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.
Joachim Cooder, “Over the Road I’m Bound to Go”
By the time he was 15, Joachim Cooder was already appearing on his father Ry Cooder’s albums as an inventive multi-instrumentalist. On his second solo album, Joachim offers a gorgeous rendering of the most unlikely source material: the compositions of early 20th-century minstrel-vaudeville country performer Uncle Dave Macon. Cooder has inherited his father’s gift for radical reinterpretation. Anchored by Joachim’s electric mbira, the title track turns Macon’s frantic banjo ditty into a global roots prayer.
The Texicana Mamas, “American Dream”
The Texicana Mamas — the vocal trio of Tish Hinojosa, Stephanie Urbina Jones, and Patricia Vonne — chronicle an immigrant’s daunting, sometimes dangerous pursuit of prosperity north of the border in this song originally recorded by the Mexican singing star Mario Domm. Opening with haunting flamenco guitar, it becomes a moving prayer: for safety, for prosperity, for reunion with family. “I pray to the Virgin, please keep me safe/guide me through the dark, dangerous mountain range,” they sing, evoking both the fear and determination of those desperate to start a new life.
Iris DeMent, “Going Down to Sing in Texas”
The rollicking Southern gospel piano melody will be recognizable to anyone who’s spent time with Iris DeMent’s earthy country records. But this time, the Iowa roots singer spends nine minutes delivering a dark state of the union address. It’s worth listening to every minute, as DeMent decries Second Amendment fanaticism, states her support for Palestinian civil rights, and offers her belated gratitude for the Chicks. It’s a stunning stream-of-consciousness soliloquy from one of America’s greatest heartland storytellers.
Jillette Johnson, “What Would Jesus Do”
With everyone searching for a sign these days, Nashville songwriter Jillette Johnson finds hers by looking inward. Her eccentric new song “What Would Jesus Do,” off her upcoming LP It’s a Beautiful Day and I Love You, preaches that there’s no one path to serenity now. In other words, do what moves you, man. “What would Jesus do?” Johnson sings, before answering her own query: “I don’t know, but I know he wouldn’t do it my way.” Amen.
Rob Mayes, “Marvelous Life”
Singer-songwriter and actor Rob Mayes wrote and recorded a new project called Songs From the Sofa: A Quarantine Project when Covid shut everything down that includes the meditative tune “Marvelous Life.” A stripped-down recording of acoustic guitar and dobro, “Marvelous Life” comes with shades of Bends-era Radiohead in its swirling melody and evokes the uncertainty of this present moment along with the resilience required to navigate it.