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 our most recent list.)
Lily Meola had already sung with icons like Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson and was gearing up to launch her own music career when the Hawaii singer-songwriter was dealt a bad hand: Her mom and confidante Nancy died from cancer. As part of her grieving process, Meola finally starts to make sense of it all with this bittersweet yet hopeful ballad. “Daydream” is her reminder to keep moving forward and, as she says, “never quit my daydream.” A must-listen for anyone doubting their own future these days.
Muscadine Bloodline, “Dyin’ for a Livin'”
Country duo Muscadine Bloodline came to rip shit up on their new song “Dyin’ for a Livin’,” a raucous blast of punk honky-tonk that conveys the thrill of being onstage as well as the toll of too many sleepless nights. “I’m a honky-tonkin’ dead man/walking, never quitting/Just a pickin’, grinnin’, dyin’ for a livin’,” they sing, easily skipping between blistering uptempo sections and funky breakdowns. Even accounting for exhaustion, long nights, and boring drives, it sure sounds like a lot of fun.
Rod Gator, “August 29”
Rod Gator’s new song “August 29” feels eerily prophetic. The Louisiana native wrote it about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and timed it to come out on that storm’s anniversary, then of course Hurricane Ida wound up slicing through Louisiana on the same day. Gator’s song, from the album For Louisiana (out September 17th), is fraught with tension that never gets released — shards of blues licks whirl threateningly while the beat marches over everything in its path. Gator recalls the horrors he (and the world) witnessed — bodies floating in water, families stranded on rooftops, forsaken by a country that did not value them. “Left behind, ain’t no fortunate ones,” he snarls in one verse. It’s as much journalism as it is songwriting.
Natalie Hemby, “Radio Silence”
Natalie Hemby’s upcoming album Pins and Needles is off to a more than promising start: “Heroes,” released in June, was a show-stopper and the follow-up “Radio Silence” might be even better. It’s a moody, dramatic number, with a pulsing drum machine setting the pace. Hemby’s vocal is smooth but full of angst as she recounts pushing away someone who just wants to help. “This song is basically about being ghosted by a friend,” she says. “I was the friend.”
Bo Dollis Jr. and the Wild Magnolias, “Indians, Here They Come”
In 1970, Big Chief Bo Dollis & the Wild Magnolias released the single “Handa Wanda,” a party-ready mix of funky New Orleans percussion and Mardi Gras Indian chants. Dollis died in 2015 but his son Bo Jr. has followed in his footsteps as the Wild Magnolias’ new Big Chief. Dollis’ new album My Name Is Bo was produced by fellow NOLA royalty Cyril Neville and expertly blends Crescent City funk and Mardi Gras Indian music. The first release is a hypnotic, percussion-and-vocal rendition of the popular chant “Indians Here They Come,” which the Meters once recorded as the Wild Tchoupitoulas in 1976. It had been chanted in parades well before then, a testament to the resilience of Mardi Gras Indian culture, and to that of New Orleans in general.