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.
Donovan Woods, “We Used To”
Singer-songwriter Donovan Woods released his new album Without People on Friday, and the aptly titled collection boasts some of the Canadian performer’s most ambitious arrangements to date. In “We Used To,” Woods gives an impressionistic account of two people trying to reclaim an old feeling of connection that’s begun to fade, set to a circulating acoustic guitar riff and a shuffling beat that calls to mind the skeletal groove of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Cecilia.” “We just want to feel like we used to/But it’s coming up sideways,” Woods sings, sounding like he knows full and well how this one plays out.
Amy Ray, “Tear It Down”
Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray sings of her Southern upbringing and calls for an end to white supremacist symbols in the new solo release “Tear It Down.” A slow, shuffling number that slots angular bursts of electric lead guitar next to a sweet-sounding string section, “Tear It Down” lets Ray thoughtfully examine all the things she once embraced as a kid growing up in Georgia, like Song of the South and “Dixie,” and how she says, in order to survive, “We must fight with all our might/To kill that racist hymn.” As Ray says, it’s the only way to achieve true freedom for all.
Chris Pierce, “American Silence”
Los Angeles singer-songwriter Chris Pierce channels Richie Havens and Bob Dylan with his new song “American Silence,” his first release from an upcoming album. The stripped-down arrangement of guitar and harmonica puts emphasis on Pierce’s impassioned vocals and righteous message to keep fighting for justice in this country. “Will our song arrest you? American silence is a crime,” he sings, joined by a chorus of voices. It’s the sound of everyone who’s hungry for change, steadying themselves and marching toward a common goal.
William Prince, “Gospel First Nation”
William Prince already released the fantastic album Reliever in 2020, but he had more in store. His recently released album Gospel First Nation reflects on Prince’s roots in Manitoba’s Peguis First Nation as well as his Christian upbringing and the way that religion was employed as a means to erase indigenous identities. In the album’s easygoing title track, Prince seems clear-eyed about it all, as if he’s been able to reconcile those differences and see both beauty in his home and his faith.
Scarlett Burke, “Make It Up as We Go”
Scarlett Burke is one of the stars of the podcast Make It Up as We Go, which chronicles a young songwriter’s journey from Texas to the songwriting community of Nashville and all the struggles along the way. The series also features Miranda Lambert and Bobby Bones in speaking roles, but Burke gets a stand-out moment with “Make It Up as We Go,” bringing dreamy vocals reminiscent of Hope Sandoval to a gentle, forward-moving folk arrangement. “I don’t need a 5-year plan to figure out who I am, I’ve got time enough to see,” Burke sings, holding fast to the idea that most of us as young people are just improvising our way through. The series, created by Audio Up Media, is available on several platforms and the season finale is coming up November 19th.