A Thousand Horses return with a new Dave Cobb-produced anthem, Tanya Tucker’s daughter Presley proves that talent runs in the family, and Kelleigh Bannen sparkles on a precious ballad in this week’s list of must-hear songs.
Rissi Palmer, “Soul Message”
When Rissi Palmer released her debut single in 2007, she became the first African-American woman in 20 years to chart a country hit. A dozen years later, she’s back with Revival, a potent punch of soul, rootsy R&B, and back-porch country. “Soul Message” slows the tempo to a sexy, Seventies-worthy groove, with Palmer singing about connection and chemistry over light keys and tasteful strings.
Joe Henry, “Bloom”
The first single from next month’s The Gospel According to Water, “Bloom” finds Joe Henry honoring the stripped-down tradition of acoustic folkies like Bob Dylan. His lyrics are the true star here, while the song’s stark music video — consisting of one long, unbroken shot of Henry’s face — demands the listener focus on the words themselves. Smart move.
A Thousand Horses, “Livin’ My Best Life”
With producer Dave Cobb back onboard, A Thousand Horses rev the engines of a new album cycle with this kickoff single. The rest of the still-untitled record is due out sometime in 2020, but “Livin’ My Best Life” — a countrified pop-rocker with big, syncopated guitars and an even bigger chorus — serves as a fine introduction, rounding up the highlights of a weekday visit to the local bar.
Reverie Lane, “Good at It”
Tanya Tucker’s daughter Presley raises a little hell with bandmate Spencer Bartoletti, keeping the family tradition alive between lap steel solos and wordless, “doot doot doot” refrains. The final track from Reverie Lane’s Women and Trains EP, “Good at It” showcases the pair’s voices, which remain closely entwined in harmony throughout.
Del Barber, “Everyday Life”
Over slow percussion and tremolo guitar, Del Barber outlines the day-to-day doings of a small-town grocery store clerk who takes pleasure in his humble calling. “If I had wings, you know I’d never fly; it’s too easy living this everyday life,” he sings, and the effect is equal parts lovely and lonely.
Christine Smith featuring Tommy Stinson, “Happily Never After”
A 20-year veteran of rock & roll’s coolest inner circles, Christine Smith has worked with Marah, Jesse Malin, and Crash Test Dummies as a keyboardist and studio pro. She resumes her solo career with “Happily Never After,” bending the traditions of the Great American Songbook to suit her own blend of off-kilter cabaret and tragic pop. In the background, guest artist Tommy Stinson chimes in on slide guitar, proof that Smith still keeps great company.
Kelleigh Bannen, “Diamonds”
“Diamonds are the way I get stoned,” Kelleigh Bannen sings to her lover, brushing off his temporary offerings — champagne, cocktails, hand-rolled smokes — and demanding something far more permanent. Like Keith Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color,” “Diamonds” is a vintage-sounding ballad with modern muscle, thanks to Bannen’s sharp writing and producer Jaren Johnston’s arrangement.
The Cadillac Three, “All the Makin’s of a Saturday Night”
Jaren Johnston could’ve had an alternate career as an auctioneer. Here, he rattles off a rapid-fire chorus with a voice built for country but capable of wordy hip-hop, listing all the prerequisites — from women to weed — for a killer weekend. He even name-checks some of the band’s contemporaries along the way, including former tourmates like Luke Combs and Dierks Bentley.
Michaela Anne, “Two Fools”
One of the more traditional-sounding highlights from Michaela Anne’s Desert Dove, “Two Fools” explores the intersection between regret, love and longing. There’s enough pedal steel and Patsy Cline allusions to satisfy those looking for something familiar, but the real strength of “Two Fools” is the song’s ability to nod to classic-country archetypes while still exploring something new.
Dan + Shay, “10,000 Hours”
Wedding DJs, listen up; we’ve found the newest addition to your millennial marriage playlists. A breezy, beat-driven track, “10,000 Hours” pairs Justin Bieber with the ACM’s reigning Duo of the Year. The result is a blend of acoustic guitar, harmony, and more heartfelt sentiment than a maid-of-honor speech.