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. (Check out last week’s best songs.)
Anna Vaus, “Girl in a Bar”
Poway, California, country singer Anna Vaus places you right on the stool next to her in her breezy new ballad “Girl in a Bar.” Written with and produced by Luke Laird, the deceptively melancholy track doesn’t aim for country clever — instead, Vaus simply tells it like it is. In this case, that truth is an uncomfortable run-in with her ex. “Woulda been nice if it woulda worked out/damn love’s hard,” she sings, before hopping in the car for her long drive home alone.
Starlight Cleaning Co., “The Race”
California desert duo Starlight Cleaning Co. preview their upcoming debut album (May 21st) with this blissed-out slice of jangle-rock featuring guitar leads by the late Neal Casal. Made up of Rachel Dean and Tim Paul Gray, the band capture both the freedom and angst that can come with new surroundings. “The weight of stares will pull you down/they’ll make you leave this lonely town,” Dean sings, tapping into a Johnette Napolitano croon as Casal’s leads cascade around her. It’s Eighties pop crossed with Americana — and it works.
Pryor & Lee, “Good Ol’ Dogs and God”
What did we do to deserve dogs? The new duo of Pryor Baird and Kaleb Lee — two former contestants on The Voice, who wisely formed a duo — ruminate on that question in this heartwarming ballad. Like Tom T. Hall before them, they praise the unfailing loyalty of our canine companions. “Two things you can count on, good ol’ dogs and God,” the country boys harmonize in the chorus. (No offense to cats intended.)
Bill and the Belles, “Happy Again (I’ll Never Be)”
Spoiler alert: There’s no Bill in Bill and the Belles. There’s also scant happiness to be found in the title track to their latest album, Happy Again. The rootsy four-piece string band juxtapose a jaunty melody with lyrics so depressing and forlorn they’ll have you reaching for the Zoloft. Since singer Kris Truelsen’s lover left him, he’s endured a toothache, a hole in his shoe, and a dog that ran away. And that’s just for starters. No wonder he’s croaking, “What am I supposed to do?”
Jason Eady, “Back to Normal”
Jason Eady, whose 2012 LP AM Country Heaven remains an under-heard classic, releases his first new song in three years with “Back to Normal.” It’s an on-the-nose exploration of what happens — God willing — a few months from now when the pandemic ends and we re-emerge into the light. “What do we do when we get back to normal?” the Texas songwriter asks. “…and we find ourselves someplace we’ve never been?” Produced by Band of Heathens’ Gordy Quist, the back-porch shuffle features harmonies from Courtney Patton and Jamie Lin Wilson.
The Accidentals, “Night Train”
Eclectic Americana trio the Accidentals collaborated with Dar Williams to write this musical travelogue “from Memphis to Denver,” which is really a mission statement for uniting a busted America. A tune on the group’s upcoming Time Out EP, “Night Train” chugs along on a simple strummed acoustic, some bowed viola, and an unfaltering spirit of hope. “This country of mine, we’ll get it on track,” the Accidentals sing, determined to see the journey through.