First Country is a compilation of several new country songs, videos & albums that dropped this week.
Ashley McBryde, “Light On in the Kitchen”
Is Ashley McBryde capable of writing a less-than-stellar song? It seems not. Here, the recent Grammy winner teams with equally sterling writers Connie Harrington and Jessi Alexander for this heartwarming track, which spills over with drops of advice about everything from body image, personal safety and healing a broken heart — advice she’s gleaned from confessional conversations held at all hours of the day and night at a kitchen table, a place with food, drinks and a confidant to listen, “where you can do some cryin’ and some bitchin’.” The song centers around the key line, “So honey trust yourself, you better love yourself/ Cause ‘till you do, you ain’t no good for anybody else,” all delivered with McBryde’s warm, conversational vocal. Another ace from this singer-songwriter.
Brad Paisley, “Same Here”
Paisley returns with new music and a new label home, recently announcing his new deal with Universal’s EMI Records Nashville. The singer-songwriter hasn’t released an album since 2017’s Love and War, and his most recent solo Billboard Country Airplay chart-topper was 2015’s “Perfect Storm” — though he did team with Jimmie Allen to earn a No. 1 last year with “Freedom Was a Highway.”
On “Same Here,” in a similar vein to a few of Paisley’s previous hits (like “American Saturday Night”), the singer-songwriter espouses the similarities that run through seemingly varying cultures, this time with a gentle reminder that people the world over miss their mamas, worry about their children, and pray for peace and freedom. “Same Here” takes on deeper resonance near the end, which features an audio bit from a phone call between Paisley and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
It’s notable that the song, which Paisley co-wrote with Lee Thomas Miller and Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith, drops one year after Russia invaded Ukraine. Though the war is never directly mentioned, Zelenskyy speaks with pride about his country and his people, their hopes and dreams. While many will appreciate the unifying statement expressed here, no doubt some fans will still long for the clever turn-of-a-phrase songs such as his early career hits “Alcohol,” “Water” and “I’m Gonna Miss Her,” or thoughtful ballads like “Letter to Me.”
Brandy Clark & Shane McAnally, “Maybe Love”
The first preview of music from Clark and McAnally’s upcoming Broadway musical Shucked, which opens in April, this tender ballad looks at the concept of love as its own separate entity, one in need of nurture and grace. “Might get frozen in the frost, but maybe love is never lost,” Clark sings, accompanied by McAnally’s harmonies. In vocal and arrangement, “Maybe Love” feels akin to classic ’90s country ballads, and offers a soft-hearted, sonic palette cleanser to much of the country music landscape’s more polished current offerings.
Veronique Medrano, “Running on Empty”
In her new song, Medrano is weighed down by bills and heartbreak, but makes it clear she’s got the grit and inner determination to move forward and transform pain into power. “I followed the rules, colored inside the lines/ It’ll never heal this worn-out soul of mine,” she growls, her formidable voice bringing theatrical flair to the track, further elevated by pummeling percussion and sprightly horns.
Tenille Townes & Bryan Adams, “The Thing That Wrecks You”
This unexpected pairing winningly teams Townes’ tender-yet-sturdy vocal with Grammy winner Adams’ whispery rasp here, as they muse how quickly a fervent emotional attachment can descend into romantic fallacy. “We’re running down a darker road/ Where even angels fear to go,” they sing, on a track Townes co-wrote with Kate York and Daniel Tashian.
Channing Wilson, Dead Man
Wilson is known for writing songs recorded by Luke Combs, Riley Green, The Oak Ridge Boys, Chase Rice and more, but he’s also a vocal tour de force in his own right. His stone-cold country bonafides fill his debut album, Dead Man, including the tender “Crazy Over You,” and gravelly, despondent “Blues Comin’ On,” while he kicks up the tempo on the crunchy blues of the harmonica-laden “Runnin’ Down a Song.” In all, with songs like the swampy, gospel-tinged “Dead Man Walking,” the album is a surefire balm for those who like their country music organic and unvarnished.
Conner Smith, “Creek Will Rise”
Smith broke through with 2022’s “Learn From It,” but this swampy country-rocker of a song elevates his gritty, bluesy voice in a tale of passionate young love on the riverside. The track, written by Smith, Chris LaCorte, Chase McGill and Parker Welling and produced by Zach Crowell, is fueled by a bluegrass propulsion of dobro and fiddle, and features plenty of coy swagger on lines such as “We made a blanket out of that sundress/ And the radio won’t even let me tell you the rest.”
Taylor Austin Dye, “Rest in Peace”
Another entry in the canon of country music’s female artist-sung murder songs, this one from Kentucky native Dye offers a slab of sassy rhythm for a tale of a man whose abusive ways are taken down with some old-fashioned mountain justice, with no need for calling the police. Dye delivers it all with conviction.