The latest release from rising songwriter Bailey Bryan, a new ballad from Toby Keith and the current Number One country song in the U.S. make up this week’s list of must-hear country and Americana tracks.
Dead Lee, “Are We Free”
The Portland-based pairing of singer-songwriter Kara Harris and Blitzen Trapper’s Brian Koch, Dead Lee buries the wreckage of a shipwrecked romance in the new video for “Are We Free.” The folksong itself carries a similar message, framing two lovers’ painful breakup against a backdrop of guitar tremolo and vocal harmonies.
Natalie Royal, “All Is Fair in You & War”
Inspired by America’s recent rash of gun violence and racist rhetoric, this acoustic ballad offers up a timeless solution — love — to a modern problem. Royal’s guitar and unforced vocals drive everything forward, while a mid-song orchestral arrangement adds some lovely color.
William Michael Morgan, “Gone Enough”
“You can change your number, [and] I’d try every number ’til I got to you,” William Michael Morgan sings, unwilling to accept the hard reality of a breakup. Mixing witty wordplay with the anthemic moves of modern country-rock radio, “Gone Enough” is the latest single from Morgan, who’s still putting together the pieces of his follow-up to 2016’s Vinyl.
Dan + Shay, “Speechless”
The current Number One country song in America, “Speechless” is a country ballad fit for the intimacy of a wedding ceremony and the anthemic vibe of an arena show. Dan Smyers and Shay Mooney co-wrote the hit with a pair of outside collaborators, turning this single not only into a validation of their entwined voices, but their writing chops, as well.
Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, “Crave”
Shot at Carter Vintage Guitars in Nashville, the music video for Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen’s “Crave” finds the string band performing inside the shop, flanked by rows of classic instruments. It’s an appropriate setting for the song, which doubles not only as the kickoff single from next month’s If You Can’t Stand the Heat, but also a reminder of the fast-moving fretwork and bluegrass bounce that’s always been the band’s bedrock.
Bailey Bryan, “Songbird”
“Oh Lord, I don’t have the answers; I am just a wanderer trying to find my place,” Bailey Bryan sings, turning “Songbird” into a gentle country single fit for coffeehouses, late-night reflections and early-morning soundtracks. Written with Dennis Matkosky and Michael Hardy, the song hints at the new, nuanced direction of her 2019 EP.
Phil Cook, “The Truth”
Megafaun’s co-founder gets funky and falsetto-heavy, crooning a soundtrack for the politically-divided present like a long-lost Bee Gee brother. “Do you wanna know, or don’t you wanna know?” he sings, while a Seventies-worthy groove bubbles beneath at a low simmer.
Liz Brasher, “Blood of the Lamb”
Memphis hometown heroine mixes the fire-and-brimstone imagery of Southern gospel with the funky fire of 1960s soul. The result is a haunting, dark blast of neo-soul, appropriately recorded at Ardent Studios and released on next year’s Painted Image.
The Dip, “She Gave Me the Keys”
Splitting the difference between classic doo-wop and early Motown, “She Gave Me the Keys” is a nostalgic car song laced with harmonies, horns and mid-century melodies. Frontman Tom Eddy prepares himself for a joyride, having secured the keys to his lady’s Cadillac, while the rest of the seven-piece band — a group cut from the same revivalist cloth as the Dap-Kings — cranks out a retro song worthy of an Eldorado’s FM stereo.
Toby Keith, “Don’t Let the Old Man In”
This warm, weathered country ballad makes an appearance during Clint Eastwood’s The Mule, showing up during the movie’s final moments. It’s a battlecry against Father Time, with Keith singing each line in a textured, deep-seated baritone.