Here at Wide Open Country, we love sharing our favorite music, whether it’s a brand new track that you haven’t heard or an oldie that deserves some new attention. Each week, our team of music writers spotlight one song that stands out among the pack. Here’s what we’re listening to this week.
When I saw Lindsay Ell perform her new single “Criminal” at this year’s Country Radio Seminar, this song stood out among the bro-heavy lineup. Not only is the song guaranteed to be on repeat in your head for the next week, but it also showcases Ell’s highly underrated guitar skills. I’m hoping that the irresistible catchiness of this tune will help Ell get the country radio airplay she deserves, even though the landscape is still very tilted in male artists’ favor.
One of two new songs from Kacey Musgraves‘ highly-anticipated fourth album Golden Hour (out March 30), “Space Cowboy” is a heartbreaker about a woman coming to terms with the end of a doomed relationship. From Waylon and Willie’s odes to buckaroos to George Strait’s “The Cowboy Rides Away” there’s no shortage of country songs about desperadoes riding off into the sunset. But it’s never a surprise to the woman left behind. “I know my place and it ain’t with you,” Musgraves sings. “Sunsets fade and love does too.” The dreamy pedal steel sets the tone for the scene: a setting sun, a Silverado driving off into the distance and the quiet acceptance of lost love.
North Carolina-based roots musician and renaissance man David Childers’ latest Ramseur Records release, Run Skeleton Run, includes “Thanks to All (Long Ago),” a celebration of down-to-earth folks and Christian faith. Childers revisits bygone generations’ listening habits and ways of life while thanking an entire community for his raising. The track’s string band strumming and gospel camp meeting fervor preserve old practices while allowing Childers room to add his own creative touches as a lyricist. The chorus will remind listeners of such old hymns as “The Old Account Was Settled,“ a song made famous to country music fans by Johnny Cash.
We highlighted Kassi Ashton in an Artist To Watch post not long ago, but in case you didn’t get the memo, you really need to listen to her debut single “California, Missouri.” Ashton’s voice is more guttural blues than twangy country, and her portrait of small town life is much more Kacey Musgraves than Montgomery Gentry. But what makes “California, Missouri” so darn compelling is that it’s not interested in trying to tell a story that “everybody” can relate to — it’s interested in telling Ashton’s own perspective as the odd one out. And that makes it stand out from the crowd in a very good way.