Whether it’s coming out of Nashville, New York, L.A., or points in between, there’s no shortage of fresh tunes, especially from artists who have yet to become household names. Rolling Stone Country selects some of the best new music releases from country and Americana artists. (Check out last week’s best songs.)
Joel Crouse, “On My Way (Acoustic)”
Joel Crouse’s 2020 EP Wasteland found the Nashville songwriter and onetime Taylor Swift tourmate in particularly vulnerable form, singing about intimate personal struggles from rehab to financial ruin. For May’s Mental Health Awareness Month, he rerecorded the standout track “On My Way,” co-written with Ed Sheeran and Kyle Rife, as a solo acoustic number. While not overtly about suicide, the song acknowledges the pits of despair that we can all slide into at times. With this cathartic, sympathetic performance, Crouse is there to pull us out.
Megan Palmer, “Stop for a Minute”
When she’s not performing as a solo artist, or with the experimental duo Slow Force, Nashville-based Megan Palmer is offering a different kind of healing as a palliative care nurse. She writes and sings about all she’s experienced this past year on the upcoming EP Take Good Care, often with help from her healthcare peers. Palmer and frontline worker Anna Marie Henderson collaborate here on “Stop for a Minute,” a beautiful anecdote about the intimate connection between caregiver and patient. Recorded with Nashville all-stars like Raconteurs bassist Jack Lawrence, drummer Megan Coleman, and Jon James Tourville on dreamy pedal-steel, it manages to be both sad and upbeat all at once. “What’s on the other side,” Palmer asks in song, “we never know.”
Hermanos Gutiérrez, “Esperanza”
The Ecuadorian guitar duo of Alejandro and Stephan Gutierrez sum up their music as #instrumentalwesternsound, and never has a hashtag been more on the nose. The brothers create songs that play like travelogues across dusty landscapes and craggy vistas. On their latest release “Esperanza,” they transport cooped-up listeners back to 1950s Latin America with a shuffling rhythm and vibrato guitar notes. “Esperanza” — “hope” in Spanish — arrives with an equally transformative video from illustrator María Medem depicting a lone woman riding her horse through a dream world.
Brock Gonyea, “All Night Long”
Man-out-of-time Brock Gonyea kicks off his debut EP for Big Machine Records with his version of a never-recorded Webb Pierce and Mel Tillis co-write — “All Night Long” is an up-tempo rocker about broken hearts and empty bottles. Featuring the great Paul Franklin on steel guitar, the track finds New York State native Gonyea singing in a legit honky-tonk tenor. There’s hints of Buddy Holly in the song too, but Julian Raymond and Brynn Arens’ modern production keeps things from descending into classic-country parody. The way Gonyea stretches out that title line? Undeniable.
Lowland Hum, “In Your Eyes”
Charlottesville, Virginia, husband-and-wife duo Lowland Hum took on the ambitious task of re-recording Peter Gabriel’s 1986 masterwork So as a stripped-down folk project. Lo and behold, So Low works. Stripped of their Eighties production, radio hits like “Sledgehammer” and “Big Time” become timeless hushed prayers. But it’s “In Your Eyes” that reveals the deepest, most fragile beauty — sung by Lowland’s Lauren Goans, the recording absolutely shimmers. Hold your boombox aloft.