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.
Jake Blount, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”
Jake Blount’s newly released album Spider Tales is an exploration of black folk music that was regularly repurposed and repackaged for white ears while its creators often had their voices erased. A queer and black performer working in Appalachian music, Blount gives an eerie, gender-flipped rendition of Leadbelly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” — famously covered by Nirvana — that’s heavy on mournful fiddle and every bit as unsettling as the original.
Thad Cockrell featuring Brittany Howard, “Higher”
Americana troubadour Thad Cockrell gets into cosmic gospel mode on “Higher,” enlisting the Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard to help him strain toward the sky. Nestled between lush, arresting bits of psychedelia, Cockrell’s urgent tenor makes a promise: “I’m gonna lift you higher, when I’m feeling low.” Cockrell’s new album If In Case You Feel the Same will be released June 26th via ATO Records.
Ashley Ray, “Dirty Work”
The humidity is thick in Ashley Ray’s new song “Dirty Work,” a steamy, sultry, and sneering track off her upcoming album Pauline. The Nashville-by-way-of-Kansas songwriter (she co-wrote Little Big Town’s “The Daughters”) adopts a trailer-park persona in the song’s video, hanging clothes on the line and lighting up smokes. Ray prays to St. Theresa and the Virgin Mary, she sings, but when it comes to life advice, she’s looking to secular art: “Come on now, Mona Lisa, tell me what’s a girl to do.”
Annie Bosko, “Fighter”
California country singer Annie Bosko’s “Fighter” never got the love it deserved back in 2015 — perhaps it was ahead of its time. Bosko revisits the motivational ballad during our current challenging era, dedicating a new performance and video to healthcare workers on the front lines, and raising funds for Direct Relief. It’s both soothing and inspiring, just like Bosko herself, who recently overcame vocal cord surgery, joined Butch Walker on his album American Love Story, and is wrapping up work on her own new LP.
Paisley Fields, “The Other Boys”
Singer-songwriter Paisley Fields, who splits his time between Brooklyn and Nashville, brings a roguish cabaret-style sensibility to “The Other Boys,” from his upcoming album Electric Park Ballroom. “Other boys fit in so naturally/Other boys, just who they oughta be,” he croons, supported by Hammond organ, piano, and a boom-chick backbeat, describing the often-solitary experience of many gay men with a knowing mixture of humor and sadness.
Breland, “Hot Sauce”
Breland broke big earlier in 2020 with “My Truck,” a collision of rural imagery and trap production that was a natural successor to “Old Town Road,” but he leans even closer to the sound of radio country with “Hot Sauce” from his newly released self-titled EP. Mixing an acoustic guitar with crisp hip-hop beats and Breland’s elastic falsetto, he praises a spicy woman who has captured his imagination: “Take the good with the bad/Got a little temper thing, she got it from her dad,” he sings.
Elijah Ocean, “Cleaned Up in Vegas”
Where did classic country go? Elijah Ocean knows. The journeyman honky-tonk singer released his superb new solo album Blue Jeans & Barstools earlier this month, recorded at his home studio in Los Angeles. Revel in the junkie heartbreak of “Cleaned Up in Vegas,” all pedal steel and harrowing imagery, and then watch its music video, which Ocean filmed during quarantine with help from his wife, a borrowed fog machine, and some homemade lights.