First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos & albums that dropped this week.
Margo Price feat. Mavis Staples & Adia Victoria, “Fight to Make It”
Following the recent SCOTUS decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Price has teamed with Staples and Victoria for the anthemic new release “Fight to Make It,” a jangly, uptempo track that advocates for human rights. “They say a woman’s place is in the home/ Before she disappeared and she proved them wrong,” Staples sings, with glorious conviction. The song also nods to Rosa Parks and her role in the Montgomery bus boycotts.
“Fight to Make It,” written by Price and Jeremy Ivey, showcases lush harmonies courtesy of Staples and Victoria. Staples’ wisdom-imbued, fiery voice pairs mightily with Victoria’s softer tones and Price’s earthy vocal. All proceeds from Bandcamp sales of the track will benefit Noise For Now, an initiative that enables artists to connect with and support grassroots organizations that work toward reproductive justice, including abortion access.
Kelsea Ballerini, “HEARTFIRST” (video)
Ballerini’s latest song revels in taking romantic chances and hoping for the best. The accompanying video, released today (July 8), begins with Ballerini bumping into a potential romantic interest — not at a bar, as the song suggests, but while taking a sidewalk stroll after buying groceries, a la a classic romantic comedy. From there, a cotton-candy array of scenarios plays out–Ballerini riding through fluffy clouds on a white roller coaster, gambling with a group of brides, sepia-inflected shots of Ballerini playing guitar while lounging by a tiger in the desert, and, at the song’s apex, a scene of Ballerini climbing up a ladder through the skies in a dramatic, sky-blue gown and taking a deep dive. The video, conceptualized by Ballerini and directed by Patrick Tracy, mirrors the song’s themes of whimsy, hope and fearlessness.
Pillbox Patti, “Valentine’s Day”
@pillboxpatti you can stand where you wanna stand..and believe what you wanna believe..that’s the great thing about having a choice. I’ve just chosen not to be a hypocrite. Everybody love everybody. #roevwade #womansrights #valentinesday ♬ Valentines Day – pillboxpatti
Nashville songwriter Nicolette Hayford, known for her razor-sharp storytelling on songs (including Ashley McBryde’s hit “One Night Standards”), continues her artistic evolution as Pillbox Patti, and here offers her talent for highlighting impactful details to a story of a young girl going through an abortion. The song juxtaposes a 15-year-old’s experience of visiting an abortion clinic, and hearing the insults hurled from anti-abortion activists, with what she imagines her classmates are doing at school. The song finds its power in vulnerability, truth and compassion.
Jason Aldean, “That’s What Tequila Does”
Aldean follows his multi-week Country Airplay No. 1 “Trouble With a Heartbreak” with this mid-tempo track that mines similar sonic and lyrical ground. Here, he’s wallowing in despair over a heartbreak, and muses that his affinity for tequila will ultimately only exacerbate his troubles.
Kimberly Kelly, I’ll Tell You What’s Gonna Happen
Kelly’s debut album for Toby Keith’s Show Dog Nashville (in partnership with Thirty Tigers) is a stellar showcase of her years spent steeped in the music pouring from Texas dancehalls, crafting songs while under the influence of artists such as George Strait and Billy Joe Shaver. “Blue Jean Country Queen,” with Steve Wariner, is a fiddle-laced, ’90s-inspired barnburner, while “Don’t Blame It on Me” revels in stately steel guitar as she tells a potential suitor to blame the romance in the air on the classic country music, neon lights and sawdust floors of an evening honky tonk. The dozen-song collection ends with a cover of Shaver’s 1973 song “Black Rose.” Fans of twangy, Texas country would do well to give this project a listen.
The Kentucky Gentlemen, “Love Language”
This sibling duo, which includes Brandon and Derek Campbell, offers up a potent blend of pop, country and R&B, built around tightly-fused, unmistakable blood harmonies. The romantic vibe and inviting R&B-tinged melody of “Love Language” make the most of Brandon’s pristine tenor and Derek’s powerful baritone. The track is featured on their EP, The Kentucky Gentlemen: Vol. 1, which releases July 22.
Arlo McKinley, “I Don’t Mind”
McKinley offers a subdued song reminiscing on his role in the breakup of a romantic relationship, or as he puts it, “I always hoped I would be the one/ But now I can admit that I got scared and began to run.” His delivery is both regretful and nonchalant, and the song is elegantly crafted — though the repeated use of the phrase “I don’t mind anymore” throughout the track leaves the listener wishing for more lyrical details. (“I Don’t Mind” is featured on McKinley’s upcoming album This Mess We’re In, out July 15 on Oh Boy Records.)
Kameron Marlowe, “We Were Cowboys”
Today, Marlowe releases the title track to his upcoming Dann Huff- and Brad Hill-produced album, which debuts Aug. 26 via Columbia Nashville/Sony Music Nashville. The influence of childhood heroes such as John Wayne holds on strong as a young boy grows up, from childhood games to his wild-hearted teen years. “We were cowboys, running like wild horses that couldn’t be tamed…didn’t know nothing but we knew everything,” Marlowe sings, his voice sufficiently gritty and showcasing the range and passion he’s capable of. Marlowe also wrote the track with Wyatt McCubbin and artist-writer Tyler Farr, and it’s one of his best releases to date.