Bryan’s first album in nearly three years come front-loaded with three tunes that the hit-making superstar has already taken to the top of Billboard’s Country Airplay chart: the lighthearted “Knockin’ Boots,” the sexy “What She Wants Tonight” and the alcohol-fueled “One Margarita.” They represent major motifs in Bryan’s canon, as does celebrating rural life, as he does in the title track. Like Tim McGraw, he’s long mastered what kind of song works for him and his audience and what doesn’t.
Highlights on this 33-minute album include the retro “A Little Less Broken,” one of the best heartbreak songs he’s recorded, and “Build Me a Daddy,” a tearjerker of a tune that feels like a readymade Hallmark Channel movie.
Darius Rucker, “Beers and Sunshine”
Rucker returns with his first solo single since 2018’s “For the First Time” and it’s a late entry for song of the summer with the same kind of easy flow as Zac Brown Band’s “Chicken Fried.” The song exists in a world where the pandemic’s enforced social distancing doesn’t exist with lyrics about friends gathering at the lake and enjoying a bonfire. (Ironic, given that the song was written by Rucker via a Zoom session with producer Ross Copperman, Josh Osborne and J.t. Harding). “The only BS I need is beers and sunshine,” sings Rucker, which speaks to the much needed distractions we all need from the daily news these days.
Kane Brown feat. Nelly, “Cool Again”
Brown’s current single gets an assist from Nelly, who drops by to rap a verse and provide backing vocals. Nelly’s not likely to add the rocket fuel that he did to Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” remix eight years ago, in part because Brown is already such a star that he needs no help, but it’s a welcome addition to an already infectious track.
Keith Urban, “Change Your Mind”
Urban gives another sneak peek into his Sept. 18 album The Speed of Now Part 1 with this nearly four-minute story song filled with yearning. Urban knows he’s messed up and he is begging for a second chance, vowing to work on himself even though his love has moved on. It’s a song that is completely of our times -- referencing his phone's battery being down to 7% and his willingness to work on his self-sabotaging issues. Despite the desperation, Urban delivers an understated low-key performance that makes his anguish all the more real.
Priscilla Block, “Just About Over You”
TikTok sensation Priscilla Block made quite the splash this week after releasing this wistful mid-tempo ballad about almost making a clean getaway on Wednesday (Aug. 5). By Thursday, the song topped iTunes all-genre chart and Bobby Bones invited her to appear on his syndicated radio show. All with good reason. The song, co-written by Block, and released on Indent Entertainment, has the confessional feel of early Taylor Swift enhanced by Block’s plaintive delivery.
Cassadee Pope, Rise and Shine
"Shine" is the operative word here as this stripped down collection of eight songs, all performed acoustically, really allow Pope's expansive, expressive vocals to shine, keeping them front and center on such songs as opener, the beseeching "Let Me Go"; a lovely duet with Sam Palladio on "California Dreaming" (an original, not The Mamas & The Papas classic) and the uplifting title track.
"Rise and Shine is a record that is meant to help people navigate their feelings in this trying time," says Pope, who co-wrote and co-produced all the cuts. "Personally, it’s been a time of reflection for me, and a lot of what I’ve reflected upon has brought up some dark moments. I hope the lyrics help aid people into letting out whatever emotions they’re holding inside."
Jerrod Niemann, “Tequila Kisses”
Niemann, now on his own after stints on a number of labels over the years, returns with a track teasing his forthcoming Lost & Found project. Niemann reunites with his “A Little More Love” collaborator Lee Brice on “Tequila Kisses” (the pair co-write the track), an a capella track with more than 50 separate vocal parts all recorded by Niemann. It’s a captivating song and an impressive production that should delight his fans as he delivers something as far from a cookie-cutter country track as imaginable.
Emily Rose, “Hey Child”
On this sweet mid-tempo ballad, Emily Rose reminds a child “don’t you ever lose the song you’re singing or the dance in your feet” as time moves on, but rather to embrace the innocence from your youth when everything seemed possible. A steel guitar beautifully plays against Rose’s lilting voice this refreshing track that mines a similar vein as Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.”