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: “Asshole (Demo),” Ruston Kelly
No one is perfect, and the latest track from Ruston Kelly is a funny but brutally honest look at human faults. Inspired by a real arrest, “Asshole” has Kelly retelling the moments from the moment the cuffs hit his wrists to his ride home, driven by his understandably upset wife (who just happens to be Kacey Musgraves).
Bobbie Jean’s Pick: “Other Arrangements,” Parker Milsap
Parker Millsap‘s forthcoming album Other Arrangements finds the Oklahoma native trading folky, Southern gothic storytelling for timeless pop hooks. Case in point: the title track, an airy love song that builds from a flickering flame to a roaring fire. Millsap’s soulful, powerhouse voice and band member Daniel Foulks’ soaring fiddle deliver an intense plea to hold on to love in a fledgling relationship.
Rachel’s Pick: “Anyone to Anybody,” Izzy Heltai
Sweet Apathy, the latest release from Boston native Izzy Heltai, is one of the most aptly-named albums this year. Heltai counts Carole King, Jason Isbell, and Brandi Carlile as his influences, and that’s clear in “Anyone to Anybody.” The song finds Heltai’s narrator at a crossroads: propositioning a would-be lover while refusing to make promises. In lesser hands, this would be a song for good times, but Heltai’s too good a storyteller for that. He uses a straightforward folk rock melody to draw us in but mournful harmonies to illustrate the bittersweetness of such an ephemeral moment, the precipice of a decision. The sweet apathy illustrated here is a beautiful and heartbreaking sketch of youth.
Bobby’s Pick: “Mornin’s Gonna Come,” Brent Cobb
As songs from Brent Cobb‘s Providence Canyon (out May 11) hit the internet, it becomes more and more apparent that fellow Georgia boys Blackberry Smoke aren’t the only ones keeping good ole Southern rock relevant in 2018. It’s almost too easy to compare stuff like this to Lynyd Skynyrd, but recent single “Mornin’s Gonna Come” springs to life through keyboard licks, country-blues guitar riffs and soulful backup vocals reminiscent of the Street Survivors era. It’s all pieced together by the guiding hand of ace producer and famous kin folk Dave Cobb.
Jeremy’s Pick: “Don’t Give Up On My Love,” Caitlyn Smith
Caitlyn Smith wrote some of the biggest country and pop hits of the past few years, but when it comes to her own artistry, she takes it to a whole new emotional level. With a golden pipes that can sing you to sleep or tear you apart at any moment’s notice, Smith finally released her album Starfire to critical acclaim earlier this year. “Don’t Give Up On My Love” is a standout track that grows from a whisper to an all-out string-soaked wail. It’s the perfect example of Smith’s grasp of dynamics and the power behind raw, true emotion.
Thomas’ Pick: “Everybody Walkin’ This Land,” Paul Cauthen
Last week, Paul Cauthen announced Have Mercy (June 22), a seven-song follow-up to 2016’s My Gospel, with a thundering bang with the release of lead single “Everybody Walkin’ This Land.” Much like Johnny Cash’s version of “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” “Everybody Walkin’ This Land” finds Cauthen authoritative and bold as ever, yet God-fearingly reverent. Written with super-producer and Texas Gentlemen leader Beau Bedford, Cauthen’s chain gain hymnal finds the tall Texan further venturing into southern gothic territory with a heavy dose of Pentecostal dark country. Still, as uncompromising as Cauthen’s delivery sounds, he’s not quite going full snake-handling preacher on us. Cauthen’s not looking to cast final judgment upon everyone—even the racists, fascists, nihilists, bigots he’s calling out. There’s a guiding light at the end of Cauthen’s tent revival that urges unity, equality and a redemptive spirit.