Bastian Baker, “You Should Call Home”
Bastian Baker isn’t just a road warrior; he’s a jet-setter, playing shows in 40 countries throughout the last seven years (including some as Shania Twain’s hand-picked opener). Here, he dispenses advice to the homesick and heartbroken, encouraging his fellow travelers to reach out to their loved ones for a much-needed pick-me-up. The song itself is appropriately buoyant, beginning with piano chords and finger-snapped percussion before segueing into anthemic territory.
Devon Gilfillian, “Get Out and Get It”
He’s the opening act on Brothers Osborne’s west coast tour, but don’t mistake Devon Gilfillian for a country-rocker. On his latest single for Capitol Records, the guitar-slinging soul singer flips into his upper register and channels funk icons like Curtis Mayfield and Prince, with some Afrobeat polyrhythms thrown in for good measure.
Orville Peck, “Turn to Hate”
Signed to Nirvana’s old record label and partially hidden beneath a fringed leather mark, Orville Peck is an unusual country cowboy — the sort of deep-voiced singer whose music evokes the surrealism of David Lynch as much as the baritoned boom of Johnny Cash. He keeps things weird with the “Turn to Hate” video, which finds Mac DeMarco riding a mechanical bull while Peck croons onstage.
Mickey Guyton, “Hold On”
Inspirational and faith-filled, “Hold On” was written for Breakthrough, a Christian-themed movie about a child’s survival after plunging beneath the surface of an icy lake. Laced with gospel harmonies, sweeping strings and a standout vocal performance from Guyton, the song moves with an upward trajectory, as though the whole thing is being beamed heavenward.
Robert Earl Keen, “The Unknown Fighter”
In this unreleased track from a live, unplugged performance, Robert Earl Keen sings the praises of an amateur boxer who shows up to the ring, ready to take on more established contenders. There are echoes of Guy Clark in the song’s narrative and Texas-sized twang, but “The Unknown Fighter” is pure Keen: rough-edged, evocative and purposely unpolished.
Rebecca Loebe, “Growing Up”
Nearly a decade after performing on The Voice‘s first season, the DIY-minded Rebecca Loebe graduates to the world of indie labels with Give Up Your Ghosts, an album whose coffeehouse Americana and light folk-pop recalls Norah Jones. “Growing Up” finds her outlining a woman’s struggle in a man’s world, mixing resilience, empowerment and just a bit of pissed-off punch into the same quiet anthem.
Abby Anderson, “Good Lord”
While a banjo twangs in the background, Abby Anderson thanks the man upstairs for showering her with blessings, including a boyfriend who’s attentive and worthy. “I paint my nails a new color, and you always notice,” she sings during the second verse, before the rapid-fire chorus finds her doling out praise to her creator for making true love possible.
Kassi Ashton, “Pretty Shiny Things”
Ashton’s follow-up to “Violins” is a sparse, stripped-down ballad about self-worth and outward appearances. The song’s narrator struggles with an old-fashioned mother who believes wholeheartedly in makeup’s power to conceal and beautify. “Your face will take you farther than your brain/You oughta know by now, beauty is pain,” goes a line in the chorus, delivered from the mom’s limited perspective. By the song’s end, though, Ashton has wiped her face free of paint and allowed her true self to shine, reclaiming her womanhood — blemishes and all — for herself.
Roses & Cigarettes, “Fast As I Can”
Music is medicine. Inspired by frontwoman Jenny Pagliaro’s battle with Stage IV metastatic breast cancer, “Fast As I Can” is an ode to living, laced with jangling guitars and bright harmonies. The source material may be somber, but this country-rock road songs sets its sights on the destination, not the place its leaving behind.
Jamestown Revival, “This Too Shall Pass”
Last month, Jamestown Revival gave fans a sneak peak of their upcoming release, San Isabel, with “Crazy World (Judgement Day),” a tense, topical track about political turmoil. “This Too Shall Pass” takes a more optimistic approach to similar themes. Influenced by Simon & Garfunkel, the song mixes acoustic guitars with two-part harmonies, paving the way for an album that reconnects Jamestown Revival with their rootsy origins.