Cody Jinks repurposes his 2008 song “Think Like You Think” for a new album, Katie Pruitt captures the feeling of youth in her hook-filled “Expectations,” and Luke Combs cuts loose with Brooks & Dunn on “1, 2 Many” in this week’s list of the best country and Americana songs.
Cody Jinks, “Think Like You Think”
From the baritone guitar riffs to the deep-seated vocals, “Think Like You Think” rides low in the saddle, mixing the smooth rumble of Randy Travis’ Eighties classics with a raw, honest performance that does justice to Cody Jinks’ outlaw roots. [Longtime fans will recognize the song, which Jinks co-wrote with David Banning and released on 2008’s Collectors Item, during his beardless days. This is a re-recording.]
Jason Aldean, “I Don’t Drink Anymore”
A minor-key drinking song that doubles as a breakup ballad, “I Don’t Drink Anymore” finds Aldean in a traditional mood, raising a toast to the one who got away — or, more accurately, was pushed by his boozy habits — over pedal steel guitar, moody melodies and a clever chorus.
Jonathan Wilson, “So Alive”
Every decade has its own kings of California cool, and Jonathan Wilson — the Laurel Canyon-based solo artist, multi-instrumentalist and producer of landmark albums by Dawes and Father John Misty — looks good on the throne. Here, he channels the cowboy spirit of the Wild West, creating a rootsy epic about the rigors of the road and the thrill of pushing forward.
Katie Pruitt, “Expectations”
Even without the cinematic video, whose high-school setting and first-day-of-summer premise nods to movies like “Dazed and the Confused” and “The Breakfast Club,” there’s something wonderfully nostalgic about Katie Pruitt’s “Expectations.” The chorus-pedaled guitar tone wouldn’t be out of place on a Tears for Fears album, while the arrangement — full of pop hooks, layered harmonies and reverb-heavy riffs — rustles up the timeless, infinite feeling of being young and limitless.
Man of the Minch, “Undertow”
Man of the Minch’s forward-thinking folk music hits a high-water mark with “Undertow,” whose mix of furiously strummed acoustic guitar, Celtic overtones and pop sheen channels Mumford & Sons. RIYL: Glen Hansard, the Decemberists, Ben Howard.
North Mississippi Allstars with Jason Isbell, Duane Betts, “Mean Old World”
Previously cut by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman, North Mississippi Allstars’ revised “Mean Old World” features guest vocals from Jason Isbell and Duane Betts, who also trades solos with Luther Dickinson on Ed King’s iconic ’59 Gibson Les Paul guitar. The guys keep things greasy and bluesy until the outro, where Betts’ two-and-a-half minute solo pushes the band into a tight, Allman Brothers-worthy groove.
Smooth Hound Smith, “Truck Stop Shower”
Hard-touring independents who’ve been known to sleep in their own van, bandmates Zack and Caitlin Smith sing the praises of their favorite road-dog ritual with “Truck Stop Shower.” Caitlin’s harmonies sound like they’re echoing between one shampoo-splashed tile walls, and the song itself packs a dreamy, woozy punch without taking itself too seriously.
Luke Combs with Brooks & Dunn, “1, 2 Many”
“I ain’t the kind to let a buddy drink alone, but I can’t turn it off once I turn it on,” Luke Combs warns during the first verse of this punch-drunk barroom anthem. Brooks & Dunn thicken up the chorus with their familiar harmonies, and the whole thing revolves around a clever countdown — “5, 4, 3, 2, one too many” — that’s such an earworm, even the tipsiest barfly will remember it.
Mark Erelli, “Her Town Now”
Last week, Mark Erelli attended the Americana Music Awards, where his protest song “By Degrees” — featuring vocals from Rosanne Cash, Sheryl Crow and others — was nominated for Song of the Year. “Her Town Now” finds him trimming back the guest list and nodding to another icon, heartland hero Tom Petty, whose influence looms large over the song’s 12-string guitar jangle and straightforward vocal hooks.
Miss Tess, “True Flood”
A duet with former roommate (and Lake Street Dive frontwoman) Rachael Price, Miss Tess’ “True Flood” swings and swaggers, rooted in a retro groove that’s equal parts blues, mid-century rock & roll and Booker T-worthy R&B.