Lists

Wide Open Country Weekly Must-Listens: Lori McKenna, American Aquarium and More

Becky Fluke

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.

Lorie’s Pick: “Worth It,” Danielle Bradbery

From “Diane” to “Space Cowboy,” 2018 has seen many incredible songs by women about women — even as country radio mostly chooses to ignore them. Danielle Bradbery‘s latest single “Worth It” is another powerful gem that champions respect and self-worth for women. Her impressive vocals and soaring accompaniment bring the perfect delivery for a song that’s much-needed in times like today. Hopefully, country radio will get the message and give this song the airplay it deserves.

Bobbie Jean’s Pick: “People Get Old,” Lori McKenna

No one voices plainspoken truths as well (or as beautifully) as Lori McKenna. Her stellar 2016 album The Bird & the Rifle, which included the guide-to-life letter to her kids “Humble and Kind,” was packed with stories of everyday life that were both ordinary and arresting. On “People Get Old,” McKenna looks to her own upbringing and honors her father. McKenna weaves snapshots of life throughout like a photo album — a Timex watch, a worn billfold, an old T-shirt with cut-off sleeves, fishing trips in a pickup truck. “People Get Old” traces the pieces that make up the larger picture of a one-of-a-kind relationship and serves as a reminder that we never have quite enough time with our loved ones.

Rachel’s Pick: “Won’t Be Long,” The Dead Tongues

If you’re a fan of Hiss Golden Messenger, you’ve already heard Ryan Gustafson’s work. Gustafson has played guitar in the band and, like his colleague, Gustafson seems to take pleasure in allowing Americana genre conventions to unspool a little bit. In “Won’t Be Long,” Gustafson uses a fife to flavor the mournful “Won’t Be Long.” It’s a song that questions the certainties we hold. After all, nothing lasts forever. When Gustafson sings, “I don’t know/which side of the fight I’m on,” it’s not a statement of apathy — it’s fear of making the wrong choice even if that mistake feels inevitable.

Bobby’s Pick: “Closer,” October Rose

A handful of collaborations by up-and-coming New York/New Jersey country singers Leanne Weiss and Derek Allan turned into a permanent arrangement as October Rose. Vocal harmonies that suited late ’90s reference points and a shared love for the occasional hair metal riff drive the duo, as heard on recent single “Closer.” It follows a simple premise—he notices her at the bar, and there just happens to be an empty stool on the opposite side of his beer-drinking arm. Despite looking like he could improve the Titans’ linebacking corps, Allan delivers smooth, Vince Gill-style vocals throughout most of the song, with Weiss accelerating the song toward its high-octane chorus. 

Jeremy’s Pick: “Loving Her,” Katie Pruitt

Katie Pruitt chose to make her first EP a live experience, and it certainly feels like “Loving Her” benefited from it. Pruitt moved to Nashville from just outside of Georgia and is slowly working her way up the Nashville songwriting circles. Her performance on “Loving Her” is exquisite — at times snarky, vulnerable and powerful. It kind of brings Brandi Carlile to mind, in the best way possible. “Loving Her” is also clearly an important track in Pruitt’s own personal growth, with lines like, “You see I used to be ashamed to write a song that said her name cause I was too afraid of what they all might say.” It’s clear Pruitt has since turned that fear into great music.

Thomas’ Pick: “One Day at a Time,” American Aquarium

“You see, the man left holding the pen controls how every story ends and truth becomes a martyr for the sake of the song,” sings BJ Barham on the bare bones confessional “One Day At A Time.” Barham, who’s American Aquarium will be releasing the band’s seventh studio album Things Change on June 1, has always been one to write relentlessly raw and highly emotional songs. Here on “One Day At A Time,” he reaches a new level of brutal honesty and intimacy as he tackles sobriety, combats temptation and discovers earnest love. As the album title reflects, things change. While the highly documented disbandment and overhaul of American Aquarium is a part of that change, Barham’s sobriety seems to be the album’s true lynchpin. It’s a good place for Barham and company to be.

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Wide Open Country Weekly Must-Listens: Lori McKenna, American Aquarium and More