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.)
Shonna Tucker, “A Brother’s Love”
This country-soul lullaby from Alabama singer-songwriter-bassist Shonna Tucker is a touching ode to fraternal companionship and the type of trust that turns close friends into family. “I ain’t your mama,” Tucker, a former member of Drive-By Truckers, sings over her gently plucked mandolin, “but I feel like I am.” The song was recorded remotely with Oklahoma singer-songwriter John Calvin Abney, but it plays like a warm dialogue between two close-knit cousins.
Don Bryant, “A World Like That”
“Some people say some of us don’t count/they wanna build a wall so they can shut us out,” sings Memphis soul man Don Bryant in this defiant but mellifluous jam about a fair and equitable world. The 78-year-old calls out those who stoke fear and oppression: “I don’t wanna live in a world like that,” he croons, as the smooth vibes of the Hi Rhythm section swell behind him. Bryant is up for Best Traditional Blues Album for his LP You Make Me Feel at Sunday’s Grammy Awards — a long overdue first nomination.
Southbound 17, “No Vacancy”
Charleston, South Carolina, trio Southbound 17 make a sweet pledge of devotion in “No Vacancy,” a track from an upcoming EP that will be released April 30th. With its stripped-down instrumentation, the tune puts the focus on Katie Bailey’s vocals and the group’s keen sense of melody. “Just forget the second guessing/Let’s count it as a blessing that you ever found your way to me,” Bailey sings. It’s a promise of protection that we all need to hear from time to time.
The Pine Hill Haints, “Back to Alabama”
Long-running Alabama outfit the Pine Hill Haints are back with new music and plans to release an album via Muscle Shoals-based indie Single Lock Records. The project’s first offering is “Back to Alabama,” a punk-folk rave-up laced with accordion that examines the ups and downs of the itinerant musician’s life. “Keep your money close and your friends closer/Play hard every night,” sings frontman Jamie Barrier, dishing out the sage advice along with sizzling electric guitar licks.
Valerie June, “Fallin'”
For her upcoming album The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers, Valerie June wasn’t shy about raiding her own archives. Case in point: “Fallin’,” a quavering dissertation on fading love, is nearly two decades old. It sounds simply urgent here though, as the Tennessee-born songwriter puts her voice high in the mix. Listening to “Fallin'” under headphones, it’s as if June is whispering her most guarded secrets right into your ear. Hypnotic.