First Country: New Music From Ashley McBryde, Little Big Town, Phil Vassar & More

Little Big Town
Becky Fluke & Reid Long

Little Big Town

First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos and albums that dropped this week.

There was no shortage of country albums released this week. Dustin Lynch dropped his hometown-inspired fourth album Tullahoma, while Little Big Town return with their harmony-driven ninth studio album Nightfall.

Newcomer Morgan Myles also released her soulful debut project, Therapy, while veteran Phil Vassar unveiled his 10th studio album, Stripped Down. Meanwhile, Ashley McBryde returned with part two of her three-part video cliffhanger with the dark murder ballad “Martha Divine.” It’s one of several already released tracks that will be featured on her upcoming sophomore studio album Never Will, due April 3.

Below, listen to the first major album releases of 2020.

Ashley McBryde, “Martha Divine”

McBryde keeps fans guessing throughout the plotline of her three-part video series which continued with the rollicking “Martha Divine,” released earlier this week. The video furthers the back story of a man’s daughter learning of his affair and deciding to put an end to it herself. The pre-meditated act comes to life as the daughter heads to a hotel room with a shovel, rope and duct tape to solve the problem. All the while, McBryde’s vivid storytelling brings the situation to life as she croons, “It ain’t murder if I bury you alive.”

Dustin Lynch, Tullahoma

Lynch furthers the storyline of his fictional “Small Town Boy” character first introduced in his 2017 chart topper throughout his fourth studio album, Tullahoma. There are breakup songs where Lynch struggles with seeing his ex around town in the fiery “Momma’s House,” tracks about new love and country living on the sultry “Country Star” and standout ballads looking back nostalgically on old love as heard “Thinking ’Bout You” featuring Lauren Alaina. The project is anchored by recent No. 1 hits “Good Girl” and “Ridin’ Roads.”

“I think I've found my lane in country music right now and what that is: it's fun, it's young love and doing life outside of work,” Lynch told Billboard ahead of the album’s release. “I think the direction has been found. Maybe we just got smarter and paid attention. I feel like we have a direction of what we want to do, and I feel like it's kind of its own in a way. So, I want to continue to try and ride that horse, see how far we get on it.”

Little Big Town, Nightfall

Little Big Town’s mesmerizing harmonies soar on the excellent 13-track album Nightfall. Cinematic musical landscapes intrigue while each song’s storyline sets the stage for a memorable moment on their current tour. Haunting piano ballad “Forever and a Night” transforms from Phillip Sweet singing lead into a song that resembles that of a gospel number with each member entering mid-song while the heartbreaking story song “Sugar Coat” pulls on the heartstrings when a woman realizes her husband is cheating on her and decides to break family tradition of pushing it under the rug. Meanwhile, Grammy-nominated “The Daughters” further highlights Little Big Town’s willingness to stand its ground on topics that remain taboo on today’s country radio.

Morgan Myles, Therapy

Myles proves her staying power on impressive debut, Therapy. Released independently, the singer’s vocals soar on the empowering album opener “Empire.” An inspiring anthem that brings to mind Carrie Underwood’s “The Champion,” Myles instantly draws the listener in. Her soul fully shines on the inspiring “Sanctuary” while the infectious “Up to You” further showcases her jaw-dropping vocals. Standouts “Silence” and the emotional “I Believe,” a song written in remembrance of her late cousin and grandfather, break down Myles’ walls to the listener and highlight her ability as a vocalist and lyricist.  

Phil Vassar, Stripped Down

Vassar’s new album, Stripped Down, features songs he’s written over the past 20 years as well as newly recorded tracks including the poignant “Postmarked Birmingham” which he initially wrote for Blackhawk. The stunning piano ballad “This is Where the End Starts,” a co-write with his daughter, Haley, also features her on vocals. Additional highlights include the saxophone-infused feel-good “Perfect World” where Vassar croons of the ways love can drown out the depressing headlines seen on the nightly news as well as nostalgic album closer "High School" penned with Ross Copperman and Tom Douglas.