First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos & albums that dropped this week.
Dierks Bentley with Billy Strings, “High Note”
Dierks Bentley teams with arena-touring bluegrasser Billy Strings for this ode to the mood-elevating aspects of bluegrass and weed, while the airy production builds into an all-in jam session with the addition of bluegrass legends Jerry Douglas, Sam Bush and Bryan Sutton. The song is the first from Bentley’s upcoming album, set to arrive next year. Bentley, of course, is no stranger to the bluegrass/folk world, having released his own bluegrass-tinted album Up on the Ridge, in 2010.
Billy Strings, Me/And/Dad
Strings has taken the bluegrass and Americana Music worlds by storm in recent years. Today, he releases Me/And/Dad, his first album with his father, Terry Barber. This 14-track mix of bluegrass and country classics the two have played together for years, including The Carter Family’s “The Wandering Boy,” George Jones’ “Life to Go,” and Doc Watson’s “Way Downtown.” Top-notch, wooly bluegrass picking wraps around distinct, family harmonies throughout the album.
Granger Smith, Moonrise
“Backroad Song” singer Smith is set to make his acting debut in the movie Moonrise on Dec. 15, but today he surprised fans today by dropping a 12-song album by the same name. Smith wrote or co-wrote every song on the album and every song will be featured in the movie. The songs contained here convey a range of life experiences, love and loss (“Something to Go On,” “Black Suit”) and the values his family is working to build (“This House”).
Nate Smith, “Wreckage”
Smith has been burning up Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart with his hard-charging song “Whiskey on You,” but with his latest, he proves he can just as deftly communicate a tender, vulnerable ballad. “When everyone else saw baggage/ you loved what no one could,” he sings. Smith will release his debut, self-titled album on Feb. 17.
Marty Stuart and His Fabulous Superlatives, “Country Star”
Stuart and his fabulous band come with a full-throttle blast of power from the first note, and refuse to let up, as they detail a vivid portrait of fame and life on the road. The group’s superior body of work will be honored next week, when they are inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame on Nov. 22.
Jason Nix, “Happy Accidents”
Nix is known for his writing contributions to Lainey Wilson’s No. 1 Country Airplay hit “Things a Man Oughta Know,” but he proves he’s got a winning vocal of his own here. His sometimes-lover “lives on gin, coffee and compliments,” and he pledges that if she takes him back again, “I’ll take the place the lonely’s always been.” A sturdy outing from an ace singer-songwriter.
Ashley Cooke, “Running Back”
Ashley Cooke is missing the teenage romance she had with the high school running back, even years after the breakup. Written by Cooke, Will Weatherly and Emily Weisband, this cooly moody track vibrates with a sleek pop sheen.
Bri Bagwell, Red or Green
Bagwell collects a few previously-released holiday singles for this four-track EP, along with a previously unreleased acoustic cover of the Elvis Presley classic “Blue Christmas,” infusing it with her smooth, New Mexico twang. A worthy collection to get anyone into a more relaxed holiday mood.
Brian Kelley, “Florida Strong”
Kelley, a native of the Sunshine State, shows his support for those impacted by natural disasters, with all of the royalties being split between the American Red Cross and the Florida Disaster Fund to help support hurricane relief. Written by Kelley, with production by Kelley with Kaitlin Owen, the track sails along pleasantly, leading up to a spoken-word section with Kelley reciting words of resilience and hope.