First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos & albums that dropped this week.
This week’s First Country column sees Miranda Lambert‘s latest solo release, Walker Hayes issuing the followup to his smash hit “Fancy Like,” and Darius Rucker teaming with blues vocalist/guitarist Keb’ Mo’.
Miranda Lambert, “If I Was a Cowboy”
“You thought the West was wild/ but you ain’t saddled up with me,” Lambert sings in this new release, which she penned alongside Jesse Frasure. But where this Grammy winner might have delivered such a line with scrappy, sneering indignation on previous albums, on this outing, she offers a more peaceful rendering — one that comes with being fully content blazing your own path under wide open skies. The song’s relaxed, organic vibe falls in line with her recent hits “Bluebird” and “Settling Down,” as well as her Texas acoustic album The Marfa Tapes.
Keb’ Mo’ feat. Darius Rucker, “Good, Strong Woman”
Keb’ Mo’ and Rucker, clearly enjoyed collaborating on this track — which melds elements of Keb’ Mo’s blues and country roots with his intricate, bright guitar work, and Rucker’s unmistakable full-throated vocals. “Life can be kind of hard on a man/ You’re gonna need a good, strong woman who’s got your back,” the two sing in this plucky, wisdom-filled cut, accented by handclaps and a vocal group backing. The song is from Keb’ Mo’s upcoming album Good to Be, due Jan. 21 of next year, which includes production from Vince Gill.
Walker Hayes, “U Gurl”
Hayes is ready to follow his Billboard Hot 100 Top 5 hit “Fancy Like,” trading shoutouts to Applebee’s for lyrics appreciating all of his significant other’s best features.
This track blends shades of Trace Adkins’ lustful dancefloor hit “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” with throwback elements of ’90s rock and hip-hop, as thumping bass and fuzzed-out guitar propel Hayes lyrics like “every shade of blue jeans look mean/ with a body like that.” Hayes penned the track with Dylan Guthro (who also produced the track) and Jodi Guthro — and according to the singer-songwriter, he’s already got a new viral-ready dance in the works.
Drake White, “Power of a Woman”
Warm, cohesive instrumentation provides a cool, relaxed groove that underpins White’s smooth brand of country-soul on this track. Here, White offers an ode to the myriad of strengths his woman displays, whether she’s speaking her mind, playing a mean game of poker, or fearlessly showing vulnerability. This track was penned by White, Lindsey Hinkle and Kelli Johnson, and co-produced by White and Jaren Johnston.
Midland and Marty Stuart, “Break Your Own D–n Heart”
Barroom-burnished vocals from Stuart and Midland fuel this clever rebuttal to a girl with a reputation for breaking hearts. The song’s protagonist delivers a laundry list of the heartbreaker’s former conquests and with the song’s hook — “go break your own d–n heart” — lets her know he’s not about to be the next loser in her game. HARDY wrote the track with Hunter Phelps and Midland’s Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy and Wystrach. The song is the latest release from HARDY’s collaborative project Hixtape Vol. 2.
Blanco Brown, “Never Gonna Tame You”
Brown is known for catchy hits such as “The Git Up,” but he shows another side of his artistry in this slow-burn piano ballad that showcases the stunning emotional (and vocal) range he’s capable of offering. “Never gonna tame me/ never gonna break me” he sings in this determined anthem. This track, penned by iconic songwriter Diane Warren, is included in the feature-length documentary The Mustangs: America’s Wild Horses, which focuses on the history and present-day situation of America’s wild horses.
Raleigh Keegan, Clocks Roll Forward
Newcomer Keegan releases a promising collection that finds the singer-songwriter offering up moments of his own story with startling openness and vulnerability. Backed by delicate piano, “Our First Goodbye” achingly details his mother’s story of giving birth to Keegan while in a prison hospital and soon after giving him up for adoption. The fiddle-soaked “Like My Daddy Was” finds him wondering how similar he is to a father he never met, as he shows determination to be a better man to his own future children. Not every track on the album is as vulnerable; elsewhere on the project, the funky, jangly “Easy on the Trigger” puts his versatile voice center stage in a rowdy track about finding contentment in a world intent on keeping up with the Joneses.
Leah Turner, Lost in Translation
Turner lends her fiery, powerhouse vocals to this strong, six-song collection that celebrates her Hispanic heritage (Turner is the daughter of a first-generation Mexican-American mother and a rodeo champion father) to powerful effect. “Vaquera and the Cowboy” chronicles a powerful love story in a sizzling track that blends pop song structures accented by sultry guitar lines. In “Vaya Con Dios” she threatens a sharp goodbye to a lover who tries to rein her in, promising that the “Band’s gonna keep on playing/ hips gonna keep on swaying” whether her lover is in her life or not. Her voice is velvety and scorching on the Western-themed “Where Did All The Cowboys Go,” as she seeks an elusive, authentic cowboy.
Scott Stevens, “Come Home to Me”
This moody, sultry track paints a portrait of someone primed for a romantic evening, though his plans are sidelined until his lover returns home. Stevens’ voice is grainy and yearning, bolstered by glistening guitar and a soft groove in this churning mix of country and R&B. Stevens penned and co-produced the track alongside Alex Marshall.
Cassadee Pope, “Thrive”
On the lead single from her new album by the same name, Pope revisits her pop-punk roots, with rapid-fire vocals in the verses as she celebrates her newfound freedom after ending a harmful relationship. “I never would have hit this stride if I stayed tied down to you,” she sings pointedly, her voice at once joyous and sneering atop propelling percussion. Still, the result is polished — thanks to Pope’s powerful pipes, and production from both All-American Rejects’ Nick Wheeler and Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild.