian sunsets.