First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos & albums that dropped this week.
Parker McCollum, “Handle on You”
“I tell myself that I should quit but I don’t listen to drunks,” McCollum sings on this tightly-crafted song that finds the Texas native retaining an effortless swagger, even as he turns to the biggest bottle of liquid painkiller he can find to help squelch a heartbreak. The song, which the reigning ACM new male artist of the year penned with Monty Criswell, stands sturdy alongside McCollum’s recent Country Airplay No. 1, “To Be Loved By You,” as another milestone cementing this neo-traditionalist’s rising star status.
Alex Williams, “No Reservations”
On his first outing in five years, this now-independent singer-songwriter retains his no-frills vocal delivery and lays bare the hard-charging ways of a road warrior, from the miles traveled to the often short-lived romances.
“I ain’t looking for any randy trouble/ But I ain’t turnin’ any trouble down,” he sings. Producer Ben Fowler’s crunchy-yet-sleek, ‘90s country-infused production offers plenty of support behind Williams’ powerful, grainy baritone. Williams wrote the track with Mando Saenz, and it is included on Williams’ upcoming October release Waging Peace.
Breland with Lady A, “Told You I Could Drink”
Sultry R&B grooves get elevated by this premier vocal collaboration, as Lady A and Breland put a new spin on the classic lyrical tale of drinking to overcome heartbreak. Written by Breland, Zachary Manno and Lady A’s Charles Kelley, this track puts the soulful leanings both Breland and Kelley are known for front and center, and together, these harmonies are heavenly.
Valerie Ponzio, “Just a Bordertown”
Newcomer Ponzio has already been recognized as part of CMT’s Next Women of Country, and part of the inaugural Equal Access program from CMT and mtheory. With a whispery, lilting voice, she pays homage to her deep-running, small-town Texas roots, thankful for the lessons in life and love she gleaned from a place she calls “more than just a bordertown.” A promising new release.
Shane Profitt, “How It Oughta Be”
Profitt offers a list of ways the world would change if he had his way — groceries and gas would be cheaper, teachers would earn pay equal to doctors and lawyers, and backyards would be safe places for kids to play. On this mid-tempo track, Profitt’s blustery, full-bodied voice keeps listeners hanging on to each word, targeting the frustrations that are top of mind for many.
Adam Hood, “Speed of the South”
A sweet jam that’s as smooth and unhurried as a lush Mississippi summer night, Hood revels in being his own person, unconcerned by others who “move at the speed of light.” “Speed of the South” is from Hood’s album Bad Days Better, set to be released in September. Recorded in Macon, Georgia at Capricorn Studios, the album marks a collaborative effort for Hood, Brent Cobb and members of the band Blackberry Smoke.
Craig Morgan, “How You Make a Man”
Morgan is gearing up to release a book, and had a successful run on the reality competition series Beyond the Edge. But here, he returns to the talent that first introduced him to audiences: his music. A myriad of life’s risks, heartbreaks, victories and failures–and the lessons earned from each–are poured into his passionate vocal on this song written by Michael August, Megan Conner and Skip Black, with production by Phil O’Donnell. “How You Make a Man” is included on Morgan’s upcoming deluxe version of his album God, Family, Country, out Nov. 11.
Priscilla Block, “Off the Deep End”
Block tore her own path through country music with her bold persona, melded with catchy yet relatable songs such as “Thick Thighs,” “Just About Over You” and “PMS.” She continues on that path with this breezy track that perfectly reflects the “make the most of it” vibe that inhabits twilight days of summer. Written by Block with Martin Johnson and Brandon Paddock, this song is further evidence of Block’s fully authentic, star-making ways.