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: "Hustle and Shake," The Watson Twins
Chandra and Leigh Watson, better known as The Watson Twins, will release their sixth studio album, DUO on Oct. 12. "Hustle and Shake" is the promising first taste of their latest project, which came together after the twins moved to Nashville and put a new focus on collaborative songwriting. The record also features collaborations with The Cactus Blossoms, Vanessa Carlton, Mickey Raphael and My Morning Jacket's Carl Broemel and Bo Koster.
Bobbie Jean's Pick: "Here I Am," Dolly Parton and Sia
Rachel's Pick: "99 Dollar Man," Charlie Treat
Nashville's Charlie Treat is a bit of a chameleon. While there's a country tinge to Treat's music, it's easier to think of him as a lounge singer who's a bit deep into his cups. Treat is mournful and playful and adventerous. That makes sense — given he's busked his way from Memphis to New York to Boston and then on to Austin. In "99 Dollar Man," Treat croons about the sweet frustrations of courtship on the cheap. The character paints himself as a roguish hero, promising adventure if the object of his affection can look past his trappings. Treat approaches the song with a gossamer-thin vibrato, making it seem like he's putting his entire life on the line with his request. Like a thunder-cloud, the song casually and inexorably rolls into a crescendo that makes its harmonica solo feel like the grandest of finales. It's a powerful reminder that we shouldn't judge books by their covers.
Bobby's Pick: "In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)," Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard
Worker's rights advocate and bluegrass trailblazer Hazel Dickens was a real deal roots picker, sticking up for coal miners in her native West Virginia while teaching peers like Mike Seeger a thing or two about genuine Appalachian music. Country fans might recognize her as a prime influence on the recent music of Kathy Mattea.
For a time, she performed in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. folk scene alongside Seeger's wife Alice Gerrard. Recent archival release Sing Me Back Home: The DC Tapes, 1965-1969revisits a time when underprivileged workers in the South sang gospel standards like "This Little Light of Mine" to keep their eyes on richer, eternal wages.
What's really special, though, is a chance to hear two forward-thinking, tradition-honoring singers and musicians sing Dolly Parton's own lament for the less fortunate, "In the Good Old Days (When Times Were Bad)."
Jeremy's Pick: "Crooked," Amos Lee
One of the best parts of the ever-expanding country and Americana umbrella is seeing it envelope some of America's best songwriters. Pennsylvania's Amos Lee falls right under that umbrella, particularly with his phenomenal new album My New Moon and the song "Crooked." In it, Lee takes aim at propaganda and the current political landscape. "I read a crooked headline on a crooked page," Lee sings. "There's a crooked leader on a crooked stage. But he seems to think he's standing tall; turns out it's all crooked, y'all." But the really catching thing about the song (in addition to its gorgeous melody and haunting chain-gang production) is that Lee doesn't exempt anybody from the wrath or pretend to have the answer. "And I don't know what I'm supposed to do," he sings. "Turns out that I'm crooked, too."
Olivia's Pick: "Rang Tang Ring Toon," Mountain Man
Thomas' Pick: "Buttholeville," Adam's House Cat
The old story goes that Patterson Hood's father, acclaimed Muscle Shoals musician David Hood, would often describe his son's early grunge and punk-influenced bands (and those who played grunge and punk in general) as being a "Chocolate Vomit" band. Undoubtedly, Hood's college band Adam's House Cat was one of them. Formed in '85 with fellow Drive-By Trucker Mike Cooley, Adam's House Cat was a short-lived endeavor that saw the pair experiment and grow in their pre-DBT days. Recorded in '90, Town Burned Down is newly found "lost album" from the era. Overall, it's easy to see the rough sketches and early templates that Hood would soon be known for. Though it's rude, crude and socially unacceptable, a song like "Buttholeville" is remarkably refreshing and raw. It certainly sounds like the early '90s. But if one thing's for certain, Hood's ability to capture the restlessness found throughout the Modern American South has always been there. It's the same underbelly with the same unfiltered delivery. It's not Hood's best work—that'd come later on—but Adam's House Cat is a nice snapshot of Hood right before his prime.
Annalise's Pick: "All American Made," Margo Price
I feel it's safe to say everyone knows this song, but over the last week, the front door of my apartment stopped closing properly, the ceilings in two different friends' apartments pour water every time it rains, our windows leak, and our landlords won't return any of our calls. Every time something else goes wrong, this song pops into my head, a reminder that all of this might just be some sick joke the cosmos are playing on us.
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