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.
Matthew McNeal, “All for Nothing”
“Sometimes it feels like I’m wasting my time, losing my mind, all for nothin’,” sings Texas songwriter Matthew McNeal in “All for Nothing,” mixing his cool, relaxed delivery with the swirling indie-rock atmospherics of the War on Drugs. The song, from McNeal’s 2020 album Good Grief, explores a relationship on the verge of collapse and shifts quickly into tense, almost post-punk choruses that underscore his existential fears. The new video, directed by Dustin McLaughlin, is out now.
India Ramey, “King of the Ashes”
Nashville singer-songwriter India Ramey conjures up the apocalyptic dread of the Trump era in “King of the Ashes,” from her upcoming album Shallow Graves. Over ominous minor chords and rumbling baritone guitar, Ramey describes a serpent-tongued wolf in sheep’s clothing who “preys on the fearful and the weak.” But instead of hopelessness, she’s calling for action, to speak up and rise up: “‘Cause hate is gasoline and silence is the matches.”
Zac Brown Band, “The Man Who Loves You Most”
Zac Brown can take some wild detours in the name of musical exploration, but he’s at his best when he’s being earnest. Like “Highway 20 Ride” and “Colder Weather” before it, “The Man Who Loves You Most” isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, as Brown sings about a dad’s bond with his daughter. Written while Brown was in quarantine, it emerges just in time for Father’s Day.
Malin Pettersen, “Hometown”
“It’s the same old people, the same old scene,” sings Norwegian singer-songwriter Malin Pettersen in this kiss-off to the small-town existence. A restless track about writing oneself a new destiny, it mixes Pettersen’s yearning voice with some airy, echoing production: the spaces between the notes are as wide-open as the narrator’s future.
Arlo McKinley, “Walking Shoes”
The last signing to John Prine’s Oh Boy Records label before the legendary songwriter’s death in April, Arlo McKinley sounds a bit like Jim James serving as frontman for the Band. In this plaintive country-rock tune, the Cincinnati singer-songwriter tries to make peace with all his mistakes and transform himself for the better, for whatever time he has left. “Grudges that I fell upon/I’ve been holding for too long/Tomorrow they will all be gone, once the morning comes,” he sings, his delivery as sincere as they come.