Harper Smith

Wide Open Country's Six Pack: Midland, Summer Dean + More

Every other week, the Wide Open Country team rounds up our favorite newly released country and Americana songs. Here are 6 songs we currently have on repeat.

"Can You Hear Me Knocking," Summer Dean

On "Can You Hear Me Knocking," singer-songwriter Summer Dean makes it clear that she's not content to wait around for doors to open. She'll bust them down herself with a cowboy boot and a soulful honky tonk twang.

"I know that I could quit this life and do what those good girls do and go hyphenate my name," Dean sings. "You know I might be blind from these long white lines, but I love it just the same/ Can you hear me knocking? 'Cause I'm lettin' myself in."

Dean's forthcoming album Bad Romantic, the follow-up to her 2016 album Unladylike, is a nod to her upbringing in rural Texas 

"I taught elementary school for 10 years," Dean says in a press release. "That's what small-town Texas girls do. We teach school, work at the bank, or at the courthouse. Then we get married and have babies and a few dogs and die happy, buried next to our husbands. But here I am, age 40, quitting my stable job, cashing in the wedding money my momma put aside for me, and making this album."

Dean previously released the Colter Wall duet "You're Lucky She's Lonely."

— Bobbie Jean Sawyer

"I'm Going to Memphis," Johnny Cash

Just days before the 1968 release of his At Folsom Prison live album, Johnny Cash took his traveling show to The Carousel Ballroom, a short-lived collective operated by the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Big Brother and the Holding Company and located in the same building that'd become the Fillmore West.

While that probably reads like a culture clash on par with Merle Haggard and the Sex Pistols sharing the Longhorn Ballroom in Dallas' marquee a decade later (for different concerts on separate nights), it wasn't that weird of a fit. After all, Cash loved two things valued by the Haight-Asbury crowd: folk music and freedom. Likewise, the Carousel Ballroom regulars' high bar for great and genre line-blurring live music could be cleared with ease by Cash.

Audio proof that Cash wowed the counterculture arrives Sept. 24 via Bear's Sonic Journals: Johnny Cash, At the Carousel Ballroom April 24, 1968.

Grateful Dead sound engineer Owsley "Bear" Stanley recorded the show for posterity, including the above version of "I'm Going to Memphis."

The album announcement on Cash's website quotes John Carter Cash as saying that the latest release from Bear's archives is among "the most intimate and connected shows I have ever heard."

— Bobby Moore

"Paycheck to Paycheck," Mike and the Moonpies

Mike and the Moonpies puts some drive in your country while staring down harsh reality with new song "Paycheck to Paycheck."

Band namesake and lead singer Mike Harmeier and producer Adam Odor co-wrote the all-too-relatable lyrics about sweating it out until payday and partying to electrifying songs like this one after the check's cashed.

It's the opening track from the group's forthcoming concept album about the working person's blues, One to Grow On (out Aug. 10).

"This is a working man and woman's record -  the story of the American dream. It's about a character searching for balance," Harmeier says in a press release. "Like myself, he is at the age where he's losing family, close friends and mentors. He's realizing nothing lasts forever and grapples with how to appreciate the moment he's in while still working tirelessly towards a future for his family. He's nostalgic for the carefree days of his youth but knows what has to be done and does it. Life has forced him to truly 'grow up.' This really struck me thinking about my own son and how carefree his life is now and how I can instill these traits in him as his father. That's why 'One To Grow On' seemed like such a fitting title."

— Bobby Moore

"Sunrise Tells the Story," Midland

Midland has a new EP, The Last Resort, coming later this month. According to Rolling Stone, it will be full of songs from their making-the-band documentary The Sonic Ranch. "Sunrise Tells the Story" is the first new song released from the upcoming project, the band's first new music in two years. It's an interesting ballad telling the tale of a late-night romantic encounter — "The moon saw it all through a thin piece of glass / And the stars must've blushed when you kissed me like that."

It's definitely a strong choice to preview the upcoming EP because now I can't wait to hear the rest of Midland's new music!

— Courtney Fox

"Rest of My Life," Parker McCollum

While fans are eagerly awaiting McCollum's new album Gold Chain Cowboy which is set for a July 30th release, the country singer debuted his new single "Rest of My Life" and it does not disappoint. Can we talk about the harmonica work going on here? I just can't stop listening to it. The acoustic melody is reminiscent of some country's biggest hits of the '90s in the best way possible with some strong lyrics to boot. No wonder it's already a fan favorite.

"There's a picture frame hangin' a little to the side, some drugs on the counter in the kitchen by the wine / And I'm shakin' like winter but I just can't eat, it's just one of those late nights that I'm never gonna beat."

— Courtney Fox

"Cowboy Take Me Away," Miley Cyrus and Orville Peck

In honor of Pride Month, the streaming service Peacock released a free concert event: Miley Cyrus Presents Stand By You, hosted by the punk-pop-country idol herself and filmed at Nashville's historic Ryman Auditorium. Cyrus was joined onstage by many of country's hottest names, among them, Orville Peck. For their duet, the pair covered "Cowboy Take Me Away" by The Chicks. In this proud and celebratory space, the love song was entirely reframed: its message distinctly queer. Peck's careful costuming — a royal purple suit, ten-gallon hat, and characteristic fringe mask — felt emblematic of the show at large, which both both inverted and embraced country clichés.

—Emily Mack

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