First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos & albums that dropped this week.
Cole Swindell, “I’m Gonna Let Her”
On previous hits like “You Should Be Here” and “Break Up in the End,” Swindell has proven he knows his way around a devastatingly sad lyric. On this yearning love song, he shows he has a way with more romantic material as well. Here, he’s more than ready to settle down with his significant other, change her last name and let her steal his heart permanently. This airy track shimmers as Swindell offers one of his most heartfelt vocals to date, with the kind of smooth delivery over a sly hook reminiscent of a George Strait classic. “I’m Gonna Let Her,” written by Dustin Lynch, Justin Ebach and Josh Thompson, will be featured on his upcoming fourth studio album, Stereotype, out Apr. 8.
Tom Douglas, “Van Gogh”
This track marks the first release from the soundtrack album to Douglas’ upcoming Paramount+ documentary Love, Tom, set for release Feb. 24. Aided by harmonica and name-checking Elvis Presley, Marilyn Monroe and more, Douglas captures the jcreative highs and struggles with insecurity that artists of all stripes face. Douglas wrote “Van Gogh” with Allen Shamblin (his co-writer on Miranda Lambert’s hit “The House That Built Me”), with production from Andy Skib.
Muscadine Bloodline, Dispatch to 16th Avenue
This nine-track album from the duo of Gary Stanton and Charlie Muncaster puts their independent-minded music — and devotion to the sounds of classic country — front and center. The warning-shot title track will undoubtedly bring to mind the George Strait/Alan Jackson song “Murder on Music Row,” detailing a dispatcher’s report of a “man down” on Nashville’s 16th Avenue: it classifies the victim as a young man trying to find success in the country music industry, and the assailant as a “record man hellbent on changing his sound.” Naturally, “No, Pedal Steel” drips with pedal steel, as a heartbroken protagonist says “no thanks” to the mournful sounds of the classic country instrument because, as the lyrics put it, “I’d lose my mind in three-quarter time/ High on that lonesome sound.” This duo is determined to eschew any restraints in order to forge their own signature sound, and are better for it.
Sacha, We Did
This smartly crafted four-song EP builds upon Sacha’s previous release, the lively “What The Truck.” The title track, written by Ben Stennis and High Valley’s Brad Rempel, is an energetic homage to bold, carefree love. One of the strongest tracks in this quartet of tracks is “Pretty Please,” a call for self-acceptance melded with a gorgeous melody.
Eddie Montgomery and Tanya Tucker, “Higher”
Whiskey and weed aren’t enough to kill the pain, but they’ve found a romance that will take them higher than anything they’ve tried before. These two country music bonafides match each other note for note with impassioned yet gritty deliveries. This song is included on Montgomery’s debut solo album, Ain’t No Closing Me Down.
Kassi Ashton, “Dates in Pickup Trucks”
Ashton and her lover are hitting the road for a low-key date night, burning up small-town backroads in a pickup truck, the same as they did last weekend. But with a brightly burning romance like theirs, that’s just fine with her. Ashton brings her signature husky, sultry voice to this track that meshes R&B influences with steel guitar, making this a perfect weekend jam. Ashton wrote the song with David Garcia and Luke Laird.
Brei Carter, “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'”
Before setting her sights on music, Louisiana native Carter earned a doctorate in theology and served in the U.S. Army. She follows her previous single, “Gave Him a Girl,” with a tribute to the late Country Music Hall of Fame member Charley Pride. Here, Carter gives the timeless Pride hit a modern sheen, and it capably serves as a showcase for her powerful voice.
Kylie Frey and Bri Bagwell, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”
Frey and Bagwell put a jaunty country and bluegrass-inspired spin on this 1984 Cyndi Lauper classic. Their sweet country voices blend beautifully here, making for a delightful fiddle-drenched track. Of course, Frey is no stranger to great collaborations: she recently teamed with Randy Houser for the song “Horses in Heaven,” and contributed vocals to Cody Johnson’s Human: The Double Album.