The long-overdue return of Love and Theft, a twangy slice of Possum country from Whiskey Wolves of the West and Sheryl Crow’s stunning duet with Johnny Cash make up the tracks you must hear this week.
Whiskey Wolves of the West, “Just One of Those Things”
A country weeper filled with pedal steel and delayed vocals, “Just One of Those Things” finds the Nashville-based act of Leroy Powell and Tim Jones getting cinematic and sentimental. Bassist Dean Tomasek co-wrote the song with Powell, who sings in a dramatic croon that echoes old-school icons like George Jones.
The Hot Sardines, “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home (Live)”
A 100-year-old jazz standard gets reborn in this live performance by the Hot Sardines. Their version is hushed and intimate, driven forward by piano, some muted blasts of trumpet and the cabaret-queen vocals of Elizabeth Bougerol. Featuring recordings from two different concerts, the song’s accompanying album, Welcome Home, Bon Voyage, was released April 19th.
Desure, “Los Angeles”
Midland’s former tour manager nabs his own share of the spotlight with “Los Angeles,” a song that finds the Americana songwriter bidding goodbye to the City of Angels — and all the late-night vices that come with it. “Los Angeles, you’re killing me; Lord, I can’t live on two hours sleep,” he sings, before his voice evolves into a scream of frustration during the song’s final minute. Wails of pedal steel join him, as though they’re looking to console his exasperation.
Jamie McDell, “Extraordinary Girl”
Recorded in three takes, the title track from Jamie McDell’s upcoming album spins a sad, all-too-common story about abuse. Ringing guitar chords are backed by atmospheric layers of keyboards, but the true stunner is McDell’s unforced voice, which has already led the Americana artist to gold certifications and award nominations in her native New Zealand.
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Love and Theft, “Gimme Tonight”
Bandmates Stephen Barker Liles and Eric Gunderson give their duo a modern makeover with this Jaren Johnston co-write. The group’s ever-present harmonies remain on full display, but they’ve been joined by pop grooves and R&B arrangements, creating a sound that’s more Maroon 5 than Merle Haggard. (And that’s not a bad thing.)
Los Coast, “The Morning Weight”
Austin’s best-kept secret goes national with this year’s Samsara, a debut album filled with psychedelic, pop-heavy soul. “The Morning Weight” nods to the funky 1970s, mixing the gospel-influenced vocals of frontman Trey Privott with steady grooves, fat keyboard and clouds of reverb. The result is a modern single that nods to the past.
Sheryl Crow With Johnny Cash, “Redemption Day”
A remake of her own ballad from 1996, Sheryl Crow’s updated “Redemption Day” features contributions from the late Johnny Cash, who recorded his own version of Crow’s original back in 2003. Together, they sing about the weight of the modern world while an upright piano rings in the background.
The Cadillac Three, “Crackin’ Cold Ones With the Boys”
Jaren Johnston and his long-haired country-rockers get their buzz on, stomping out this tribute to boozy camaraderie. Come for the Gary Glitter drumbeat by TC3’s Neil Mason; stay for the radio-ready chorus, which encourages everyone within stumbling distance to raise a drink in solidarity.
Mavis Staples, “Anytime”
As her 80th birthday looms on the horizon, Mavis Staples gets funky with this soulful slab of Stax-worthy R&B. There’s groove, grit and plenty of sharply strummed electric-guitar licks, all wrapped around a voice that’s deepened with age and strengthened with experience.
Kyle Daniel, “A Friend With Weed”
“A friend with weed is a friend, indeed,” Kyle Daniel sings on this dance-hall-worthy throwback, which preaches the benefits of cannabis-friendly companionship. Packed with Daniel’s muscular guitar leads and booming baritone, “A Friend With Weed” swaggers with the buzzed bravado of a classic outlaw-country song.