Morgan Wallen performs a reverent cover of Jason Isbell’s “Cover Me Up,” Lucette goes for retro Wall-of-Sound glory with “Angel” and Little Big Town make a powerful plea on behalf of women in “The Daughters” in this week’s group of must-hear songs.
Justin Klump, “The Other Side”
“I’ll keep holding onto you, darling,” Justin Klump sings during “The Other Side,” a gentle folk-pop song inspired by a friend’s bravery in the face of an upcoming operation. Written on the piano and laced with light instrumental touches, the song is driven forward by a steady percussive pulse, as though it’s meant to evoke the heartbeat of a patient who refuses to give up.
Brooks & Dunn with Kacey Musgraves, “Neon Moon”
Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon” rises once again, thanks to a progressive update that finds Kacey Musgraves behind the wheel, steering the 1991 original into poppy, beat-driven territory. The B&D bandmates themselves take a backseat role, largely serving as Musgraves’ backup singers during the chorus. A lonesome-sounding pedal steel helps link this Reboot track to its early-Nineties original, but Musgraves’ “Neon Moon” glows with its own singular light.
Anthony D’Amato, “Passing Through”
Accompanied by a wintry, wistful video shot during Anthony D’Amato’s European tour last fall, “Passing Through” is equal parts lonely road song and lovely folk-pop ballad. A layer of echoed, shoegazing reverb fills the background, humming like the amplified sound of the road itself.
Morgan Wallen, “Cover Me Up“
Morgan Wallen reverently covers Jason Isbell’s show-stopping salute to sobriety and marital support. He adds some tasteful acrobatics to the chorus, but the bulk of “Cover Me Up” stays true to the 2013 original, proof that Wallen — who will hit the road with Luke Combs in the fall — is just as influenced by Americana music as chart-topping country-pop.
Little Big Town, “The Daughters”
“Girl, watch your mouth and watch your weight,” sings Karen Fairchild, referencing the demands thrust upon young females in modern America. Co-written with Sean McConnell and Ashley Ray, “Daughters” is an inequality anthem that tugs at the heartstrings, challenges the gender imbalance so prevalent in country music and — in Little Big Town’s boldest move since “Girl Crush” — dares radio DJs to leave it off their playlists.
Tony Jackson, “Country Road”
Fiddle, harmonica and pedal steel guitar fill this less-known James Taylor salute to the rolling ribbons of backwoods blacktop, but it’s Tony Jackson’s voice — which could easily pass for Taylor’s classic croon — that packs the biggest punch.
Clare Dunn, “My Love”
Already celebrated as a lead guitarist, Clare Dunn puts down the Telecaster and emphasizes her vocal chops with this supersized country-pop anthem. She co-wrote “My Love” with Eric Paslay and Jesse Frasure, pulling double-duty as the song’s co-producer. It’s already become a crowd favorite, too, with Dunn performing it on the Grand Ole Opry last week and during her current CMT Next Women of Country Tour with Cassadee Pope and Hannah Ellis.
Frankie Lee, “Downtown Lights”
The lead single from Frankie Lee’s Stillwater is an ode to actress Jessica Lange, who lived in the titular town during Lee’s youth. With an introductory guitar riff that nods to Neil Young’s “Unknown Legend” and an achingly beautiful chorus, “Downtown Lights” pines for the town’s purer days, before capitalism, condos and the proliferation of tourist shops choked Stillwater of its rough-edged charm.
Rooted in the retro reverb and swooning strings of old-school Phil Spector recordings, Lucette’s new single finds the Canadian songwriter nodding to Americana while proudly crafting her own sound. Assisting her in that process is producer Sturgill Simpson, who adds nostalgic touches to the mix. Example: the track’s blazing saxophone solo, which is easily this year’s most satisfying blast of brass.
Laura Jean Anderson, “On My Mind”
This acoustic road song was written during a drive from Arizona to Los Angeles, with Laura Jean Anderson strumming her unplugged electric guitar during gas station stops. Recorded to tape in a live take, “On My Mind” shimmers with gospel-worthy background harmonies and a warm, wistful vocal from Anderson, whose vibrato recalls the folk icons of the 1970s.