First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos and albums that dropped this week.
New albums including Brantley Gilbert’s Fire & Brimstone and King Calaway’s Rivers continue to show the diversity of the country genre. While Gilbert’s rock-fused country further cements his staying power, King Calaway’s pop influences and impressive falsetto are showcased on its debut album, which introduces the group to the world.
Here are some projects to keep on repeat this weekend.
Brantley Gilbert, Fire & Brimstone
Gilbert continues to leave his mark on the country genre with his fifth studio album Fire & Brimstone. The singer’s brand of rock fueled country is at the forefront of the project, but so is his sentimental side. The bombastic “Fire’t Up,” arena-ready “Not Like Us” and intriguing “Welcome to Hazeville” featuring Colt Ford, Lukas Nelson and Willie Nelson, kick off the project while the aching “She Ain’t Home,” stripped down title track with harmonies by Jamey Johnson and Alison Krauss, and introspective album closer “Man That Hung the Moon” showcase his versatility. Gilbert wrote or co-wrote each of the album’s 15 tracks and on every song he leaves a little bit of himself with the listener.
King Calaway, Rivers
King Calaway blend impeccable six-part harmonies with pop-leaning production alongside vivid country storytelling on its debut album. The feel-good “No Matter What,” penned by Mitchell Tenpenny, Devin Dawson, Andy Albert, Paul DiGiovanni, and Jordan Schmidt, sounds like a song One Direction may have recorded while the title track is easy to envision in a stadium setting. Triumphant production, standout falsettos and impressive musicianship embody the project, as heard on the infectious Stephen Stills cover “Love the One You’re With,” heartbreaking ballad “Missing You” and throwback “I Do.”
Matt Stell, “Home in a Hometown” feat. Jimmie Allen
Matt Stell reminisces of his upbringing in Arkansas throughout the reflective “Home in a Hometown.” The nostalgic track is on his latest EP Everywhere But On and features Jimmie Allen. The video, which dropped this week, has the pair returning to high school hallways and the football field as they reminisce of Friday night tailgates before the game with friends.
Stephanie Quayle, If I Was a Cowboy
Stephanie Quayle showcases her vulnerabilities and powerhouse vocals on the excellent five-song EP If I Was a Cowboy. Anchored by the stirring “If I Was a Cowboy” and soaring “Evil Knievel,” Quayle’s emotive vocals and captivating storytelling shine. Additional highlights include the sultry “Second Rodeo” and enchanting “Untitled.”
Tenille Townes, “Jersey On the Wall (I’m Just Asking)”
Like Stell, Tenille Townes also returns to a high school for her latest music video. This time, though, it’s for a more heartbreaking tale as she asks the more difficult questions in life.
“This song, and its permission to ask God the hard questions, is so important to me,” Townes captions the song’s video. “I think it’s in conversation, and in stepping into that vulnerable place, where we find the healing we might be looking for. This was inspired by an incredible group of people in Grand Manan that I had the pleasure of getting to know. They had just been through a horrible tragedy where five students from their high school had gotten into an accident and one of those students, Danielle, passed away. I kept in touch with that community and went back for the high school graduation the following year. I sat in the gym, watched Danielle’s parents award her honorarium scholarship and on the wall of the gym was Danielle’s jersey. I stared at the jersey will all kinds of questions for God.
“Shortly after my trip there, my best friend’s little brother passed away and after that somebody I graduated high school with was also killed in an accident,” she continued. “I walked into the writing session with Gordie Sampson and Tina Parole a few months later with all of my emotions and the song found us that day. I’m so grateful it did.”