Kenny Chesney, “Knowing You”
Chesney sells this powerful ballad, from his current album Here and Now, by smartly underplaying the emotional wallop it packs. The tribute to a friend who is no longer in his life — by death or some other reason —is a beautiful salute to the memories that will live forever. It’s been a minute since Chesney has recorded something that hits such a deep well. It's impossible to listen to without conjuring up the memory of a friend long gone, for whom, as Chesney sings, “knowin’ you was a free fall from a hundred thousand feet.”
The “My Truck” performer leaves trap country behind to show off a totally different side — and his enchanting singing voice — on this personal tale, where he declares, “I know it’s okay to be in my own lane when I’m doing what they said can’t be done.” Breland journeys from Atlanta to Hollywood still unable to find where he belongs, so his cross-country travels continue accompanied by an acoustic guitar-driven melody. Country radio should bring this lovely song over the finish line.
Mickey Guyton, "If I Were A Boy"
Guyton's supple, powerful voice shines on the remake of the classic Beyonce track. The simple instrumentation, with subtle orchestration, keeps the focus on Guyton's poignant delivery with the backing singers giving it a gospel tinge. There's really nothing Guyton can't sing. An Amazon Original.
Zac Brown Band, “The Man Who Loves You The Most”
The video from Zac Brown Band telegraphs how the story ends within the first five seconds, but it doesn’t make the journey any less affecting. As the tale unspools, a woman looks back through home movies as her first love, her father, supports her through every milestone. A stirring example of how a video can add another layer to an already poignant song.
Brett Young, “You Got Away With It”
Young should keep his top 10 streak going with this sly track that cleverly tells of the heartbreaker who got away with stealing his love because she’s got a way with “it” -- whether that’s charm, sex appeal or, as Young sings, “every little thing that you do.” The track is an introduction to Young’s next project.
Ian Munsick, Coyote Cry
Wyoming native Munsick makes music that is as wide and expansive as Big Country sky. The 10 tracks here (nine of them self-penned) are almost all instantly catchy: you’ll be singing along to toe-tapping “I See Country” from the first listen, smiling to his Chris LeDoux reference in the rollocking “Humble,” and will be surprised by his audacity to remake Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” complete with fiddle and his unhurried drawl. Spoiler alert: It works. Munsick sounds familiar and original at the same time, as he blends country, rock and folk to winning effect.
Noah Schnacky, “She Broke My Heart”
Singer/actor Schnacky looks on the bright side of heartbreak on this peppy track that chronicles how someone leaving you could be the best thing for you, because it leaves you ready for the next better thing. Think of an upbeat, poppy Rascal Flatts’ “Broken Road,” a song the lyrics even reference.
John Schneider, “Truck On”
The former Dukes of Hazzard star Schneider kicks off his forthcoming album, coming Apr. 2, with the title track to the set. The song rolls along as smoothly as a well-oiled 18-wheeler down the highway. It’s a lightweight song that still manages to pay homage to the drivers who have kept the supplies moving, all the while listening to the Rolling Stones. Better still, a portion of the sales from the album will go to St. Christopher Truckers Relief Fund, which provides assistance to truckers out of work due to illness or injury.
Clint Roberts, Rose Songs
Promising singer-songwriter Roberts exhibits a wry take on our current sad state of affairs on “Nero’s Waltz,” while “The Drifter” has a heartbreaking nonchalance redolent of John Hiatt. The largely acoustic set examines affairs of the heart as well as broadens out for a much wider world view. But whether looking at the big or small picture, Roberts delivers them all with authenticity, including a surprising country remake of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.” Other top tracks include the gentle “Annabelle,” a musician's apologetic ode to his wife for all the time he’s on the road, and the stately album closer, piano ballad “Carolina Moon.”
Travis Linville, “I’m Still Here”
Oklahoma troubadour Linville fronts his new album with this chugging paean to loyalty, co-written with Nashville superstar songwriter Natalie Hemby. The message is simple: even when it felt like there was no one by your side, he was there and still is. As heartwarming as it is unassuming.