First Country: New Music from Blake Shelton, Tim McGraw and Tyler Hubbard, Hailey Whitters & More

Blake Shelton
Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Blake Shelton

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

Blake Shelton, “Minimum Wage”

Multimillionaire  Shelton has gotten some pushback for the line “Your love can make a man feel rich on minimum wage,” during a time of rampant unemployment. Your mileage may vary on whether you find the language tone deaf during these drastic times, but wealthy country artists routinely making bank on lyrics celebrating the simple life has been a staple of the genre for decades. Slight controversy aside, the song is a bonafide winner. The driving music and Shelton’s delivery give it an appealing grit that mixed with the sweetness of the message is an unbeatable combination.

Tim McGraw, Tyler Hubbard, “Undivided”

In this gently sloping mid-tempo track, co-written by Florida Georgia Line's Hubbard, McGraw and Hubbard make a plea for an end to the divisiveness that corrodes our national discourse. “Why does it have to be all white or all black?” they ask, before declaring, “we’ve been hateful long enough.” It’s a well-intentioned if simplistic message that purposely doesn’t take a stand other than for asking for unity and looking up for answers rather than left or right. The song also serves as a reminder that there’s more that unites us than divides us, though there are certainly days when that does not feel like the case.

Florida Georgia Line, “Life Rolls On”

In advance of the duo’s fifth studio album, coming Feb. 12, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley are relentlessly upbeat about going with the flow, no matter what life throws at you, in this hand-clapping mid-tempo salute to remembering that, “as long as my heart’s beating and these old lungs keep breathing,” it’s a good day.

Kip Moore, “How High”

“How High,” a new track on Moore’s forthcoming deluxe edition of Wild World, uses pot-smoking references such as “Here I go/once again/firing you up and breathing you in,” “how high I get on you” and “I swear you keep me stoned” to compare how intoxicating he finds his lover. It’s a sexy, catchy track that captures Moore’s trademark intense gruffness. While the song is compelling, the real fun comes in the trippy video, with seeming the only connection to the song’s narrative being a line about a red balloon. Said red balloon becomes the steady companion of an older woman who dolls up and strolls through her town, swilling a stranger’s beer, handing out flowers and generally living her best life. Somehow, it all works surprisingly well.

Hailey Whitters feat. Jordan Davis, “The Ride” (you tube lyric video)

Next month, Whitters will issue a deluxe edition of her 2020 album, The Dream, but in the meantime, she’s sneaking out five of the new songs (all of which feature guests) on the bonus set. Last week we got current single “Fillin’ My Cup,” featuring Little Big Town. This week, Whitters is in especially fine form on inspirational “The Ride,” a tune about enjoying the journey—literally and figuratively— even with all the potholes. “All you dead-end boys, all you breakdown girls, thinking you’re all out of pavement like it’s the end of the world,” she sings with a lilting voice that at times recalls Kacey Musgraves. She and Davis come together at the end to sew up the song in a lovely bow.

Parker McCollum, “To Be Loved By You”

Following his first No. 1 single, “Pretty Heart,” Texas troubadour McCollum returns with the video for current single “To Be Loved By You,” a strummy, guitar-driven song that recalls Tim McGraw’s “Angry All The Time.” McCollum’s yearning vocals are killer here.

Mitchell Tenpenny, "Bucket List"

Like a slew of country songs out now (several this week alone), Tenpenny’s latest is a reminder to embrace your time on earth in its entirety— “love a little more, dream a little deeper, leave all the leavers, keep all the keepers” — and try to live your life so you never have to ask 'what if.' The video is a lovely trip through Arizona, including the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell and Sedona, that ensures Tenpenny knocked a few things off his bucket list during the sumptuous shoot.

Devin Dawson, The Pink Slip EP

New music from Dawson has been a long time coming (though fans got to hear him featured on HARDY’s recent chart topper “One Beer”) since the release of his 2018 set Dark Horse. This EP ends the drought. Album opener “Range Rover” is a spiky, fun cross between Everclear’s “I Will Buy You a New Life” and Andy Grammer’s “Fine By Me.” The rest of the EP follows a similarly upbeat theme on such tracks as lead single, “I Got A Truck,” the sweet salute to his grandpa, “He Loved Her,” and the bouncy salute to resilience, “Not On My Watch.” With this set, Dawson moves in a more uplifting direction, and it suits him.

Willie Nelson, “That’s Life”

We already know there’s nothing that Nelson can’t sing, and he’s certainly proven himself to be a singular interpreter of the Great American Songbook on previous efforts, but his take on Frank Sinatra’s “That’s Life” still proves to be a delight. The song, the title track to his Sinatra tribute album (out Feb. 26), gives the chestnut a  western swing feel, while Nelson’s inspired phrasing would have made Sinatra proud.

Marty Stuart, “I’ve Been Around”

Similar to 2014’s Lost on the River: The New Basement tapes that found musicians setting previously unreleased Dylan lyrics to music, on Johnny Cash-Forever Words (Expanded Edition), Marty Stuart  and several other artists turns some of Cash’s lyrics and poems into full-fledged songs. One of country music’s greatest musicians and historians, Stuart's love in bringing his former father-in-law’s words to life is palpable. For “I’ve Been Around” he adapts a chugging, slight rockabilly tone that matches Cash’s '50s output. The video features poignant archival footage, including that of an adoring young Stuart playing with Cash.

John Driskell Hopkins, “I Hate To See Good Whiskey Go To Waste”

Hopkins, a member of Zac Brown Band and co-writer of such hits as “Toes” and “Goodbye In Her Eyes,” opens this melodic heartbreaker from his Feb. 19 album, Lonesome High, singing a capella before it sweeps into a full band arrangement. It’s an emotional invitation into this classic country weeper about trying to drown your heartache in the bottom of a glass.

Tim McGraw and Tyler Hubbard Release New Song ‘Undivided’ | Billboard News