Whether it’s coming out of Nashville, New York, L.A., or points in between, there’s no shortage of fresh tunes, especially from artists who have yet to become household names. Rolling Stone Country selects some of the best new music releases from country and Americana artists.
Rob Leines, “Drinkin Problem”
Occasional welder, full-time country-rocker Rob Leines dials up the Tele and the pedal steel on this undeniable barroom banger. There’s hints of Skynyrd and the Allmans, and a whole lot of Wet Willie’s Southern soul, as the Georgia native bemoans the grudge the bottle holds against him. “Every time I have that stuff I wind up where I shouldn’t be,” he sings. Getting blitzed has never sounded so good.
Jeremy Pinnell, “Joey”
Northern Kentucky songwriter Jeremy Pinnell recasts Concrete Blonde’s 1999 hit as a country dirge mournful enough to make Townes Van Zandt cry. Recorded straight to his phone in his basement, Pinnell’s “Joey” is a spare, solo rendering, with his voice seemingly echoing across endless time and barren space. The result? A version nearly as haunting as Johnette Napolitano’s original.
Hailey Whitters featuring Jordan Davis, “The Ride”
Nashville’s breakout indie songwriter will release a deluxe edition of her superb album The Dream on February 26th. Retitled Living the Dream, the LP features five new recordings with guest like Brent Cobb and Little Big Town. Jordan Davis, who took Whitters out on her first tour, cameos on “The Ride,” a buoyant how-to guide to living life. “It’s the road that makes the ride,” Whitters sings, coining yet one more classic-country aphorism.
Joy Oladokun featuring Jensen McRae, “Wish You the Best”
Joy Oladokun was a critics’ favorite in 2020 with “I See America,” a powerful, knowing treatise on systemic racism. “Wish You the Best,” Oladokun’s first release of 2021, pairs her with fellow singer-songwriter Jensen McRae for an exercise in radical forgiveness. Set to a skeletal electric guitar figure, Oladokun’s kaleidoscopic melody is paired with lyrics about moving on from hard times without malice. “Even when your bag is empty/Even when your ego’s bruised/I will never come down swinging/I still want the best for you,” she sings. As Oladukun points out on Twitter, it works just as well for America as it does for ex-lovers.
John Driskell Hopkins, “I Hate to See Good Whiskey Go to Waste”
Zac Brown Band multi-instrumentalist John Driskell Hopkins is quite the country balladeer on the melancholy “I Hate to See Good Whiskey Go to Waste,” from the upcoming solo album Lonesome High. Beginning with Hopkins’ a cappella intro — sung with a warm vocal tone similar to Brown, but flecked with cracks in the right spots — the song settles into a gentle, fiddle-laced arrangement that calls to mind Keith Whitley as it describes the time-honored tradition of medicating one’s way through a heartache. “I give up one more memory with every sip I take,” Hopkins sings, and it’s clear he’s determined not to lose a drop.