First Country is a collection of the best new country songs, videos and albums that dropped this week.
Brothers Osborne with The War & Treaty, “It’s Only Rock N’ Roll (But I Like It)”
A pair of duos, Brothers Osborne and The War & Treaty, take on a Rolling Stones classic. It is part of the upcoming tribute album Stone cold land, in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Rolling Stones. TJ’s basement vocals, mixed with the raw, soulful vocals of The War & Treaty’s Tanya Trotter and Michael Trotter Jr., make for an electrifying, overwhelming musical moment. They will perform the song live at the upcoming CMA Awards on Nov. 9.
Maren Morris, Humble Quest: In rare form
Morris offers fans a new, raw look at seven songs from her album Humble Quest (which dropped earlier this year), including “I Can’t Love You Anymore,” “Tall Guys” and the title track. Accompanying the release is a short film featuring Morris, accompanied by piano and drums, performing stripped-down renditions of these songs – illuminating lyrics that explore a range of emotions, from mature love (“I Can’t Love You Anymore”). to search for the balance between self-fulfillment (“Humble Quest”).
Bowen * Young, “Dangerous Love”
Earlier Nashville actress/vocalist Clare Bowen joins her husband, Brandon Robert Young, to form this new Americana duo. A spectral melody adds to the tension, anxiety and determination of the pair’s exquisite harmonies, as does the fact that the song was written two days after they experienced a harrowing home invasion. A promising release from this new duo.
Hailey Whitters, “New Baby for Christmas”
The onslaught of holiday-inspired tunes is upon us, but “Everything She Ain’t” singer Whitters offers a brilliant take on this 1957 George Jones track, deftly taking the traditional country tune and fusing it with her own tough spin. Whitters recorded it at the venerable RCA Studio A in Nashville, where artists including Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn have recorded.
Mickey Guyton, “I Still Pray”
Guyton’s commanding voice heightens the spiritual element of this piano-based track, which encourages those struggling through any number of heartaches and painful situations. “When it rains it loves to pour/ That’s when my knees hit the floor,” she sings in this comforting web of spirit and song.
Brittney Spencer if i ever get there: one day at blackbird studio
That newly signed Elektra artist releases his new EP with three songs, if i ever get there: one day at blackbird studio. Known for songs including “Compassion” and “Sober & Skinny,” Spencer is also an honorary member of The Highwomen and has opened shows for artists including Reba McEntire and Jason Isbell. Taking no prisoners on the sassy, honest and vulnerable “Better Than Friends,” she offers a relaxed version of The Chicks’ “Cowboy Take Me Away,” her intimate vocals high in the mix and backed by muted instrumentation. The stately “One Hundred Years Old” is characterized by the introspective musings of learning permanent lessons from a broken heart.
Phil Vassar and Deana Carter, “Brand New Year”
Pianist-vocalist-songwriter Vassar teams up with “Strawberry Wine” hitmaker Carter to offer this holiday number, which they co-wrote with Steve Dorff. This elegant piano ballad is a quietly optimistic toast to an anticipated year of hope, love and goodness, enhanced by their smooth, relaxed vocal collaboration. A polished track worth adding to any Christmas playlist.
Jason Aldean, “Christmas in Dixie”
Seventeen years into his recording career, Aldean releases his first Christmas song, a cover of the 1982 Alabama hit “Christmas in Dixie.” The instrumentation respects the original, though it’s embedded in the kind of lean production that Aldean’s records are known for. His warm vocals come across as capable and comfortable, lending the lyrics his signature vocal twang, though of course the track lacks the front-and-center group harmonies that round out the Alabama original. Still, this is an honest update of a country holiday classic.