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: “Giving You Away,” Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real ft. Lucius
Lukas Nelson dropped his impressive Forget About Georgia EP last week and it’s been on heavy rotation for me every since. While country music has supplied its share of sugary sweet songs about the relationship between a father and daughter, “Giving You Away” is one of the best I’ve heard in years. Although the lyrics are vague enough that it could also be viewed as a mutual breakup song, Nelson’s heartfelt delivery, elevated by Lucius’s ever-impressive harmonies, hits the bittersweet tone perfectly. “I’m giving you away but I’m never gonna let you go” is one of those lines simple but powerful lines that sticks with you long after the song ends.
Bobbie Jean’s Pick: “Fred and Jonell,” Ben Danaher
Rachel’s Pick: “Could Be a Lot Worse,” Whitney Lockert
Whitney Lockert wouldn’t necessarily describe himself as a country singer, but with a voice like his it’s just kind of fate. Lockert has spent the last few years splitting his time between New York and his home state of California — it’s easy to hear the influence of both places in his songwriting. Lockert’s music gracefully swings between rock, folk, and country with the sweeping sounds of Laurel Canyon. But his lyrics have an edge to them born in part from the New York City grind (beautifully illustrated in the first few shots of the video.) Lockert is a sharp songwriter who excels at wringing irony from three chords and the truth — no matter what the music sounds like.
Annalise’s Pick: “Little Rock,” Reba McEntire
Earlier this week, Pitchfork released their mammoth list of the 200 best albums of the 80s. There was a noticeable lack of country, which should come as no surprise considering the outlet’s history and our (aka people who listen to music in the United States of America) complicated relationship to country music and class. It’s fine, though, because had it not happened I wouldn’t have revisited country music from the 80s and the absolute jam that is Reba McEntire’s first album, Whoever’s In New England. Technically considered “urban cowboy” (thanks, Hollywood) and housed Kenny Rogers, Glen Campbell, and Dolly Parton’s output at the time, McEntire’s first album is an absolute upper-class banger. Is it a coincidence that the hook of “Little Rock” bears a striking resemblance that of to ABBA’s “Waterloo”? Tough to say, though pop country music does have a funny habit of picking up on trends a decade after they go mainstream. Either way, I’ve got this in rotation and I won’t be taking it off any time soon.
Bobby’s Pick: “Working Girl,” Joshua Ray Walker
As its title implies, Dallas-based singer-songwriter Joshua Ray Walker’s latest single, “Working Girl,” celebrates blue-collar women. It’s liable to make you cry about the work your mother, grandmother or older sister put into keeping a roof over your head. Or you might smile over a catchy, well-written song by a promising young talent. Like other talented Texans, Walker can elicit either emotion at the drop of a hat. Expect more melodic character sketches from where this came from when Walker’s debut album Wish You Were Here arrives via State Fair Records.
Jeremy’s Pick: “Tragic,” Jillian Jacqueline
On Jillian Jacqueline’s Side B EP (the fitting sequel to last year’s Side A EP), the buzzy songwriter fully embraces her writing quirks while diving further into her pop inclinations than ever before. The result is a wide-ranging and thoroughly solid body of work that continues to mine from Jacqueline’s personal seismic shifts, from relationships to life decisions. “Tragic” is probably the “poppiest” of songs on the EP, and the combination of the hooky chorus with the free-wheeling and highly stylized verses make this an absolute standout. In a genre that seems to find mind boggling comfort in cliched phrases and party pablum, Jacqueline reminds us all that you can still be fun to listen to without pretending everything’s great all the time.
Olivia’s Pick: “The Truth Is So Hard To Believe,” Aaron Lee Tasjan
Thomas’ Pick: “Downturn,” Adam Hood
Alabama’s Adam Hood announced his new album Somewhere in Between a few weeks back when he shared “She Don’t Love Me,” a country groover collaboration with fellow son of the south Brent Cobb. Now he’s shared “Downturn,” a slow-burning co-write with Jason Eady. He lets us in on an intimate exchange between loved ones that’s reassuring and comforting. Everyone goes through rough patches. It doesn’t necessarily mean Hood’s stuck in a rut for the long haul though. “Downturn” captures one of these rough spots. “Because running in circles beats the hell out of sinking in sand,” sings Hood. “Downturn” isn’t a love song in the traditional sense. It isn’t filled with bouquets and love letters in the mail, but there’s honesty in his voice and an unwavering trust in his words. It’s genuine as they come.