Every Wednesday, Wide Open Country’s music writers will share the country and Americana songs they have on heavy rotation.
“Lucille (You Won’t Do Your Daddy’s Will),” Dale Watson
You might have missed Under the Influence, an album of classic country covers by Texas favorite and staunch traditionalist Dale Watson. His rendition of Waylon Jennings’ “Lucille” (originally written by Hal Bynum and Roger Bowling) is one of the stand-out tracks. Watson’s signature croon over the backbeat and funky, chicken-squawk riffs are classic country perfection.
“I Met Merle Haggard Today,” Mo Pitney
We lost Merle Haggard this year, but his legacy endures in younger artists. Mo Pitney is one of the rising stars who continues to champion the Hag and his music. “I Met Merle Haggard,” a cut on Pitney’s debut album, Behind This Guitar, tells a story about meeting the country legend for the first time. It’s a fun, straight-forward track about fulfilling a dream that countless country stars have shared across generations.
“Country Never Goes out of Style,” Shane Owens
We have saying around here that country is more than music; it’s a way of life. Rising artist Shane Owens echoes that sentiment. His single “Country Never Goes out of Style” — one of the most authentically country singles of 2016 — speaks about the endurance of the lifestyle. Enjoy the simple things in life, love the things built to last, work hard and don’t worry about the trends. Message aside, Owens has a rich, warm voice that will instantly reel you in.
“Drinking Problem,” Midland
Up-and-coming Texas trio Midland goes all-in on the retro 90’s country style with their debut single, “Drinking Problem.” The fresh track marks off several items on the country hit checklist: There’s a relatable message about drinking to forget, a clever turn of phrase, and it’s catchy as hell. At times the production feels a bit too slick, but you can hear a talented band coming into their own.
“You Say,” Dori Freeman
Dori Freeman’s excellent self-titled debut album is one you should discover if you haven’t already. “You Say,” the album’s opening track, is the perfect introduction to the Virginia native’s gorgeous voice and songwriting talents. Freeman blends Appalachian folk, traditional country with a light dash of modern pop sensibility.
“It Ain’t My Fault,” Brothers Osborne
Brothers Osborne’s 2016 record, Pawn Shop, is filled with unique, edgy tracks, and “It Ain’t My Fault” is no different. The cut is the band’s latest single, and acts as an anthem for those who like to party a little too hard. It’s fun and flamboyant without being predictable, and is sure to make you thirsty for a nice stiff drink.
“Mineral Wells,” Amanda Shires
One of the most underrated records of the year came from poetic songwriter Amanda Shires. Listening to her songs feels like being transported to a poetry reading in a smoky underground café. Her lyrics have a sense of wisdom that comes from traveling the world, although many of her narratives are cemented in rural country life. “Mineral Wells” tells of a soul searching for the peace and familiarity of their home in Texas.
“Desperate and Depressed,” Margo Price
Nashville-based singer-songwriter Margo Price earned acclaim for her breakthrough album Midwest Farmer’s Daughter this year, and for good reason. It’s one of those rare records you can listen to on repeat with ease. “Desperate and Depressed,” the final track on the album, is about being fed up with life, bad luck and the establishment itself. After a year as crazy as 2016, it’s a sentiment that many of us can relate to.
If you’re looking for folky harmonies, plucky instrumentation and a sound that mixes bluegrass and indie pop, you’ll want to hear Darlingside. The title track of their new EP has a warm tone and reflective lyrics that mold into the perfect soundtrack for those long road trips back home after the holidays.
“What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve,” Kacey Musgraves
Yes, Christmas is over, but there’s still one more holiday left to celebrate. Kacey Musgraves supplied one of the most surprising and original holiday records earlier this year with A Very Kacey Christmas. Appropriately, the album’s ending track is a timeless cover of “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve.” It’s simplistic but sweet, and seems like the perfect tune for any lovebirds gearing up to celebrate the ringing-in of 2017 together.