Wide Open Country's Six Pack: Cole Swindell, Lainey Wilson + More

Cole Swindell is seen performing onstage during day 2 of the 2021 Tortuga Music Festival on November 13, 2021 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. (Photo by Jason Koerner/Getty Images)/ Recording Artist Lainey Wilson performs live on stage during OPRY NEXTSTAGE LIVE at The Grand Ole Opry on November 21, 2021 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images)

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

"Slow Cookin'," Willie Jones

"Slow Cookin'" and digital flip side "Soul Food" express Willie Jones' romantic desires through Southern foodways analogies. While Jones' seamless blend of country and hip-hop helps push popular music closer to a moment where made-up genre distinctions mean way less, his lyrical choices point back to everyone from fellow artists proud of their Louisiana ties (Doug Kershaw) to folksy foodies (think Guy Clark's "Texas Cookin'").

"Slow Cookin'" in particular injects old-school country storytelling into country-trap. It samples a much older song that likens romantic encounters to comfort food: Hank Williams' "Hey Good Lookin'." By referencing Williams in a song built around the type of stories he told back in the 1950s, Jones links his music to that of Ole Hank more convincingly than most mainstream name-droppers could ever pull off.

-- Bobby Moore

"Hometown," Lou Ridley

Much like Priscilla Block's "Peaked in High School," Lou Ridley's "Hometown" counters the long list of 21st century country songs that hold artists' teenage experiences on high.

Of course there's nothing wrong with small town pride. Just remember that some of us had to get away from cliquishness and high school mentalities and find like-minded creatives elsewhere to truly feel at home. In the process, we thoroughly and deliciously exceeded others' expectations.

If you get what I'm talking about, you'll feel seen by Ridley as she serves both venom for past bullies and hope for fellow outcasts.

-- Bobby Moore

"Never Say Never," Cole Swindell and Lainey Wilson

This late November disruptor of year-end list plans further elevates two Nashville stars. For Cole Swindell, it lengthens a streak of can't miss radio hits and live show crowd-pleasers. For Lainey Wilson, it's a strong end to her breakout year as a country artist.

Swindell wrote the song in 2018 with Chase McGill and Jessi Alexander and bided his time until Wilson emerged as his ideal vocal sparring partner. When the breakup song got pitched to Wilson, it was love at first listen.

"He actually sent me the song when I was on my first vacation that I had taken in like 10 years," Wilson told Today's Country Radio with Kelleigh Bannen. "I was sitting on the beach in Mexico, drinking a pina colada and Cole Swindell texts me. And he says, 'Hey, I've got this song. I would love for you to be a part of it. I want to hear what you think about it.' And I'm not even playing and it wasn't because I was a little tipsy. I listened to the first verse and I knew it was special. It made me feel something, it was relatable. It told a story. And I said, 'Sign me up.'"

-- Bobby Moore

"Charlie Pickle," Sad Daddy

Roots band Sad Daddy (Brian Martin, Joe Sundell, Rebecca Patek and Melissa Carper) pay tribute to a free spirited dreamer on "Charlie Pickle."

"It's about a conceptualized character, an ol' timer named Charlie Pickle," Sad Daddy's Brian Martin said in a press release. "Charlie's a man who's lived it all, seen it all, and done it all. He's not interested in fitting in or impressing anyone. He just wants to cut loose on a dance floor and let the music take him wherever it's going to take him."

"Charlie Pickle" is the lead single from the group's forthcoming third album Way Up in the Hills.

-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer

"My Only Friend," Brian Mackey

Brian Mackey's buoyant ode to human connection, "My Only Friend," was inspired by a reunion with friend and fellow artist Jeff King.

"I was so happy to have a show that wasn't 2500 miles away from home for once, and I was happy to be playing somewhere with him because he's one of those people that has the natural ability to make you breathless with laughter," Mackey says. "Jeff started playing, and we were looking at the line forming outside the front window.  I declared, 'It's good to be here again, I hope this feeling never ends, so great that you're around me now.' It was a true statement, and so the song was written."

"My Only Friend" is the latest release from Mackey's forthcoming album Good Morning Ireland.

-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer

"Hard Candy Christmas," Caylee Hammack

Caylee Hammack proves that it's never too early for Christmas music with her stark and goregous cover of Dolly Parton's classic "Hard Candy Christmas."

"'Hard Candy Christmas' has always been one of my favorite Christmas songs," Hammack shared in a press release.  "It was fun to get to strip it down a bit and produce it myself in the studio for Spotify's Holiday Series."

Hammack's rendition of the song was released as part of Spotify Singles: Holiday collection, featuring covers of holiday classics by Spoon, MisterWives and more.

-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer


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Wide Open Country's Six Pack: Cole Swindell, Lainey Wilson + More