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: “Let Go Of Your Plans,” Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real ft. Madison Ryann Ward
This recent track from Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real is a country love song in its truest form. The lyrics offer up a warm welcome to a hesitant lover. “Don’t be afraid of change,” Nelson sings. “Everybody’s gotta let go of something.” The track also features stunning harmonies from Madison Ryann Ward, who’s voice stunned David Letterman during a recent episode of his Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction.
Bobbie Jean’s Pick: “Better Boat,” Kenny Chesney ft. Mindy Smith
“Now and then I let it go, I ride the waves I can’t control,” Chesney sings on the gorgeous and pensive “Better Boat.” Written by Travis Meadows and Liz Rose, the song centers on a soul slowly finding its way out of darkness and learning how to navigate pain by leaning on friends and spending reflective and quiet time alone. Featuring vocals from Mindy Smith, the song is in many ways the heart of Chesney’s newly released album Song for the Saints, which was inspired by the spirit and resilience of the people of the Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Irma. (Proceeds from the album will go to rescue and rebuilding projects in the Virgin Islands.)
Rachel’s Pick: “Where Do You Find the Time?,” Handmade Moments
I often joke about hating to have fun, but I think I’ve found the song to melt my heart. “Where Do You Find the Time?” is a song that’s best enjoyed in the late afternoon with a white wine cooler. Handmade Moments’ gentle blend of roots and early jazz give this song enough slink to have an attitude while showcasing the band’s chemistry. While the song itself is breezy, there is some added weight to it. The band’s May release Paw Paw Tree came out on the anniversary of their near-fatal tour bus crash back in 2016. Knowing that helps appreciate the way they seem to savor the joy in every casual moment throughout the song.
Bobby’s Pick: “Prodigal Daughter,” Nikki and the Phantom Callers
On past lists, we’ve celebrated the music of Atlanta’s Anna Kramer and her Shantih Shantih bandmate, Midnight Larks member Nikki Speake. The first 7-inch release by their other band, the more country-sounding Nikki and the Phantom Callers, arrived in late July. On a-side “Prodigal Daughter,” the pair’s voices go together like biscuits and gravy. It’s part down-home Biblical allegory, part tambourine-shaking shindig. Most Americana is by garage-punks with a heightened interest in classic country, so you’ve heard this blend plenty of times before. Yet Speake’s songwriting makes this selection lyrically stronger than the usual jokey attempt at defining garage-country
Jeremy’s Pick: “I Choose Us,” Voth
Comprised of siblings Caleb, Jacob, Hannah and Cody, Voth straddles the line between Americana and gospel on their new song “I Choose Us.” Focused on the heavy theme of a marriage going through tumult, “I Choose Us” leverages the group’s genetic foundation to wrap the whole song in gorgeous harmonies. The tune also does an excellent job of exploring dynamic range, going from downtrodden to soaring and back again in a matter of bars.
Thomas’ Pick: “Losin’ Horses,” The Mallett Brothers
The Mallett Brothers Band released Vive L’Acadie! back in mid-June. Long Live Acadia!, the battle cry of the band’s sixth full-length is indebted to the band’s homeland of Maine. Not to turn this into too much of a history lesson, but Acadia was was colony of New France that included parts of modern-day Maine, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. With that in mind, The Mallett Brothers Band draw from their Maine roots, French-Candian folk and a keen sense of campfire storytelling and barn dancing rhythms. On “Losin’ Horses,” they carve out a rich and addictive toe-tapper. “You keep on betting on losing horses,” they sing on the haunting harmony hook. There’s something incredibly pristine and refreshing about their brand of Americana. Overall, it’s crisp and green with timely fiddle, mandolin and dobro. Still, it’s refined and clean without becoming a sterile environment. In all, they capture a feel-good down-home vibe built on clever hooks and satisfying storytelling.