First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos & albums that dropped this week.
Asleep at the Wheel feat. George Strait and Willie Nelson, “Take Me Back to Tulsa”
This Bob Wills classic might be an ode to Oklahoma, but this performer lineup’s roots run deep in the Lone Star State. Asleep at the Wheel teams with George Strait and Willie Nelson on this rendition of “Take Me Back to Tulsa,” a song the group previously included on their 1973 debut album. Strait takes the first line on the song, joined later by Nelson and band co-founder Ray Benson through this fiddle-driven, dancehall-ready song. The track is the second from Asleep at the Wheel’s upcoming 50th anniversary project Half a Hundred Years.
Eddie Montgomery, “Alive and Well”
“When you got no choice you just push on/ I know deep down that’s what they’d want,” Montgomery sings in this track, his rough-hewn voice cutting right to the heart about surviving past mistakes and heartbreak, including the loss of two sons and his Montgomery Gentry bandmate Troy Gentry. “I won’t lie and I won’t pretend/I wouldn’t be me if it wasn’t for them,” he sings, making it clear that the memory and influence of his loved ones continues. “Alive and Well,” from Montgomery’s upcoming solo album, comes nearly four years after Gentry’s death in 2017. Montgomery penned the track alongside Chris Wallin and Ira Dean, and the track was produced by Noah Gordon and Shannon Houchins.
Kacey Musgraves, “Justified”
“Healing doesn’t happen in a straight line,” Musgraves sings in “Justified,” the latest song the singer-songwriter has revealed from her upcoming album star-crossed, which will be released Sept. 10. Where Musgraves’ title track for the album recounted the procedures of her divorce from ex-husband Ruston Kelly, “Justified” centers on the complicated process of healing and moving on, while bringing forward her signature blissed-out vocals against an airy rhythm punctuated by softer moments. For the album, Musgraves reunites with Ian Fitchuk and Daniel Tashian, her collaborators on 2018 album Golden Hour, which earned a Grammy in the coveted Album of the Year category.
Reyna Roberts, “Raised Right”
Roberts first garnered attention of artists such as Mickey Guyton when Roberts released a video of herself covering Carrie Underwood’s “Drinking Alone.” She followed with her unapologetic tribute to what she calls the “deep, dark, dirty South” on “Stompin’ Grounds.” In her latest, “Raised Right,” Roberts seems thoroughly at home in a country-rock hybrid that revels in dark edges and rural imagery, bolstered by careening rock guitar. “I got a little wrong in my raised right,” she sings, her voice veering from sultry to edgy to soaring in all the right places. Roberts penned “Raised Right” with Danny Myrick and Kylie Sackley.
Randy Travis, “Ain’t No Use”
Travis’ landmark 1986 album Storms of Life marks its 35-year anniversary in 2021, and to commemorate the milestone, music fans will get a deluxe version of the project, including a trio of previously-unreleased tracks. Among those is “Ain’t No Use,” a song Travis recorded in 1986, featuring Kyle Lehning’s clean production and Travis subtly ornamenting the lyrics with his signature vocal dips and sweeps. Here, stinging fiddle and piano work underscore Travis’ frustration with a romantic partner that remains emotionally closed off. Travis is also credited as a writer on “Ain’t No Use,” alongside John Lindley.
Zac Brown Band, “Slow Burn”
Zac Brown Band’s latest release rejoices in young love and romance-filled summers and how, when it’s right, sometimes the memory of a short-lived summer fling can last for years. This slice of sweet nostalgia puts the group’s signature harmonies front and center. “Slow Burn” is from the band’s newly-announced album The Comeback, which will be released Oct. 15. The group’s lead singer Zac Brown penned the track alongside Ben Simonetti and Ben Hayslip. Brown is a co-writer on every track on the upcoming album and co-produced the project with Simonetti.