A potent new version of a country classic, an unearthed Eighties demo and the indie return of a promising young talent make up the songs you need to hear this week.
Tucker Beathard, “Leave Me Alone”
The son of hit songwriter Casey Beathard keeps the family business alive with “Leave Me Alone,” a mid-tempo plea for peace, quiet and an unbroken heart. He makes a good case for his own independence, too, pulling quadruple duty as the song’s co-writer, co-producer, drummer and guitarist.
Karen Waldrup, “Sometimes He Does”
Written by Lori McKenna, “Sometimes He Does” tells the story of a love that’s far from perfect, yet not quite broken. Waldrup plays the song’s conflicted narrator, caught halfway between utter frustration with her beau’s inattentiveness and hopeless dependence upon his occasional displays of affection. Sometimes love and loneliness aren’t that far apart.
Filmore, “Love That About You”
Tyler Filmore lists a few of his favorite things, from his girlfriend’s impulsivity to her inability to keep track of her aviator sunglasses. There’s a banjo somewhere in the mix, but this is modern pop music at its most polished, rooted in digital grooves, gauzy keyboards and a chorus better suited to the dance floor than the honky tonk.
Dolly Parton, “Jolene” (Strings Only Version)
Forty-five years after the song’s release, “Jolene” receives a cinematic, orchestral update courtesy of this new recording from the Dumplin’ soundtrack. The string arrangement is lovely, but it’s Parton’s voice that seals the deal, filling her “Jolene” makeover with the sort of aching, world-weary beauty you never realized the original recording lacked. Rarely has this song sounded so convincingly desperate.
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Ross Ellis, “Ghosts”
The man behind Tim McGraw’s newly-released “Neon Church” remains haunted by the memory of a woman who left him long ago. “Am I the only one who hears your voice on the wind every now and then?” Ellis sings, before the song’s epic, open-armed chorus comes surging into the picture.
Yola, “Ride Out in the Country”
Backed by Dan Auerbach’s soulful soft-rock production, Yola gets the hell out of dodge, looking to rediscover some sort of mental clarity during a countryside car ride. There’s a dark twist to the song’s music video, which finds the singer pulling over to remove two bodies from her trunk. On its own, though, “Ride Out in the Country” is both pacifying and poignant — a throwback tribute to grooving on a Sunday afternoon.
Danny Burns, “Something to Give”
Since leaving Ireland two decades ago, Danny Burns has built his career on the road, mixing American influences with the traditional folk music of his homeland along the way. This year’s North Country marks his long-awaited debut, stocked with cameos by the likes of Jerry Douglas and Tift Merritt. Dan Tyminski contributes background vocals to “Something to Give,” a song that finds its maker pining for a lucky break.
Kari Arnett, “This American Life”
“Oh, this American dream — it’s not at all what it seems,” Kari Arnett warns, backed by minor-key piano arpeggios, haunting fiddle and four-on-the-floor kickdrum pulses. “This American Life” captures the zeitgeist of the modern age, drawing a line between what was promised in school and what was actually delivered in the real world.
Rachael Kilgour, “Holy Are We”
“If my greatest sin is to love her well, you can send me to hell,” Rachel Kilgour sings, turning this acoustic ballad into a stunning defense of same-sex love. A light string arrangement swoons lovingly in the background, but Kilgour’s unapologetic lyrics are the real treat here, taking an unapologetically personal look at the ways in which ignorant outsiders can mistake something sacred for blasphemy.
Lone Justice, “Working Late”
Taken from Lone Justice’s Record Store Day 2018 release of early-Eighties demos, “Working Late” reiterates just how influential this L.A.-based country band truly was. Maria McKee’s honky-tonk howl sounds like a precursor to Margo Price’s own voice, while the band’s loose, spirited stomp places them within California’s first wave of cowpunk cowboys.