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.)
Donovan Woods and Aoife O’Donovan, “Iowa”
Donovan Woods collaborates with Aoife O’Donovan on the new song “Iowa,” the Canadian singer-songwriter’s first new music since the excellent 2020 album Without People. Woods opts for the intimate approach on “Iowa,” keeping instrumentation simple and letting his and O’Donovan’s blending voices do the work as they sing about a place “where the tall grass prairie used to ripple like the ocean in the breeze.” There’s a kind of awe at the openness and beauty of the landscape, but like the best of Woods’ songs, there’s also sadness seeping in from all sides as his narrator wrestles with a life-changing decision.
John Paul White and Rose Cousins, “I Can’t With You”
John Paul White and Rose Cousins team up on the song “I Can’t With You” on behalf of Folk Alliance International and its Covid relief Village Fund. With solemn piano the only accompaniment, the two singers describe a brutally sad farewell. “I’ve told myself so long, if I keep holding on/Every day you slip a little from my grip,” they sing, letting the word “grip” hang there in the air. It’s the sensation of trying to move on when you still can’t let go.
Joy Oladokun, “Sorry Isn’t Good Enough”
Joy Oladokun reminds us that “sorry” isn’t a magic word in this intense rebuke of a lover who’s screwed up one too many times. “Fuck you and your twisted games,” the Nashville-based performer condemns in the chorus. “Now you’ve broken everything.” Unlike past releases like the skeletal “Wish You the Best,” “Sorry Isn’t Good Enough” isn’t sparse and airy in its production, but fleshed out with a pulsing beat, hypnotic keys, and haunting harmonies. It’s the latest track off her upcoming debut album — and the best example yet of Oladokun’s impending pop stardom.
Paul Luc, “Just Sing”
“Some rant, some cry, laugh or pray/a crutch to lean on everyday/I just sing,” Paul Luc sings in this breathless prayer about the support systems that get us through the day. While the lyrics seem like a commentary on our present moment, “Just Sing” was actually written back in 2015. The Pittsburgh songwriter revisited the track this year as a way to benefit NIVA and help clubs in crisis, and the result is rootsy magic. Guitar hero Laur Joamets and bassist Cam Carrus provide the irresistible musical bed, but it’s Luc’s earnest vocal performance that makes the song both so spellbinding and so human.
K.C. Jones, “Beginnings and Ends”
K.C. Jones is a Lafayette, Louisiana, singer-songwriter who is also a member of the Cajun group Feufollet, but on the solo release “Beginnings and Ends” she’s more like Nikki Lane with a dash of Gram Parsons. A breezy country-rocker with twin helpings of twangy leads and fuzzed-out psych guitar, “Beginnings and Ends” brings Jones’ different musical disciplines and interests together into one easily digestible package. Her solo album Queen of the In-Between will be released June 18th.