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.
Jake Hoot featuring Kelly Clarkson, “I Would’ve Loved You”
Jake Hoot’s debut EP Love Out of Time announces The Voice champ as a smooth country balladeer with a hint of Conway Twitty’s adults-only vibe. In this majestic duet with Kelly Clarkson written by Hoot with Jamie Floyd and Dean Sams, he delivers lines about cheating that no kid should hear. But it’s the chorus that tears your already jaded heart out: “I’m gonna hate you as long and as much,” Hoot sings, “as I would’ve loved you.” Brutal.
Dillon Warnek, “Good Man”
It’s not when you die, but where you die that matters. In this Faces-like jam off his upcoming LP Now That It’s All Over, Nashville songwriter Dillon Warnek spells out lengthy instructions to his pallbearer pals to make it seem like he croaked on the straight and narrow. Before they tell his wife the bad news, they must a) usher out his mistress(es), b) hide all the drinks, and c) move his corpse to the kitchen to “make it look like I was fixing the sink.” And that’s only the first verse. Fleshed out by barroom piano, harmonica, and slide guitar, “Good Man” is a Weekend at Bernie’s rave-up with lyrics so sharp and clever, they make living hard and dropping dead sound like a blast.
Sam Williams, “Can’t Fool Your Own Blood”
Sam Williams knows from family drama — the rising troubadour is the son of Bocephus and the grandson of Hank Williams. In his new video for “Can’t Fool Your Own Blood” (premiering here), he returns to familial ground zero — the Williams’ farm in Tennessee — to offer a cautionary tale about lying to the ones you love. “I’ll act like I believe,” he croons, “but you can’t fool your own blood.” It’s a haunting performance worthy of his surname.
Emily Rose, “The Heart”
Singer-songwriter Emily Rose starts her new song “The Heart” by talking about the titular organ’s resilience, both actual and metaphorical. “It’s a healer not a divider and it’ll walk through fire for love,” she sings, employing a partly dissonant melody that adds to the feeling of melancholy. By the time she’s reached the chorus, Rose is addressing someone who’s pushed her to her absolute limit and forced her to take protective measures. “A heart can only handle so much,” she concludes.
Heath Sanders, “Common Ground”
“We’re all on a different journey,” Arkansas oil worker Heath Sanders admits in his debut single for the Valory Music Co., before pointing out the one thing that inevitably unites us: “We all end up in common ground.” The slow-burning ballad, tied together by Sanders’ lived-in voice and some simple picked acoustic, is full of small-town personas — the struggling waitress, the high-school QB shipping off to boot camp — but Sanders never allows them to come across as stereotypes. He knows them far too well for that.
Mark Erelli with Maya de Vitry, “Handmade”
Mark Erelli is joined by Stray Birds singer Maya de Vitry for the rousing “Handmade,” from Erelli’s upcoming Jackpot EP (out February 12th). Set to an easy-breezy rhythm and punctuated with electric guitar, the song never quite reaches for “rocking out,” but instead eases back and goes in unhurried fashion like the love story at its core. “I know it’s worth the wait, if it takes a little longer, that just makes it a little stronger,” Erelli and de Vitry sing in enthusiastic harmony, because hey, love can also be fun sometimes.
Bellamy Brothers featuring John Anderson, “No Country Music for Old Men”
The Bellamy Brothers let their angst flow in this nostalgic but biting collab with fellow Florida-country icon John Anderson. Essentially a list of legends — from Merle Haggard and Buck Owens to Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty — that made the good ol’ days and its music so great, the tropical-tinged track doesn’t hesitate to take a swipe at the young bucks of today. “Posers and losers and would-be outlaws who only know how to pretend,” the trio describes them, making it clear these grizzled vets are giving no quarter, friendo.