What makes a summer jam? Is it the sunniest chorus, the hottest beat, the most weeks on the charts? Do the lyrics have to be about beaches and barbecues, or is it a question of vibe? What if it’s a song on your summer playlist and no one else’s?
We believe the answer is “all of the above.” This summer, Rolling Stone’s writers will celebrate the songs that are ruling each of their worlds – from huge hits to weirder, more personal choices. Check back soon for more summer songs, and hear all our picks in the Spotify playlist at the bottom of this post.
Some records just sound better in the summer – the soundtrack to 1972’s The Harder They Come, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ Live Anthology, just about anything by the Grateful Dead. It turns out Margo Price’s October 2017 release All American Made is one of those albums. That’s especially true of the LP’s second half, where Price veers from her usual clever roadhouse country into more soulful territory. She’s got slower grooves, wah-wah effects and melodies the Staple Singers would be happy delivering (check out “Do Right By Me”).
The best of these songs, no doubt about it, is “Cocaine Cowboys.” Over a groove in the loping vein of the Dead’s “They Love Each Other” or the Band’s second album, Price croons a funny story about a type she no doubt pegged herself when she moved from the Illinois country to Nashville in her early twenties: the faux cowboys of the 21st century. “They’re all hat, they don’t rope no cattle,” Price sings. “They don’t ride no bulls…With their bloodshot eyes and their cigarette teeth/I wish someone warned me stay away from them cocaine cowboys.” The song has a humor and lightness that are perfect for the open road.
Earlier this month, I saw Price perform the song at a small late-night show at New York’s Brooklyn Bowl. Midway through, she put down her acoustic guitar and got a second drum kit, launching a long, psychedelic funk jam that turned into a five-minute frenzy that kept peaking and peaking. (This clip from another recent show will give you an idea of what it was like.) That moment proved that Price has a lot of musical territory she hasn’t touched yet. How cool would it be if she made a whole album of songs like this? For this summer, we have “Cocaine Cowboys.”