First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos and albums that dropped this week.
Jimmie Allen, Bettie James
Allen returns with a seven-song EP —its moniker taken from his father and grandmother’s first names—filled with collaborations. The tunes range from the wistful (and should be single) “Drunk & I Miss You” featuring Mickey Guyton, the inspirational “Made For These” featuring Tim McGraw, and the historic coupling of three generations of Black country hitmakers on “Why Things Happen” featuring Charley Pride and Darius Rucker. First single, “This is Us,” featuring Noah Cyrus, is a sweet love song about “you” and “me” coming together to form an “us.” The set could use a few more up-tempo tracks, but its a powerful statement from a developing voice.
Tim McGraw, “Here on Earth”
These times are making so many of us re-evaluate our lives and what our purpose here is. McGraw, in the title track to his first new album in five years, is no different. While the mid-tempo ballad, written by Jessie Jo Dillon, Chase McGill and Jon Nite, asks the hard questions but decides his role is to love McGraw decides “maybe loving you is why I’m here on earth.” But the love goes beyond romantic love, especially when it comes to the video. The clip elevates the song bringing in a diverse cross section of humanity with people expressing their purpose on earth, whether it is to be the best parent as possible or to heal the planet. The video is a call for unity in these divisive times. Here on Earth arrives Aug. 21.
Brett Eldredge, Sunday Drive
Eldredge makes a quantum musical leap with his fifth studio album. Collaborating with songwriters/producers Daniel Tashian and Ian Fitchuk, he’s created a wide-ranging album both musically and lyrically that hits the heart and the soul during these turbulent times. The title track- the only one he didn’t co-write— brings tears every listen while yearning for a gentler time.
Rascal Flatts feat. Rachel Wammack, “Quick, Fast, In A Hurry”
The latest from the trio’s July 31 final EP is a fun, vocally challenging track that shows off newcomer Wammack’s strong vocals as Flatts’ Gary LeVox vows he will be by her side in a jiffy if she decides she’s ready to get back together. They sound made for each other in this song that covers familiar territory in a new ways.
Ray Wylie Hubbard, Co-Starring
As the title indicates, the Texas journeyman—author of the classic “Up Against the Wall, Redneck Mother,” fills his latest set with all star pairing ranging from Ringo Starr, Ashley McBryde, Ronnie Dunn, Joe Walsh and Pam Tillis. He’s the glue that holds the diverse album together, but it’s hard to go wrong with an opening line like “I can see you’re a woman of taste from your Reba McEntire tattoo” on “Drink Till I See Double” featuring Paula Nelson and Elizabeth Cook.
Ross Ellis, “Love Blind”
Country music is full of songs from men asking for their women to help keep them on the straight and narrow. Ellis, a new singer songwriter on Sony Nashville, makes his request with a twist on his ballad. His plea goes straight to God, whom he hopes will unleash his angels to make him the man he wants to be for his woman.
Margo Price, That’s How Rumors Get Started
Produced by Sturgill Simpson and co-produced by Price and David Ferguson, Price’s latest further proves her versatility and talent. This set leans more rock than country (with a vocal nod to everyone from Dusty Springfield to Susanna Hoffs and Steve Nicks), thanks to supporting players such as Benmont Tench from Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and guitarist Matt Sweeney, but there are still plenty of country notes, starting with Price’s lovely, vulnerable vocals.
Tyler Childers, “Country Squire”
During the pandemic, artists have had to have to get creative when it comes to videos in this age of social distancing. For Childers, in this ode to a beloved but decrepit RV, it meant turning to comic book artist Tony Moore for this computer-animated clip that has the perfect Childers doppelgänger. The twangy song—the title track to Childers’ recent chart topping country album (also produced by Simpson and Ferguson), is good-natured salute to a long-lasting love, but the video takes it to a purely delightful level.