First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos & albums that dropped this week.
Chris Young, Famous Friends (Deluxe Edition)
Young expands his Famous Friends album to 20 tracks with the addition of six new songs on the deluxe version, which drops Friday (June 3). In addition to the hit title track, this album includes collaborations with Old Dominion (“Everybody Needs a Song”) and the excellent ode to musical heroes and chasing dreams in “Music Note” with Jimmie Allen. “Like a Slow Song” recalls some of Young’s most romantic R&B-shaded hits such as “Gettin’ You Home (The Black Dress Song),” while the melancholy “If I Knew What Was Good For Me” makes great use of Young’s enviable vocal range. The album rounds out with acoustic renditions of Young’s previous hits “Think of You” and “I’m Comin’ Over.”
Brent Cobb, “Wild and Blue”
Cobb covers this 1983 John Anderson hit as part of the multi-artist tribute project Something Borrowed, Something New, set to release Aug. 5. Cobb’s worthy rendition veers slightly from Anderson’s banjo-inflected original, leaning more heavily on relaxed acoustic guitars and a fiddle-laced, jam band groove, helmed by Cobb’s warm, unhurried vocals.
Brooke Eden, “Left You For Me”
“You get so used to being used that you forget that it’s unusual,” Eden sings, delivering a gut-punch of emotional truth in what ultimately becomes a bubbly, romantic tale — about leaving a loser and falling in love with yourself. Her latest follows a similar mesh of bright, poppy earworm hooks with an uplifting, anthemic message found in previous releases “Got No Choice,” “No Shade,” and “Sunroof” — songs that found Eden being open about and celebrating her relationship with partner Hilary Hoover.
Toby Keith, “Oklahoma Breakdown”
Though Keith was a 2015 Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee and has written several of his own hits such as “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” and “American Soldier,” here he turns to fellow Oklahoman singer-songwriter Hosty for a glossy rendition of a song that also became a regional hit on the Texas Music Chart for Stoney LaRue in 2007. Keith’s rendition of this Red Dirt hit bypasses LaRue’s defiant sensibilities or even Hosty’s sparse percussion and meaty guitar lines, for a more typical contemporary, radio-friendly sheen.
Easton Corbin, “Hey Merle”
Throughout his career, Corbin has regularly incorporated covers of Merle Haggard and Hank Williams classics into his sets, and here he puts his relaxed, expressive baritone to good use on a tribute to the late music legends. Written by Corbin, Rodney Clawson and Wade Kirby, the propulsive track is an adequate celebration of “country gold” classics as Corbin muses, “Did you ever think you’d leave this big a mark on a guitar town?” as the song incorporates mentions of hits from “Lovesick Blues” to “Swinging Doors.”
MaRynn Taylor, “Sounds Like Something”
Nearly a decade after Maddie & Tae lambasted “bro country,” newcomer Taylor seems more than willing to play along, telling a potential lover, “If you’re waitin’ for a country girl from a country song/ Doin’ country things ’til the break of dawn…sounds like something I would do.” Taylor’s voice is adequate on this lightweight confection she wrote with Jason Earley and Colton Venner. It’s included on her EP Something I Would Do, which drops today via Black River Entertainment.
Gina Venier, “Nora Jane” (Acoustic)
Singer-songwriter Venier details a familiar story of bringing home a lover to meet family for the first time. But for queer alt-country artist Venier, the vulnerability, anxiety and hope are heightened by the fact that the family meeting also marks a coming out story.
The acoustic version of “Nora Jane” places the storyline front and center, with vulnerable lyrics such as “I’m afraid everyone I love won’t love me the same/ when I tell them your name.” Thankfully, this coming out story has an uplifting ending, as Venier sings, “Mom gave me a hug when I told her you’re the one I love.” Venier, who is signed with the Warner Chappell and Red Light joint venture Red Door Music Group, wrote the song with former Avenue Beat member Savana Santos and Summer Overstreet.
Steven Denmark, “Only Home I Need”
This singer/songwriter and Northern California cattle rancher has previously released projects including 2021’s Babylon. Here, he chronicles a romance through the decades, from freewheeling younger days, building a family and final moments as death beckons. “Whether skies were blue or gray/ You stuck it out with me,” he sings, as this introspective soother steadily builds into a righteous, guitar-fueled rocker, with Denmark’s comforting voice matched by Lynn Marie’s own honeyed vocals.