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: “Mountain Man,” Liz Cooper and the Stampede
This track from Liz Cooper and the Stampede finally got a proper release on their stellar debut album, Window Flowers, after becoming a fan favorite from their live shows. If you’re still craving a vibey, atmospheric anthem for your late summer road trips, look no further.
Bobbie Jean’s Pick: “Kansas City Star,” Kacey Musgraves
It makes perfect sense that Kacey Musgraves would take part in the upcoming Roger Miller tribute album. Musgraves is cut from the same cloth as the “King of the Road” himself, delivering a razor sharp sense of humor with a wink, a nudge and whip smart wordplay. The Texan took on Miller’s “Kansas City Star,” which tells the tale of a beloved host of a local kids show who turns down a better-paying job in Omaha to continue drawing large crowds at the K.C. supermarket parking lots. She effortlessly tackles Miller’s yodels (she was a teenage yodeling phenom, after all) and stays in-step with the country legend’s tongue-in-cheek grandstanding. The song may have been written about a small town-dreamer with delusions of grandeur, but Musgraves sings with a confident swagger that lets you know she really is nothing less than the “Queen of Kansas City.”
Rachel’s Pick: “Here With You,” Jerry David DeCicca
Jerry David DeCicca is just one of those people who’s a bit out of time. On his third solo album, Burning Daylight, DeCicca invokes the forgotten past of dimly-lit Texas barrooms of decades past and the humble musicians who populated them. “This is my adult power ballad on the record, a less-lusty ‘We’ve Got Tonight,’ a less-cheesy ‘Up Where We Belong,’” DeCicca writes. “I’m not sure how many pages of a calendar get shredded in this song, but it takes place over a long and loving relationship. It’s a story of supporting someone through a period of depression, acknowledging that a bad bout in the Gulf Coast was only a bruise- faded and forgotten with time, and ends in sharing and supporting each other in a time of sadness (in this case, the death of Prince). It’s a song of connection.”
Bobby’s Pick: “Tequila,” The Bluegrass Champs
One of the best and most miraculously preserved reissue projects of the year involves the talented children of early country music influencer “Pop” Stoneman. Future Hee Haw banjo wiz Roni, fiddling standout Scotty, mandolin talent Donna and brothers Jimmy and Van made up the Bluegrass Champs, the house band for influential Washington D.C. television program The Don Owens Jamboree. Excerpts from the program, once believed to be lost forever, resurfaced thanks to Baltimore native Leon Kagarise’s obsession with recording music off the television—sometimes by connecting directly to the speaker wires. These recordings were found in Karagise’s archives after his 2008 passing. Now they’re part of the Yep Roc release Bluegrass Champs: Live From the Don Owens Show, featuring such loose, fun jams as this old-time take on Pee-Wee Herman’s go-to jukebox selection.
Jeremy’s Pick: “Farewell,” William Clark Green
William Clark Green released his much-anticipated fifth studio album Hebert Island last week, and the reliable Texas country/roots rock singer doesn’t disappoint. In particular, the back half of the album really opens up to Green confronting his own conflicting feelings. And while Green always had strong Tom Petty undertones, “Farewell” stands out as particularly simple, particularly poignant, and particularly catchy. “I don’t know why I have so much hate in me, it bothers me,” Green sings. “I know that it’s best if I just turn my cheek peacefully. But I wanted to tell ya that you can go to hell, farewell.”
Olivia’s Pick: “Faceplant,” Ruston Kelly
Ruston Kelly just released “Faceplant,” the latest single from his forthcoming debut album Dying Star. In this song, Kelly faces the consequences of on-again-off-again addictive tendencies: blacking out, the physical sickness of a comedown and begging his fed-up lover to take him back. It’s deeply intimate and focuses on the determination of moving forward despite instability, with clever lyrics like “I was born and raised in an earthquake state so I’m better on shaky ground.” An emotive harmonica solo bridges the song into a confident ending. The Nashville singer-songwriter’s signature delicate harmonies and plaintive honesty get the earnest message across through a thin veil of dark humor.
Thomas’ Pick: “Urban Cowboy,” James Steinle
James Steinle’s “Urban Cowboy,” the first single from his upcoming full-length South Texas Homecoming (due out Aug. 17), is soaked in character development and rich detail. Much like his Hill Country contemporaries — Mike & The Moonpies, Carson McHone, and Mayeux & Broussard and so on — Steinle’s brand of country is shape by honky tonks, dive bars and hole in the wall escapes, specifically, the folks who find themselves holding up the bar at the end of the night. Steinle throws us right in with a hell of an introduction with “Some bow-legged cowboy from a long line of losing that washed up on the city shore, he was once a proud puncher, now a TV dinner luncher, another knot in the board.” It vividly sets the scene right from the get. He goes on to explore the decay of the Western world and cowboy culture. As Steinle says on the rollicking chorus, “it’s all fading away.”