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: “Buy My Own Drinks,” Runaway June
Country music needs more empowering female anthems, and that’s just what Runaway June have supplied with their new track “Buy My Own Drinks.” Time and time again, country radio is filled with songs about guys buying a woman a drink and getting her number. But having a good time as a woman in a bar isn’t reliant on having a man alongside you. If you’re having a night out on the town on your own terms, this is the perfect song to turn up loud and sing along to.
Bobbie Jean’s Pick: “Break Out the Champagne,” Amanda Shires
One of many stellar tracks from her recently released genre-bending album To the Sunset, Amanda Shires‘ “Break Out the Champagne” opens with a guitar riff reminiscent of The Replacements and celebrates embracing the unknown. Weaving tales of apocalyptic visions, disastrous airplane rides and a very satisfying break-up, Shires assures us that what seems tragic in the moment might not be all that horrible in the end. And even if everything seems to be going to hell, pop some bottles (either literally or metaphorically) and take on whatever comes your way.
Rachel’s Pick: “Girl Crush,” The Paisley Fields
What ever happened to the time-honored tradition of covering country music standards? That’s not a rhetorical question. I think it’s really fun to see how different artists interpret specific songs. It also showcases the band’s chops if you see how they riff off of a structure you already know well. Here, The Paisley Fields show us what they’ve got with their cover of Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” from their album Glitter & Sawdust. The song famously came under fire for its ambiguously homoerotic lyrics. James Wilson, the Paisley Fields’ charismatic frontman, plays with that subtext and transforms it into a doomed live triangle. Musically, Wilson builds a woozy cocoon of synth organs to showcase his impassioned crooning.
Bobby’s Pick: “I Need a Hit,” Chicago Farmer
A talented Illinois-based singer-songwriter lands a home state gig that ultimately gets him more exposure. That scenario describes both Steve Goodman’s fateful chance to open for Kris Kristofferson in 1971 and the setting of the Chicago Farmer’s first-ever live album, Quarter Past Tonight.
Chicago Farmer, the on-stage alias of Cody Diekhoff, played two sold-out nights at Peoria’s Apollo Theater in December 2017. Both shows were recorded for posterity and make up the two-disc, 34-track set of old favorites, between-song banter and previously unreleased songs.
A great example of his songwriting and performing chops is “I Need a Hit,” the first song off disc one. It’s about a road-worn troubadour dreaming about a John Hartford scenario — meaning he’d have a money-maker like “Gentle on My Mind” funding his traveling circus.
Jeremy’s Pick: “Gilded Walls,” Will Hoge
Will Hoge has never shied away from speaking his mind on music, politics, or anything else. In the past few years, however, he’s swung the pendulum to facing the issues head on. On “Gilded Walls,” Hoge takes firm aim not only at Donald Trump (though without naming him), but the societal issues he seems so willing to disregard. From the tainted water in Michigan to school shootings, Hoge covers it all, each time returning to a refrain that accuses the antagonist of not caring. “There’s a pot of gold for all the dreams you stole inside your gilded walls that shine,” Hoge sings. It’s expertly crafted and delivered in blistering Hoge fashion.
Olivia’s Pick: “Hold Me Like a Gun,” Elise Davis
Elise Davis has released four great singles for her upcoming second LP Cactus, but “Hold Me Like a Gun” hones in on a darker side of the relationship themes explored throughout her work. Davis examines self-awareness of one’s own flaws through her sentimental crooning, evoking metaphorical desert imagery of a motel pool and blue moon. It’s an interesting exploration of the traits that hold us back from love and letting go, and the need for protection. Shimmering pedal steel licks accent the moody guitar work, reminiscent of an old Western soundtrack during a climactic standoff. This song specifically showcases her vocal and lyrical talent as subtle and romantic.
Thomas’ Pick: “Backwards Women,” The Jayhawks
For their latest album Back Roads and Abandoned Motels, The Jayhawks decided to wrangle in and record songs bandleader Gary Louris had written with other artists — the Dixie Chicks, Jakob Dylan and Carrie Rodriguez for example. The Rolling Stonesesque “Backwards Women” was written by Louris with fellow Americana upstarts The Wild Feathers a few years back (the same afternoon as Wild Feathers’ staple “American” to be exact). In typical fashion, Louris and company tackle “Backwards Women” with crunchy guitars that bite, full-fledged harmonies and an exquisite melody that tumbles forward. A driving piano kicks in with honky tonk flair. “I don’t want to love you, but I’ll try,” sings Louris on the warm and harmony-laden hook. As expected, it’s the makings of a classic Jayhawks number falling right in line with some of their best work.