Chase Rice offers up the mellow ballad “Lonely If You Are” and Caroline Jones heads south in “Gulf Coast Girl,” plus new releases from Gwen Sebastian and Jedd Hughes in this week’s list of must-hear songs.
Davina and the Vagabonds, “I Can’t Believe I Let You Go”
Backed by brass, B3 organ and the barroom jazz of a well-tested road band, Davina Sowers creates her own Americana mishmash — a little Amy Winehouse-worthy neo-soul there, a little Great American Songbook-influenced songcraft there — with “I Can’t Believe I Let You Go.” Released on next month’s Sugar Drops, this is bluesy, old-school lounge music with a 21st century twist, led by a frontwoman whose voice and vigor have earned the Vagabonds quite a following overseas.
Gwen Sebastian, “Rock Stars”
For the past decade, Gwen Sebastian has juggled her solo career with a high-profile gig as a sidewoman for Miranda Lambert and other headliners. On “Rock Stars,” she fuels an anthemic, mid-tempo song with PG-13 come-ons and NSFW admissions, singing lines like “I confess I bought this dress just to let you tear it off” with a voice that’s often more powerful and potent than those of her employers.
Caroline Jones, “Gulf Coast Girl”
New England native Caroline Jones is heading south for the summer. Co-written by Jimmy Buffet, this salute to shorelines and summertime is as laid back as an afternoon siesta, with cameos from Jones’ recent tour mate Kenny Chesney, as well as songwriter Mac McAnally, fellow beach bum Lukas Nelson and Mr. Margaritaville himself.
Old Salt Union, “Tell Me So”
A modern string band with old-school roots, Old Salt Union shore up their bluegrass credentials by teaming up with “Rocky Top” legend Bobby Osborne for this track from next month’s Where the Dogs Don’t Bite. Come for the top-shelf instrumental work; stay for the overlapping harmonies in the chorus, which prominently feature Osborne’s call-and-response vocals.
Jedd Hughes, “Animal Eyes”
Written during a period of depression and disillusionment, Jedd Hughes’ “Animal Eyes” sounds appropriately haunting, stocked with swelling strings and minor-key guitar arpeggios. The song was inspired by a conversation with longtime collaborator Rodney Crowell, and has already become a staple of Hughes’ opening sets as he touring alongside another legend, Vince Gill. A full-length album, West, will drop August 30th.
Kassi Ashton, “Field Party”
“Did y’all think I forgot just where I was born and raised?” Kassi Ashton asks, before proving her country cred by throwing down in the middle of a cornfield. The storyline may come straight from the modern-country playbook, but “Field Party” also toasts the musical influence of R&B and pop music, resulting in a song that feels like a response to Luke Bryan’s “Kick the Dust Up.”
Kelleigh Bannen, “Deluxe”
With Cadillac Three frontman Jaren Johnston serving as producer, Kelleigh Bannen revs up her sound with “Deluxe,” a swaggering anthem that fuses Gary Glitter-sized stomp with Carrie Underwood-worthy sass.
Gethen Jenkins, “Basket Case”
“Uncle Sam says I’m insane,” sings Gethen Jenkins, delivering the line with a booming, burly bark that evokes Waylon Jennings. More of a defiant battle cry than brooding confession, “Basket Case” hits all the outlaw-country marks, with Jenkins taking pride in the very things that separate him from normal society.
Chase Rice, “Lonely If You Are”
Driven forward by a cyclical guitar riff and hand-clapped percussion, “Lonely If You Are” finds Chase Rice ready to jump into a relationship. . .if only for one night. It’s a mellow song about quick fixes and long nights, peppered with specifics — including shout-outs to longtime Nashville dive bar Santa’s Pub and dating TV show The Bachelor — that help the ballad stand apart from songs with a similar bent.
Lillie Mae, “You’ve Got Other Girls for That”
Lillie Mae released her solo debut in 2017, diversifying an acclaimed career that already included multiple years as the fiddle player, harmony vocalist and musical right-hand woman of Jack White. Here, on the opening track of her upcoming album Other Girls, she turns a new page, mixing the sweeping sounds of 1960s psych-pop with the cool detachment of a 21st century indie kid. Bittersweet and hauntingly beautiful, “You’ve Got Other Girls For That” details the unbalanced nature of a relationship filled with delusions and desperation.