Russell Dickerson, Southern Symphony
Dickerson is on a winning streak: “Love You Like I Used To,” the first single from his second Triple Tigers set, became his fourth consecutive No. 1 on Billboard‘s Country Airplay chart last month, and there’s likely more where that came from. “Never Gets Old” is a rollicking, guitar-fueled stomp about things he never tires of, while “It’s About Time,” featuring Florida Georgia Line, will have you popping open a beer before the first chorus ends. While the album is overwhelmingly upbeat, he slides slivers of a reality into such songs as “Home Sweet,” in which he and his honeymooning bride wonder if they can pay rent that month. But mainly Dickerson extols the sweet life he’s found with his honey by his side, while embracing his hometown on the genial title track.
Chase Rice feat. Florida Georgia Line, “Drinkin’ Beer. Talkin’ God. Amen”
On their first collaboration since 2012’s “Cruise,” which broke the world open for FGL, Rice, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley have deep thoughts over a few — or a few dozen — brews. Their world slows down as they contemplate what heaven looks like, and how, in a world gone crazy, just hanging with friends is about as good as it gets.
Jameson Rodgers feat. Luke Combs, “Cold Beer Calling My Name”
Coming off his first No. 1 single, “Some Girls,” Rodgers is joined by labelmate Combs to celebrate the impending beer imbibing sure to come on this low-key charmer. It’s purposefully mindless — because who wants to think too hard when there’s a cold libation waiting to put “a chill in the weekend”?
Carly Pearce, “Show Me Around”
Pearce co-penned this poignant ballad for busbee, her former producer, who died last year. Pearce talks directly to busbee as she imagines what he is going through in heaven, or “up there,” and looks forward to the day he can show her around his “new place.” “I heard that there’s no growing old and now you’ll only walk down streets of gold,” she sings, as she dreams of a time when they are reunited, never to be separated again. “I hate how much losing you hurts/ I hope you know you left your mark on this world” is a line that resonates in a year where losing someone you love has become all too common. Sweet and sentimental without ever crossing over into maudlin.
Gary Allan, “Waste of a Whiskey Drink”
In the video for Allan’s current single, he serves as the narrator trying to waive off a poor sap in a bar who is going to lay it all on the line for a woman who will leave him worse for wear in every way. The video captures the chaos of the rollercoaster ride the protagonist is about to take, with way more lows than highs.
Granger Smith, Country Things
The second half of Granger‘s 10th studio album, Country Things, follows the first half released in September. Highlights from the eight new tracks include the autobiographical “Six Strings,” a gentle recounting of the key moments of his life, and “That’s What Love Looks Like,” a sweet ode to realizing that acts of love often come from the simplest gestures. The set also includes more songs from his redneck alter-ego, Earl Dibbles Jr. — the best of which is the catchy “Workaholic,” which exalts putting in overtime on such pursuits as fishing and hunting.
Kalie Shorr, Open Book: Unabridged
Shorr expands last year’s Open Book with four new tracks that continue her commitment to telling the truth in her songs, even if she ends up looking worse through her bracing honestly. Best is the gorgeous pop-leaning “Lying To Myself,” where her feathery vocals float above the melody as she questions if a failed relationship is a consequence of her ex lying to her or was she lying to herself. Her slight recrimination there is nothing compared to the harsh “Eighteen,” a searing accounting of a relationship with an older man, which she opens with “Which one did you f–k harder, my best friend or my self-esteem?” She also takes no prisoners on “My Voice,” on how she will not be silenced by radio or anyone else.
Luke Dick, Red Dog (Music from the Documentary)
In-demand country songwriter Dick, who has written hits for such artists as Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, and Miranda Lambert, releases the soundtrack to last year’s documentary, Red Dog, which chronicled his upbringing around a strip club in Oklahoma, where his mother was a stripper. While he may write some of country’s top hits, this album is more rock and funk based: “Oklahomie,” featuring the Black Keys’ Patrick Carney, sounds like something from Beck’s Odelay, while “Tattoo”’s beats ricochet off the walls and “Plain White” has a ZZ Top stomp. “Polyester,” with Lambert, wouldn’t be out of place musically on country radio — though lyrically it likely stretches too far beyond traditional boundaries, as they cinematically describe the life he escaped: “Million to one I wouldn’t hit a gold record, there it is hanging on the wall,” Lambert sings as Dick’s relatives warn to not get above his raising. Bentley also makes an appearance, on the groove-laden, fun “Blazer.”