First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos and albums released this week.
Thomas Rhett feat. Tyler Hubbard and Russell Dickerson, “Death Row”
Rhett, Hubbard and Dickerson are all known for their pop-tinged, sometimes frothy tunes, but this gripping track is all about guitars, grit, self-reflection and heart, inspired by a journey the three artist-writers have taken to play for inmates in a Tennessee men’s prison. The song delivers a clear message of forgiveness, humanity, emotional transformation and commonality, as they recall meeting an inmate named Johnny who “hasn’t touched the grass in 30 years” and another who sings “Amazing Grace” with joy and abandon, “with one hand raised and one foot chained to the ground”, days before he was put to death.
Included on Rhett’s upcoming album where we startedit’s probably one of the most impactful true country songs you’ll hear this year.
Charley Crockett, “I Feel For You”
On the first single from Crockett’s upcoming album Lil’ GL Presents: Jukebox Charlyhe dusts off an album track from Jerry Reed’s 1966 debut The incredible guitar and voice of Jerry Reed. Backed by subdued horns and haunting guitar, Crockett again proves he has his own voice, as he retains the moody intensity of the song and ups the tempo slightly. His ragged voice channels the protagonist’s grief, as he empathizes with the man his lover left him for, now that she’s left them both.
Kane Brown, “Leave You Alone”
Brown, who recently scored his seventh No. 1 on BillboardCountry Airplay’s chart-topper with “One Mississippi,” slows things down with this catchy country-soul waltz. Lyrically, he compares his enduring love to everything from favorite, worn-out jeans to wine stains on carpets. The lyrics are picked up by one of Brown’s finest vocal deliveries to date.
Midland, “The Last Resort”
Midland does it again with a catchy take on a well-worn country cliché about using the open road and strong drinks as a heartbreaking solution. With a nod to Keith Whitley on the lyrics, “Miami, My Amy left me high and dry,” this song unfolds smoothly. The complete project of the trio, The last resort: greetings fromwill be released May 6 on Big Machine Records.
Dolly Parton, “Woman Up (And Take It Like a Man)”
In the vein of Parton’s mega-hit feminist anthem “9 to 5”, this fast, harmonica-laden track champions women of all ages and challenges them to keep fighting for their dreams. At 76, perhaps no one embodies the indomitable drive and work ethic praised in the song’s lyrics more than Parton herself, and this song is filled with her brilliant optimism. “Woman Up” is taken from Parton’s latest album, a companion project to her novel Run, Rose, Run, which she wrote with author James Patterson. The book comes out Monday, March 7, the same day Parton hosts the ACM Awards.
Michael Ray, “Holy Water”
Written by Ashley Gorley, Hunter Phelps, Ben Johnson and Michael Hardy, this track delves into the story of a small-town church pastor who makes “holy water” (moonlight) in the basement of the church when he is not behind the pulpit preaching. The song’s swampy vibe will no doubt be reminiscent of “Ol’ Red”, the song originally recorded by George Jones and later covered by Kenny Rogers, but ultimately turned into a radio hit by Blake Shelton in 2002. Ray’s gets more understated than gritty here. , and almost gets lost in the busy chorus, but he definitely knows how to hold his own in a country song.
Johnny Dailey, “Bonnaroo”
After a weekend spent basking in music and sunshine with a girl he just met at a Tennessee music festival, he’s unsure if their connection will fizzle like the last stumps of a song, or will find a permanent connection. His delivery and accompanying instrumentation are delightfully nostalgic and hazy. A promising release from his first EP Dillashawreleased on Friday (March 4).
Alannah McCready feat. Will Gittens, “Can I Call”
This scintillating duet with Will Gittens finds two lovers yearning for each other in a long-distance relationship. Their voices slide beautifully together on this tender melody, floating above a sweetly pop production. They also co-wrote the track, along with Sterling “David” Gittens, Jr.