Women offer a slew of top-shelf new music this week, from new projects from Ella Langley, Jordyn Shellhart and Caroline Jones, to freshly-released new tracks from Morgan Wade and Wendy Moten. Also in the mix are Kyle Nix and the 38’s, Texas troubadour William Beckmann and newcomer Josh Kiser.
Morgan Wade, “Psychopath”
The “Wilder Days” singer-songwriter follows her breakthrough album with this tale of infatuation between two kindred spirits who find comfort in each other’s eccentricities. “Your dreams are your parents’ fears/ But can I steal you away from here?” she sings, on a succinct, heart-reeling line. She also blurs the swaggering spirit of pop-punk, acoustic country sensibilities and top 40 verve. Though Wade possesses enviable vocal power, here she relies on her gritty lower range to intimate effect. A solo write from Wade, “Psychopath” is the title track to Wade’s upcoming album, out Aug. 25.
Ella Langley, Excuse the Mess EP
Langley brings a heavy dose of hard-driving rock, alongside tender balladry and intimate songwriting, to this project’s compact eight tracks. “You make me wanna drink ’til I’m sick of it,” she sings, depicting a relentless emotional war on the searing “Make Me Wanna Smoke.” She offers slowed-down, moody modern country on the title track, warning a potential suitor that if he gets too close, her heart’s as messy as her home; she later circles back to the premise of being content with imperfection on the softly acoustic album closer “Don’t We All.” Meanwhile, “Could’ve Been Her” finds Langley musing about her ex-lover’s new flame, and contemplating all the ways she would have to compromise herself in order to stay in the relationship (“If I’d just hung around, didn’t know my worth/ I could’ve been her”). Overall, this album offers an all-around solid look into the specificity of Langley’s artistry.
Jordyn Shellhart, Primrose (Album)
A former Billboard Country Rookie of the Month, Shellhart releases her Warner Music Nashville album Primrose this week as a testament to her sterling talents as both vocalist and songwriter. Over the course of a dozen songs, she sings of the struggle to live up to the influence of her musical idol on “Joni,” excavates the emotional origins of an argument with a lover on “Who Are You Mad At,” predicts the tide-turning future of a reckless lover on “Maybe Someday You’ll Have a Daughter,” and concludes with the intensely personal and unique perspective of “Near-Death Experience,” a solo write from Shellhart. This project is chock-full of top-shelf songwriting, with Shellhart paired with co-writers including Allen Shamblin, Cameron Jaymes and Barry Dean. A collection that offers immense career promise.
Caroline Jones feat. Vince Gill, “By Way of Sorrow”
Jones’ airy, choral vocal lends a shimmering acoustic take on this song from bluegrass group Cry, Cry, Cry’s self-titled 1998 album. Jones’ rendering veers less bright and joyous than the original, instead capturing a calm prescient mood, the cusp of sorrow shifting to joy. Meanwhile, Country Music Hall of Fame member Gill’s aching harmonies further uplift the track, as do sweetly delivered fiddle and mandolin. Jones, who serves as the first and only female member of Zac Brown Band, includes this track on her newly-released EP, Superpower.
Wendy Moten, “Don’t Give Up”
Moten has been a formidable vocal thread in country music’s live music scene for years, having performed with Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Vince Gill; her genre-fluid talents have also added depth and nuance to a cross-section of collaborations and continents, as she’s performed with Julio Iglesias and John Oates, but also earned a top 10 hit in the U.K. with “Come in Out of the Rain.” She brought her singular vocal talents to runner-up status on The Voice. But here, she offers a more intimate collaboration, on a song Moten wrote with David Santos more than a decade ago. Moten throws a soul celebration and spills with joy and grit on a song crafted as a purveyor of determination and solidarity.
Kyle Nix and the 38’s, “Play Nice”
Turnpike Troubadours fiddle player Kyle Nix previously branched out with his own solo album in 2020, and continues his varied artistic expression with another supergroup of sorts, Kyle Nix and the 38’s. The group is made of Nix’s Troubadours bandmate, drummer Gabe Pearson, along with guitarist Adam Duran, guitarist-singer Ken Pomeroy, multi-instrumentalist Kevin Foster, and former American Aquarium bassist Bill Corbin. Nix and company recently released “Play Nice” and “Another Bad Dream,” both flashes of their upcoming album, After the Flood, Vol. 1, out July 28. The former track is a scorching, bluesy enticement, with a heavy bassline, distorted guitar, and coolly gritty vocals, that dissects a strained relationship.
William Beckmann, “Tennessee Drinkin'”
This Del Rio, Texas, native recently scored a local hit with “Damn This Heart of Mine,” and follows with this song of memories and longing undimmed by distance. Written by Beckmann with Jeremy Spillman and Randy Montana, this song is compelled by basslines and fiddle as smooth as Beckmann’s Texas-polished voice.
Josh Kiser, “How I Get High”
This Tennessee native conjures a seductive country-soul track that adds to music’s romance-as-dependency canon. Here, a soaring melody adeptly plays to Kiser’s vocal strengths as a fervent vocalist, his grainy instrument breaking in all the right places. This track, which Kiser wrote with Kat Higgins and Phil Barton, melds his soulful swagger with a bed of polished rhythms and bluesy guitar.