First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos & albums that dropped this week.
Shania Twain, “Waking Up Dreaming”
Twain has returned to the spotlight in a big way this year, recently being honored with the ACM Poet’s Award and releasing a documentary centered on her boundary-smashing career (which includes three consecutive RIAA Diamond-certified albums). Her latest release, “Waking Up Dreaming,” she turns up the volume on ’80s glam rock-inflected pop, while staying true to the spirit of her previous perky, feminist anthems. “Time ain’t waiting forever” she sings, urging listeners to live life to the fullest — while the vivid, ’80s rock star-soaked video is one of the boldest and most colorful of Twain’s recent clips.
Lainey Wilson, “Live Off”
Wilson has seen her career skyrocket over the past year, notching No. 1 hits with “Things a Man Oughta Know” and the Cole Swindell duet “Never Say Never,” and recently becoming the most-nominated artist at this year’s upcoming CMA Awards. Ahead of the release of her album Bell Bottom Country, her latest song release returns to the deeply detailed lyrics from “Things,” this time chronicling the people and items that keep her life running, from a few crumpled dollar bills, Folgers coffee, Sunday talks with mama and tumbles of wisdom passed down from family members. This Jay Joyce-produced track is perhaps Wilson’s most upbeat, with a slightly sweeter pop glaze than her previous outings — but still centered on her down-home, arena-worthy twang.
Joy Oladokun feat. Chris Stapleton, “Sweet Symphony”
This fine, soulful pairing of Oladokun and Stapleton soothes and soars on this romantic track, as they pledge their commitment through both life’s loftiest moments and shattering lows. The sparse accompaniment allows Oladokun’s cool, smooth voice and Stapleton’s gritty fervor to shine. Essential listening.
Sam Williams, “Blame ‘Em Both”
Williams reckons with the unrequited longing to rekindle a relationship after breaking his lover’s heart, sweeping the notion into musings on original sin. “My sin is kin to yours and his and hers, it’s not original/ If forgiveness was just a simple word, It’d be a miracle,” he sings, his plaintive voice cool and remorsefully haunting. The song is included on the deluxe version of his album Glasshouse Children out on Oct. 14.
Ian Munsick, “Horses & Weed”
Ian Munsick’s had his share of trucks, backroads and beer, but he gives a tip of the hat to something a bit slower, a bit mellower in this fiddle-backed track. A long ride on a palomino, in the company of “the blues and the greens,” is just what he needs to feel free. Like his previous releases, “More Than Me” and “Long Live Cowgirls” (featuring Cody Johnson), the new song will be found on this Wyoming native’s upcoming second album.
Anne Wilson, “Hey Girl” (Kentucky Version)
Anne Wilson broke through on the Contemporary Christian Music charts with her hit “My Jesus,” but this Kentucky native’s sonic palette offers evidence of her strong country and bluegrass influences. Having made her Grand Ole Opry debut in September 2021, Wilson further heightens her country ties with this version of a track from her debut album, steeped in twangy guitars, singalong choruses, handclaps, and flashes of piano and banjo.
Nikki Lane, Denim & Diamonds
This musical gypsy teams with Queens of the Stone Age frontman Josh Homme on her new project, Denim & Diamonds, out on New West Records Friday (Sept. 23). Her latest leans hard into the amalgam of country and folk-rock, veering from from crunchy, freewheeling defiance on the title track (with a keen shout out to Cher), leaning further into roots rock on “Try Harder” before settling into a plucky haze on “Good Enough.” She welcomes in exquisite Spanish guitar on the album’s closer, “Chimayo.”
Madeline Merlo, “Slide”
Merlo, the winner of NBC’s Songland, has already proven her songwriting chops, having penned trio Lady A’s hit song “Champagne Night.” Merlo’s own four-song EP, Slide, drops today (Sept. 23), featuring the title track, written by Merlo, Sam Hunt, Zach Crowell and Jerry Flowers. This fiesty, flirty cut vibrates with youthful charm, and highlights the narrative flair in Merlo’s writing, but also her engaging vocal.