Margo Price, “Lydia”
Price’s latest song champions a woman’s right to choose what is right for her own body, by unfurling — over the course of seven verses — the story, history, worries and choices of a woman who becomes pregnant and is unable to raise the child, while facing a lack of health insurance and living in a rundown part of town. She abandons the traditional chorus-verse-bridge-chorus song structure in favor of a freewheeling melody that keeps the focus solely on the storyline. Price wrote the song years before the overturning of Roe v. Wade and recorded it in 2021. The song will be included on her album Strays, out Jan. 13. This haunting, magnetic story makes for essential listening.
Zach Bryan, “The Greatest Day of My Life”
“Years are just moments in a great big pile,” Bryan sings in this new release of a fan favorite. Continuing with his Red Dirt acoustic compositions, Bryan encapsulates with heartfelt gratitude the highs of life on and off the road, from having a sturdy band playing behind him, being a country boy fashioning a song in a New York high-rise, and having his faithful dog to always come home to. This prolific troubadour, who saw his American Heartbreak album debut at No. 1 on Billboard‘s Top Country Albums chart earlier this year, continues his hot streak with another keen-eyed chronicling of the world around him.
Brantley Gilbert feat. Blake Shelton and Vince Gill, “Heaven by Then”
Gilbert takes a break from testosterone-filled uptempo numbers to imagine a life without small-town values and ways on this acoustic-driven track. He’s accompanied by Shelton and Gill on vocals.
Written by Gilbert, Brock Berryhill, Michael Hardy, Jake Mitchell, Randy Montana, Hunter Phelps and Taylor Phillips, the somber song laments the ebbing of a rural way of life, envisioning a place where “number three is just a number and Hank is just a name/ When trucks don’t sound like thunder and nobody prays for rain.” A pleaser of a track for those who feel a certain way of life gets overlooked.
Jordan Davis, “Part of It”
Davis just picked up song of the year at the 56th annual CMA Awards this week, as a writer and artist on “Buy Dirt.” He follows with another song that also draws its lyrics from the concept of learning lessons in life and love from an older generation–whether that be a father showing him the way through a painful breakup or instilling a work ethic and love of the land. The production is smooth and again highlights Davis’ relatable vocal, while the song’s vibe has moments reminiscent of Eric Church’s 2018 hit, “Some of It.” Davis’s talent as both a vocalist and a writer has steadily deepened since his 2017 breakthrough “Singles You Up,” with this track being another testament.
Randy Houser, “Out and Down”
Houser knows he should be moping and downtrodden after a romantic breakup, but instead he sings, “I took it like a man and took it right down to the bar.” Written by Houser with Matt Rogers and Chris DeStefano, this slab of a Friday night uptempo rocker is a perfect vessel for Houser’s swaggering country vocals.
Emily Nenni, “Can Chaser”
Longtime Nashville resident Nenni, who has spent years performing at Music City haunts including Santa’s Pub and Robert’s Western World, just released her first album with Normaltown/New West Records, On the Ranch. She has vocal charm to spare on songs such as “Can Chaser,” a nod to female barrel racers, and the ’70s-twanging title track, a tribute to her time spent working on a ranch in Colorado. Her alliance with traditional country sounds soaks through every track on this album.
Six One Five Collective, “Kindness”
A teaming of artist-writers including Sarah Darling, Michael Logen and Nicole Witt team with Jamie Floyd for this encouraging track. Led by Logen’s warm vocals, the song leads listeners to think about the role they are playing in the world.
“We’re all slaying dragons, we think we’re on our own/ But everybody’s got a battle nobody knows,” they sing, using their luminous harmonies to encourage kindness and acceptance. An uplifting track needed during this day and time. The group’s upcoming EP, Coastin‘, arrives Nov. 18.
Nathaniel Rateliff, “You Asked Me To”
From Live Forever: A Tribute to Billy Joe Shaver, the always soulful Rateliff offers a stellar job on this classic written by Shaver and Waylon Jennings, which originally appeared on Jennings’s 1973 album Honky Tonk Heroes and on Shaver’s 1977 album Gypsy Boy, with Willie Nelson (the Shaver rendition is in past tense, which Rateliff also does here). The sturdy torque of Rateliff’s vocals center the defiance and endless devotion of the lyrics, while the rollicking instrumentation retains the freewheeling heart of the original.