Each week the Wide Open Country staff rounds up our favorite newly released country and Americana songs. Here are five new songs we can't stop listening to this week:
"Why Things Happen," Jimmie Allen Feat. Darius Rucker and Charley Pride
Presumed gaps between generations and creative approaches to country music go to the wayside on Jimmie Allen's collaborative EP Bettie James. Allen makes the most of Tim McGraw ("Made For These") and Mickey Guyton's ("Drunk & I Miss You") involvement, but the highlight from the new release has to be Allen's team-up with the only Black men among the Grand Ole Opry's living members, Darius Rucker and Charley Pride.
It's no stretch to say that hearing Allen read off the same page as an established star in Rucker and a living legend in Pride proves he's not just one of Nashville's best young storytellers. Indeed, Allen's a vocalist and song interpreter able to hold his own when compared to some of the greats.
"If That Ain't God," Chris Young
Chris Young's new country-gospel song is basically a modern, common-sense version of the Dottie Rambo classic "If That Isn't Love." Both songs count its singer's blessings as proof that God's watching over us. Yet Young's approach differs because it builds off of everyday observations instead of Biblical references, making it more blue-collar and less red-back hymnal.
Young co-wrote his public profession of faith with Greylan James, Matt Roy and Mitch Ogelsby.
When paired with "Drowning," a recent hit inspired by the death of one of Young's friends, "If That Ain't God" teases Young's transition from a mainstream hitmaker with an old-school voice to a poet of the people.
"Fake Empire," Molly Tuttle
Award-winning singer-songwriter and guitarist Molly Tuttle put her own spin on 10 of her favorite songs for her forthcoming covers album ...but I'd rather be with you (out August 28). Her rendition of The National's "Fake Empire" is a stunning statement against apathy, which the music video amplifies by featuring footage of activism in mid-20th century America.
"We created the Fake Empire video by projecting footage of activism in mid 20th century America onto me while I played the song. We contrasted that footage with forest fires, stars and dreamlike images," Tuttle said in a press release. "We wanted to leave the meaning of the video somewhat up to interpretation, just like the lyrics of the song. Matt Berninger commented that the song is about 'where you can't deal with the reality of what's really going on, so let's just pretend that the world's full of bluebirds and ice skating.' Right now a lot of people in our country are waking up to the realities of police brutality, racism, and bigotry all around us. I hope that people, like myself, who have the privilege to turn a blind eye to these injustices, can maintain this awareness and action to create a better society."
Tuttle's ...but I'd rather be with you features covers of The Rolling Stones, FKA Twigs, Harry Styles, Grateful Dead and more. The record features Taylor Goldsmith from Dawes on background vocals.
-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer
"Your Ghost," Dave Hause feat. Amythyst Kiah and Kam Franklin
Singer-songwriter Dave Hause wrote "Your Ghost" with his songwriting partnery and brother Tim Hause. The song, which features Grammy-nominated artist Amythyst Kiah and Kam Franklin of The Suffers, is a powerful protest song about George Floyd, police brutality and white privilege. Hause says the tune was a reminder that songs can change hearts and minds, start conversations and make a difference in the world.
"I remember a recent conversation I had after getting offstage in Portland, Oregon. I was standing at the back of the club when a grizzled white guy came up and said, 'Hey, I'm a retired Marine, military man my whole life. Your song, 'Seasons Greetings From Ferguson' changed my whole perspective on racial justice. I have been dedicating a ton of my time to understanding and trying to make things better since I heard that song,'" Hause said in a statement. "It was a reminder that songs can make a little difference. They're a way to reframe, to understand, and to convey ideas that sometimes we can't in regular conversation and debate. They can provide some comfort, they can start a conversation, maybe even prompt a new way to look at things. If they prompt even one person to consider something they had the privilege of overlooking before, then it was worth it. We all have a tremendous amount of heavy lifting to do in order for there to be equity for all in this country. We ALL need to keep pushing, keep having the hard conversations, and put ourselves in the shoes of others to try to make things right. We hope this will be part of that push."
-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer
"Lifeboat," Matthew Szlachetka
Singer-songwriter Matthew Szlachetka sings a love letter to Los Angeles on "Lifeboat," a song about letting go of creature comforts to begin a new future. Co-written with Tim Jones, "Lifeboat" was produced by Grammy-winning producer Scott Underwood and recorded at Blackbird Studio A and Thunderwood Sound in Nashville. The song is the latest release from Szlachetka's forthcoming album Young Heart, Old Soul.
-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer