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Wide Open Country's Weekly Must-Listens: Heather Morgan, The Band of Heathens and More

Blythe Thomas

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: "Heart Like a Wheel," Eric Church

With his second new track from upcoming record Desperate Man, Eric Church sticks with the soulful, retro vibes. A love song for the unconventional couple, "Heart Like a Wheel" shows off the softer edges of his rugged persona.

Bobbie Jean's Pick: "Rock and Roll to My Country Soul," Jenny Tolman

If you've ever fallen for someone with a record collection that couldn't be more different than yours, you can probably relate to Jenny Tolman's "Rock and Roll to My Country Soul." "You like Jimmy Page, I like Emmylou," Tolman sings on the feel-good honky-tonker. "But we come together somewhere around 'Blue Suede Shoes.'" Just as country has merged with rock and vice versa, Country-loving Tolman and her rocker partner find common ground whether they're dancing to Chuck Berry or a classic-country fiddle tune.

Rachel's Pick: "Fragments," Jeremy Squires

Jeremy Squires constantly breaks my heart. It's not on purpose. He's one of the few people who can write candidly about struggling with mental illness. These songs are raw but gentle. Squires' low-fi production and reliance on loops builds a cocoon of isolation; it's not that Squires wants to bring us down, he just wants to show us where he's at. "Fragments" is a great example of Squires' style; even if you tune out the lyrics (P.S. -- don't do that) you get a sense of the sadness that he feels. It's almost like Squires isn't quite touching the Earth. However, digging into the lyrics on "Fragments" or any of Squires' other songs is rewarding and cathartic.

Bobby's Pick: "Nashville Blues," Jim Lauderdale and Roland White

Fans of Americana's sharp-dressed man, Jim Lauderdale, get to enjoy two new releases this summer. Archival 1979 recordings with Roland White -- a bluegrass legend and the brother of the late Byrds member Clarence White -- accompanied the Aug. 3 release of Lauderdale's brand new album Time Flies. The White recordings, featuring a young Marty Stuart on lead guitar, resurfaced after being lost for nearly 40 years. They represent the sound of the times, coming from an era when the folk revival, country rock and "newgrass" impacted how and why young artists approached the music of Earl Scruggs and Bill Monroe. With two great instrumental and vocal talents at the forefront, the recording project celebrated such surnames as Delmore, Stanley, Louvin and other brother duos. For example, a then-unknown Lauderdale and his nasally tenor friend breathed new life into an album-closing cover of the Alton Delmore original "Nashville Blues."

Jeremy's Pick: "Giving Up," Logan Brill

Logan Brill's new song "Giving Up" follows a familiar theme -- her own twist on the "sick and tired of being sick and tired" trope -- but she does so in earnest. It's the right mix of a hooky chorus and an organic production sound. It doesn't hurt that Brill's earthy voice carries through both the high energy and more downtrodden moments. There are little elements, like the background vocals in the second prechorus, that really show a thoughtfulness to the production. In a lot of ways, "Giving Up" feels like the kind of song that would appear in a show like Nashville, and that's a big compliment.

Olivia's Pick: "Hey Mister," The Band of Heathens

As part of The Band of Heathens' upcoming release A Message from the People Revisited, a reworking of Ray Charles' classic 1972 record, comes "Hey Mister." Released this week, the Austin, Texas, group bridges funk with alt-country music. It's not quite as far a reach as it sounds; it's a fresh take from two genres rooted in American culture and storytelling, revisiting a decades-old political message that's still relevant in the tumultuous climate of today. Soulful organ and jazzy, declarative vocals get the point across with modern flare and add an element of fun. As far as political art goes, "Hey Mister" is nuanced where it should be but unapologetic in manner. It's both foot-stomping and jivey, and might just make you feel like you're back in the '60s for four glorious minutes.

Thomas' Pick: "Your Hurricane," Heather Morgan

Though she's been a songwriter in Nashville for some years now, Texas transplant Heather Morgan is now releasing her debut album, Borrowed Heart, this fall (Oct. 5). "Your Hurricane," the lead single for the full-length, was written on a still and calm morning on a trip out to Joshua Tree. She's stuck in her own head and can't shake loose an old relationship. Morgan floods us with lines and imagery that display the fatigue and weariness that comes. You feel that mix of restlessness and resilience in Morgan's warm vocals. She's tired of being consumed and drained by the soured relationship. Still, there's a glow through it all. You get the sense a few more calm and quiet mornings out west will be the reset she needs to shake the storm.

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Wide Open Country's Weekly Must-Listens: Heather Morgan, The Band of Heathens and More