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Wide Open Country’s Weekly Must-Listens: Escondido, Cassadee Pope and More

Marina Chavez

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: “Crush On Her,” Escondido

If you slept on Escondido‘s 2016 LP Walking With a Stranger, you missed out on some of the most spirited and infectious alt-country around. Now, the duo is gearing up to release their new record Warning Bells, due out Sept. 14. This fresh cut from the record brings back all the elements that made me love their sound from the beginning — stylish vocals, clever lyrics and undeniable instrumentation.

Bobbie Jean’s Pick: “One More Red Light,” Cassadee Pope

There’s no shortage of country songs about exploring small town streets, but for the past few years they’ve too often been from the perspective of country bros who seem more interested in describing their passengers cut-off jeans than making a meaningful connection. On “One More Red Light,” Cassadee Pope flips the script on that narrative, turning a date night drive into an opportunity for intimacy. The infectious melody and pop-country beat makes for the perfect late-night-drive soundtrack for anyone with both Carly Rae Jepsen and Kacey Musgraves on their playlists.

Rachel’s Pick: “Strong and Tender,” Eli Conley

Eli Conley spoke with me a few months ago about his involvement in the queer country scene. It was also on the eve of his wedding. As a listener, it felt a like a good time to catch him — about to embark on an important chapter and reflecting on all of his accomplishments so far. On his latest album, Strong and Tender, Conley’s truly mastered his craft. The songs here examine our most important relationships: romantic ones, of course, and the ambiguity they can contain; our gender identities, and our relationships with ourselves and our mortality. On “Strong and Tender,” Conley dives into the aftermath of a painful conflict and the ways those separations can reverberate many years later.

Annalise’s Pick: “Get Back to the City,” Juanita Stein

Imagine Lana Del Rey on horseback heading toward Joshua Tree as the sun sets, and you’ll hear Juanita Stein’s voice as she sings “You gotta get back to a place you know well.” The Australian frontwoman cut her teeth in the indie rock band Howling Bells and recently stepped out on her own as a solo artist in 2017 with her debut, America. As artists like Kacey Musgraves and Ruby Boots bend pop and rock into country, Stein bends country to her will, creating a dreamy, hazy 70s landscape in her songs. “Get Back to the City” urges the listeners who have settled for someone beneath them in exchange for some kind of long term committed relationship (who can relate) to snap out of it, recognize her worth, and get back to making happy the only person that matters: Themselves.

Bobby’s Pick: “The Black,” Beitthemeans

Why should the melodic metal sound of “The Black” and other cuts off BeitthemeansAlabama Calling EP matter to country and Americana fans? Because guitarist and singer Josh Jones, bassist Casey Wilson and drummer Nathan Kelley bring the rich storytelling you crave—and sometimes get shorted—from those genres.

The Birmingham, Ala. band’s music video for “The Black” takes an already lurid tale and makes it the backdrop for what resembles a lost episode of Black Mirror. It was made by a lot of folks involved with Blackberry Smoke’s “Rock and Roll Again” video back in 2015, including director/editor Video Rahim, producer Ashley Simpson and cast member and Biters guitarist and singer Tuk Smith.

Jeremy’s Pick: “Nashville,” Tony Lucca

Tony Lucca got an early start on The Mickey Mouse Club with fellow musicians like Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, but his songwriting is miles apart from those pop stars at this point. “Nashville” is a song he wrote in homage to his new home after making the move from Los Angeles. It’s a delicate song with some really gorgeous lines that capture the true essence of what every songwriter feels when they move to town. Lucca also made waves when he finished third on the second season of The Voice. It’s nice to hear him be a bit more subdued on this track than typical reality show fare, even showing an impressive (to me, at least) whistling side.

Olivia’s Pick: “Uh Huh,” Jade Bird

Jade Bird originally pulled me in with her whispy, tendrilous vocals and a sound that falls somewhere between Nashville artists Liza Anne and Ron Gallo. However, the British singer-songwriter takes things up a level on Southern rock-soaked single “Uh Huh,” which she also recorded a killer Spotify Singles session for. Recorded live in a room with her full band, it’s raucous in the best way — unpolished, fast-paced, raspy in all the right places. It’s a callout track in the vein of country classics “You Ain’t Woman Enough” by Loretta Lynn and “Jolene” by Dolly Parton. Her silky smooth voice dances over rough power chords in the song like a punk rock First Aid Kit, fervently calling her own shots.

Thomas’ Pick: “Too High Now,” Will Courtney

Last week, singer-songwriter Will Courtney announced the album Crazy Love (due out Sept. 21) with the release of “Too High Now,” the album’s driving lead single. The crunch of twin guitars kick into high gear like a lead foot rushing towards a weekend bender. Still, buried beneath is a lonesome wail with desert-swept pedal steel and Courtney’s own lamenting howl that sounds like a laid-back and loose Patterson Hood (Drive-By Truckers). Those pedal steel swells area straight out of the California country playbook, along with the subtle piano use. They’re flushed with a pastel warmth that accents Courtney’s rambling ‘70s state of mind.

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