First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos and albums that dropped this week.
Kane Brown, Mixtape Vol. 1
Brown’s collection shows off the country star’s range, whether it’s duetting with Nelly on the breezy “Cool Again,” his gorgeous ballad with John Legend, “Last Time I Say Sorry,” expressing his utopian view on “Worldwide Beautiful,” or, of course, his current rising pop hit, “ Be Like That,” featuring Swae Lee and Khalid. The 7-track set also includes three previously unreleased songs including “Worship You,” a radiant ode to his wife.
Morgan Wallen, “7 Summers”
With “More Than My Hometown” still climbing the chart, Wallen releases this swoon-worthy nostalgic track co-written with Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne. If “easy listening” were still a bonafide genre, the languid “7 Summers” would go straight to the top of the charts as the melody, Wallen’s wistful vocals, Joey Moi’s pitch-perfect production and the yearning for a time and love long gone pack a gentle wallop.
Jon Pardi, Rancho Fiesta Sessions
The pandemic lock down is bringing out the best in some artists. On this surprise release, Pardi takes on six country classics recorded during a jam session with his crack touring band at his Nashville home. Neo- traditionalist Pardi covering such spirited tracks as Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down,” Dwight Yoakam’s “Honky Tonk Man,” and Keith Whitley’s Somebody’s Doin’ Me Right” is no surprise, however the other two remakes rounding out the set, a faithful take on Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ “The Waiting” and a mournful reinvention of Prince’s “Nothin’ Compares 2 U,” should equally delight fans.
Jeannie Seely, All American Classic
The aptly titled album, produced by Don Cusic, features the 53-year member of the Grand Ole Opry and one of country’s grand dames duetting with everyone from Lorrie Morgan and Vince Gill (on the exuberant “That’s How I Roll”) to The Whites (on the jaunty “So Far, So Good) and Willie Nelson (on the heartbreaker “There’s Not a Dry Eye in the House.” Young’uns, take heed— at 80, Seely is showing you how it’s done. A joy all around.
Eric Paslay, Nice Guy
Incredulously, this is only Paslay’s second full-length album (his debut came out in 2014 and then an EP earlier this year) Paslay is not the first artist you’d expect to cover Mike Posner’s “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” but as this 12-track collection shows, there’s not really anything beyond Paslay’s reach. From the breezy “Boat in a Bottle” to retro “Endless Dream,” Paslay shines throughout.
Lindsay Ell, Heart Theory
One of Nashville most talented guitarists returns with her first set in three years with a concept album that explores the seven stages of grief after a breakup. Ell turns her heartache into art with a uniformly strong pop-country set that pairs her with co-writers including FGL’s Tyler Hubbard, Brandy Clark, Kane Brown, Laura Veltz and Nicolle Gaylon. There’s a song for every emotion here, but the album demands to be listened to as a whole from start to finish to appreciate fully the journey Ell is taking us on. You’ll be rooting for her long before she realizes life isn’t so bad without her ex on “The Other Side of You.”
Caylee Hammack, If It Wasn’t For You
Almost two years after Capitol Records Nashville started introducing her, Hammack has arrived with this 13-track adrenaline blast. Fans will be familiar with previous single “Family Tree,” previously available tracks like “Small Town Hypocrite” and “Forged in the Fire,” but every song on here plays out like an entry in Hammack’s diary—and is just as compelling— including the rollicking opener, “Just Friends,” which shows off Hammack’s estimable pipes, and “Redheads,” featuring another feisty ginger Reba McEntire. Hammack deserves to be a star.
Orville Peck, Show Pony
By now you’ve hopefully identified Peck as one of the most fascinating new voices in modern country music, a classic singer-songwriter with a deep, smoky voice, an intrinsic understanding of western camp and complex songs with the LGBTQ community in mind. His long-awaited Show Pony EP makes good on his promise, as his rustic vision is impressively sprawled across six tracks… but even if you’re unfamiliar with Peck’s oeuvre, it’s high time to soak in the glorious “Legends Never Die,” a duet with Shania Twain that’s been given a video which lengthens Peck’s fringe mask and revives Twain’s legendary leopard print. “Legends Never Die,” indeed, and new legends are being created every day. (Jason Lipshutz)
The Voice alum makes her label debut after switching to Florida Georgia Line’s Round Here Records and it’s a confident, joyous effort, especially on the delightful “Keep Up,” and the hilarious, post break-up tune, “Bra Off,” but then RaeLynn goes right for the heart with “Fake Girl Town,” which may or may not be an indictment of the mean girls she’s met in her career where she’s searching for another “two-lane girl” like her.
Devin Dawson, “I Got a Truck”
Following his 2018 major label debut, Dark Horse, Dawson returns with the chugging “I Got a Truck.” “I’ve got a story to tell” sings Dawson on the track about a truck that is the vehicle to bring him to his dreams. The song, which Dawson wrote after a late-night conversation with Tim McGraw, builds to a killer bridge and becomes more memorable with repeated listenings. Deserves to be big at radio.
Drew Parker, “While You’re Gone”
Parker submits another entry in the “you go see the world, I’ll be here waiting” canon that seems to be so popular of late, and yet the co-writer of Luke Combs’ “1, 2 Many” and Jake Owen‘s “Homemade,” manages to add something refreshing to the theme between his twangy voice, a driving melody, screaming guitars and the appeal of a BPPBR (A Pabst Blue Ribbon beer obtained at a BP gas station, for those in the dark)
Various Artists, “On the Road Again”
The Academy of Country Music is behind a new version of Willie Nelson’s timeless ode, dubbed the ACM Lifting Lives Edition, to the touring life featuring the 55th ACM Awards new female and new male nominees, including Gabby Barrett, Jordan Davis, Caylee Hammack, Russell Dickerson and Morgan Wallen. Nelson joins in about half way through. It’s all for a good cause: all proceeds benefit ACM Lifting Lives COVID-19 fund while fans are reminded of the nominees following the award show’s postponement from April to Sept. 16.
As “Pretty Heart” continues to climb the chart, Parker McCollum treats fans to another winner, “Young Man’s Blues,” about the tug of growing up and moving away from home…’90s hitmaker Clay Walker make a very welcome return sounding stronger than ever with mid-tempo twanger, “Need a Bar Sometimes,” his first release for Show Dog Nashville Records … Rachel Wammack shows off her powerful, soaring pipes and salutes her husband on the romantic “What He Does”….After previously tackling the songs of Bacharach/David, British singer Rumer turns to Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Hugh Prestwood for stirring, heartfelt interpretations of some of his best tunes, including “The Song Remembers When,” “That’s That” and “Hard Time for Lovers” on Nashville Tears.