First Country: New Music From Kane Brown, Mickey Guyton & Brantley Gilbert & More

Mickey Guyton
Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Universal Music Group

Mickey Guyton attends the Universal Music Group's 2020 Grammy after party presented by Lenovo at Rolling Greens Nursery on Jan. 26, 2020 in Los Angeles. 

It’s been another tough week between the ongoing pandemic and the protests for racial justice. A number of titles were pushed back a week out of deference to Black Out Tuesday, but there are still some worthy releases, including two that thoughtfully address the current racial discord.

Mickey Guyton, “Black Like Me”

“If you think we live in the land of the free/you should try being black like me,” sings Guyton, the only African-American female artist signed to a major country label. She dropped the gospel-tinged track, which she co-wrote at a Warner Chappell song camp in March 2019, earlier this week after George Floyd died as a Minneapolis cop kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and the country has erupted in protests. Country radio has yet to embrace Guyton, who bravely continues to speak her truth (as she did with the searing “What Are You Gonna Tell Her” earlier this year), but look for this one to make plenty of noise anyway.

Kane Brown, "Worldwide Beautiful"

Brown dropped the inspiring song, which he wrote more than a year ago, Thursday at midnight. Its message seems especially appropriate with such lyrics as “You're missing every color if you're only seeing black and white / Tell me how you're gonna change your mind if your heart's unmovable / We ain't that different from each other from one to another/ I look around and see worldwide beautiful.” All proceeds go to Boys and Girls Club of America.

Brantley Gilbert, “Hard Days”

In a time that seems filled with nothing but hard days, Gilbert provides an inspirational mid-ballad about how the difficulties that test us also make us appreciate the good times more and realize how strong we are. “I feel like all of us are in need of a little bit of healing and in need of a little bit of hope. And this song offers that,” Gilbert said in a statement of the tune he co-wrote with Brock Berryhill, Logan Wall, Jimi Bell and Jay Brunswick. This morning, he added on Twitter, “I hope it reminds you that the hard days never last very long.... There's always hope just around the corner.”

Tyler Farr, Only Truck in Town

Jason Aldean protégé Farr releases a new EP via Aldean’s Broken Bow distributed-imprint Night Train Records that is his first collection since 2015’s Suffer In Peace. The title track, and current single, is country as they come. The best of the Aldean-produced quartet is the gently swaying “Soundtrack to a Small Town Sundown.” His ode to our four-legged friends, “I Wish Dogs Could Live Forever,” could be packaged with Riley Green’s “I Wish Grandpas Never Died” for a maudlin look at loss.

Trace Adkins, “Mind On Fishin’”

Country music’s deepest voice (other than the Oaks’ William Lee Golden) makes the convincing case for communing with nature (and catching his next meal) rather than spending time in church as a way to relate to God. “I’d rather be on a lake with my mind on God/Than in church with my mind on fishin’,” Adkins sings in his first single for Verge Records, his new label home. Blasphemy aside, he’s got a point.

The Gatlin Brothers & Friends, “On the Road Again”

The Gatlin Brothers speak for every country artist with this Zoom version of Willie Nelson’s classic, “On the Road Again.” They’re joined by a number of veteran artists including Pam Tillis, Aaron Tippin, Ray Stevens, Steve Wariner and Charlie Daniels, who ad-libs a humorous verse about how even his bus can’t wait to get on the road again. We’re sensing a group tour once artists can hit the road again. A fun, sweet reminder that artists miss seeing us as much as we miss seeing them.

Also noteworthy, three newcomers release efforts worth a spin: MaRynn Taylor’s sweet “Dads and Daughters” arrives just in time for Father’s Day, and Brit Taylor’s steel guitar-drenched, laid back, “Waking Up Ain’t Easy” hits traditional country notes. The real find is The Desert City Ramblers, whose 5-song debut EP will delight fans of ‘70s southern rock.