You may hear murmurs from time to time about how music ain’t as good as it used to be, but don’t listen to any of that — music is better than its ever been. Within the vast world of country music, a crop of new artists are making some of the best music of their generation. Here are 10 new releases from the well-knowns to the indies that we have on heavy rotation this week.
10. “Sea Stories” – Sturgill Simpson
Sturgill Simpson’s new album, Sailor’s Guide to Earth, is a masterpiece concept album. Simpson designed the listening experience to function best when you listen to the whole album in one session, but each track is a standout. “Sea Stories,” Simpson’s ode to his days in the Navy, is perhaps the most accessible track for traditional country fans. He also manages to work in the line “maybe get high, play a little Goldeneye on that ol 64,” while crooning like a country badass, and if you’re under of the age of 35, you’ll probably appreciate that.
9. “Sake of the Song” – Hayes Carll
This brilliant track off Hayes Carll’s introspective masterpiece, Lovers and Leavers, weaves a tapestry of the musician archetypes who make up the roots music industry, from the hitchhiking folk singer to the festival headliner. It’s a sharp insight into the madness of being a professional musician, and how everything is done for the sake of the song.
8. “Bluebonnets” – Aaron Watson
Aaron Watson’s new single is a tribute to his fourth daughter, who passed just hours after being born. Watson has always done a fine job with crafting bittersweet country songs full of hope, and this one is no exception. The message is clear: live this short life to the fullest. Add this one to your driving mix rotation, as the bluebonnets are in full bloom here in Texas.
7. “Sometimes” – Luke Bell
Santa’s Pub is arguably the best karaoke bar in Nashville, and rightfully takes the spotlight in Luke Bell’s brand new video for “Sometimes.” Surrounded by some of the town’s best rising artists, including Patrick Sweany and Erin Rae, the country crooner provides a perfect track about honky-tonk heartache.
6. “Brothers of the Highway” – Aaron Tippin, Tony Justice
Trucking songs have a storied history in country music, and this one takes them full throttle into the modern era. Aaron Tippin joins trucker-turned-musician Tony Justice for an ode to the big rig drivers who keep the country running. This one will make you want to throw back a cup of truck stop coffee and guide a diesel pirate ship off into the great horizon.
5. “Drivin'” – Robert Ellis
The plucky, bluegrass-tinged new track from Robert Ellis describes the awkwardness and uncertainty that comes right before a breakup. As he tries to drive away from his problems, he takes listeners along the difficult road of self-reflection, trying to decide where his life is heading next.
4. “‘Go On Lovin’”- Dori Freeman
This heartbreaker off Dori Freeman’s self-titled debut sounds timeless. The 24-year-old singer hails from Southeastern Virginia, and is clearly steeped in traditional country and folk music. “Go On Lovin’” showcases her beautiful voice, reminiscent of a young Patsy Cline, with sweet pedal steel accompaniment.
3. “Hurtin’ (On the Bottle) – Margo Price
Did you catch Margo Price play this one on Saturday Night Live the other week? Her honky-tonk throwback song is a hot track right now, and we’re excited it’s getting attention in the mainstream. When was the last time you heard honky-tonk broadcast out of Studio 8H?
2. “Down Home” – Brent Cobb
Brent Cobb’s contribution to the all-star collaborative album, Southern Family, is also one of our favorites on the stellar project. Cobb drew from his upbringing in rural Georgia to craft this ode to down-home living.
1. “I’ll Be the Moon” – Dierks Bentley
Rising star Maren Morris joins country heavyweight Dierks Bentley on this slow burner about what happens when lovers stay in a relationship but start to wander to new people. It’s one of the strongest tracks on Bentley’s new album, Black.