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.
Olivia Wolf, “Young Widow Blues”
Olivia Wolf knows from bluegrass: her grandfather is the founder of San Francisco’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. In this haunting tale of death and loneliness, Wolf is walking her betrothed down the aisle, not for a wedding ceremony but a funeral. “Me in a black dress, him in Alabama pine,” she sings in lyrics born out of her own personal tragedy (her fiancé died just weeks before their wedding). Produced by Colin Linden, Wolf’s debut EP The Hummingbird Sessions: Volume 1 arrives Friday.
Jamie O’Neal and John Paul White, “Someone’s Sometimes”
It’s been a minute since “There Is No Arizona” singer Jamie O’Neal had a big chart hit, but she hasn’t lost an iota of her powerhouse vocal talent. The Australian country artist’s latest single from the upcoming album Sometimes pairs her with singer-songwriter John Paul White for a stormy duet about an unbridgeable distance between two people. White gives a characteristically emotive performance, proving himself to be a well-suited collaborator for O’Neal, who can still belt with the best of them.
Everette, “Can’t Say No”
The Kentucky twosome of Brent Rupard and Anthony Olympia released an EP last week that’s as chill as its cherry-on-top title: Kings of the Dairy Queen Parking Lot. The seven songs are actually “Side A” of an upcoming 14-song album, led by the funky single “Can’t Say No.” Propelled by Jerry Reed-style guitar (think “Amos Moses”), the song is a litany of temptations that the guys just can’t resist. Add this song — and the whole EP — to that list.
Steve Poltz, “Quarantine Blues”
Singer-songwriter Steve Poltz delivers a bracingly funny, free-associative tune about his time and activities during the pandemic in “Quarantine Blues,” which was recorded at Jason Mraz’s studio with Mraz on keys. “I’ve sat near the fire, wearin’ questionable attire/I made a new incision, to improve my circumcision,” he sings, hitting hydroxychloroquine and Fauci along with the depression and boredom of this chaotic, confusing time. And Poltz isn’t fabricating his restlessness: in a normal year, he spends nearly 300 days on the road living the itinerant musician’s life.
Caitlin Canty, “Where Is the Heart of My Country”
Things in the United States seem so impossibly broken right now, it can be hard to look for and appreciate its natural beauty. Caitlin Canty manages to do that in her aching folk ballad “Where Is the Heart of My Country,” which she recorded while she was pregnant and wondering what the world would be like for her child. She sings of Los Angeles hillsides and the patchwork quilt of Oklahoma farmland, but mourns the damage done to them by climate change and industrial development. It’s heartbreaking, and should make you want to race out (as soon as it’s safe) to see every corner of this land while we still have it.
Sam Amidon, “Light Rain Blues”
Sam Amidon radically updates a series of old folk tunes on his upcoming self-titled album, due October 23rd on Nonesuch. The latest offering is his version of Taj Mahal’s “Light Rain Blues,” which is a fine showcase for Amidon’s studio experimentation. It’s built around a steady banjo figure, but quickly incorporates elements of spacious, echoing ambient electronic music to complement Amidon’s warm vocals, reminiscent of Nick Drake and Arthur Russell.