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.
"I'm Free Again," Norman Blake
Norman Blake has long stood at the intersection of folk and country music, from his decades as a Johnny Cash collaborator to his contributions to Bob Dylan's Nashville Skyline, John Hartford's Aereo-Plain, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's Will the Circle Be Unbroken, Alison Krauss and Robert Plant's Raising Sand, the O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack and other crucial albums. Not to mention his massive catalog as a solo performer and as a partner in music and matrimony of the equally brilliant Nancy Blake.
The 83 year old brings a front porch picking feel to Day By Day (out Oct. 22 via Smithsonian Folkways Recordings), a collection of songs he plays on guitar and banjo in a style that, while virtuosic by all rights, never outraces or overshadows the time-tested stories being told.
"The material is always the main thing with me; I consider my performance to be a very humble part of it," Blake wrote for the album's liner notes.
-- Bobby Moore
"Fun Having Fun," Zac Brown Band
"Fun Having Fun," the latest track shared from the Zac Brown Band's forthcoming album The Comeback (out Oct. 15), is what it might sound like if a front porch picking session resulted in an original tune about youthful indiscretion.
"'Fun Having Fun' is about all the dumb stuff you do when you're a kid," explained Brown. "One of my co-writers on the track is actually my buddy Kurt (Thomas), who I went to high school with in Dahlonega. He and I made a demo tape when we were kids called KZ, for Kurt & Zac, and he was the first guy I ever sat down with and thought, 'We're gonna be big.' It was fun to circle back to that time in my life and remember some of the things that we did together, especially with the perspective of now being a parent. We really wanted to include a bluegrass-type song on this album, and 'Fun Having Fun' was definitely the right one."
Or you could just say it's Hee Haw meets Jackass.
-- Bobby Moore
"Made," Spencer Crandall
As I was roaming around YouTube I found this beautiful gem, and let me tell you, I am hooked. "Made" was written by Crandall himself, Andrew Beason, Jeff Cherry and Ian McConnell. The song is currently No. 20 on the iTunes Top 100 Country Songs Chart.
The song speaks about how a soulmate is something you create for yourself. Crandall sweetly sings, "Made / Yeah, we choose each other every day / Even when we bend we know we won't break / We just bounce back better / 'Cause soulmates aren't found they're / Forged in the same fire / Work at it even when we get tired / Marking ups out of downs doing all that is takes / 'Cause soulmates aren't found they're made." This is Crandall's first release from his upcoming 2022 project.
-- Silke Jasso
"Breadwinner," Kacey Musgraves
Six-time Grammy award-winning artist Kacey Musgraves didn't leave anything behind when it came to her new studio album, star-crossed. "Breadwinner" resonated with a lot of her fans for her powerful and emotional lyrics describing one partner taking advantage of the success of the other. A lot of people were quick to put two and two together, speculating that the singer was speaking about her former relationship. Back in 2020, Musgraves and ex-husband, Ruston Kelly ended their marriage, which was the inspiration behind her new album.
Musgraves sings, "He wants a breadwinner / He wants your dinner / Until he ain't hungry anymore/ He wants your shimmer / To make him feel bigger / Until he starts feeling insecure."
Whether it is about her personal life or not, the song is definitely an anthem for listeners worldwide. She sure knows how to cater to her fans.
-- Silke Jasso
"South For the Winter," Adia Victoria (feat. Matt Berninger)
Nashville singer-songwriter and poet Adia Victoria teams up with The National's Matt Berninger for "South For the Winter" from Victoria's new T Bone Burnett-produced album A Southern Gothic, a collection of songs that explore the history and culture of the south.
"What do we think about when we think about Southern gothic? What do we think about when we think of Southern literature -- usually Black Southern writers are hemmed out of that," the South Carolina native told Rolling Stone. "You have your [William] Faulkner, your [Eudora] Welty, your [Flannery] O'Connor, but it's not common you'll see Alice Walker included in that list as well. I wanted to include myself in the history of the South. I wanted to make this young Black girl's narrative just as emblematic of a Southern experience as Faulkner could write."
A Southern Gothic, Victoria's third full-length album, also features "You Was Born To Die," a collaboration with Kyshona Armstrong, Margo Price and Jason Isbell.
Victoria is also the host of the podcast Call and Response, which features conversations with artists about their current work and musical lineage.
-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer
"Wild Peppermint," Alexa Rose
North Carolina singer-songwriter Alexa Rose weaves her Appalachian folk influences into the sweetly nostalgic, piano-driven "Wild Peppermint."
"I was feeling nostalgic and excited about the colder weather coming in," Rose said in a press release. "Growing up in the south, you don't get a big snow very often, so it was always a thrill when it looked like we might get enough to get out of school. I used to check the NOAA website religiously with an old friend, our latest mix CD playing 'Snow Day' by Matt Pond PA. We'd get our hopes up just to have them crushed when those snow clouds turned to rain or just fizzled out. It felt personal because I really wanted that snow day, but there is nothing more indifferent than weather. Relationships are like weather in that way - when they shift or end, sometimes it's just the natural course of action. It's good to remember that sometimes in the middle of any transition, and I'd say that's the mission of the song. It's all just weather, and years later, you look back and hopefully smile, understanding how it brought you to the next station."
"Wild Peppermint" is featured on Rose's newly released sophomore album Headwaters, the follow-up to her 2019 debut Medicine For Living.
-- Bobbie Jean Sawyer