This week’s First Country column features new music from Lainey Wilson, Carrie Underwood, Florida Georgia Line member Tyler Hubbard‘s first solo release, Ronnie Dunn’s collaboration with Jake Worthington and more.
Lainey Wilson, “Heart Like a Truck”
Wilson’s latest follows two No.1 hits (“Things a Man Oughta Know” and the Cole Swindell collab “Never Say Never”). Here, she compares her heart to a rusty auto that’s taken a beating and keeps on going. Wilson’s voice has the kind of warm, weathered tone that makes a listener believe she’s lived every verse she sings — and in the song’s climax, she belts out the word “heart” with abandon, showcasing an instrument as powerful as it is intimate. This is an absolute star in the making.
Carrie Underwood, “She Don’t Know”
This sly, upbeat shuffle delves into a classic story song of infidelity. She sees her husband’s mistress in the grocery store and knows the woman “thinks she’s played me for a fool” — but Underwood’s stoic delivery shows she’s smiling through the pain and refusing to wallow in heartache. “What she don’t know is she can have him,” Underwood delivers the winning shot, over a gorgeous production.
Ronnie Dunn feat. Jake Worthington, “Honky Tonk Town”
The Country Music Hall of Famer still has one of the best voices in the genre. On the second track from Dunn’s forthcoming album 100 Proof Neon (out July 29), he doubles down on that cool, signature B&D ’90s country sound, while also welcoming newcomer Jake Worthington. Like some previous Dunn outings, this song is an exquisite ode to the barflies, beer-soaked hardwood floors, cramped stages, neon lights and freewheeling music joints that gave so many country artists their start. Dunn wrote the song with David Chamberlain, Marc Howett and Jacob Lyda.
Danni Leigh, “My Arms Stay Open Late”
Danni Leigh earned a few entries on the Hot Country Singles chart in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Now, after a 15-year hiatus, she will return with a new album, Walkin’ on a Wire, set to release June 10 via BFD/Audium Nashville. She wrote the album’s first release alongside Melba Montgomery, who earned several chart hits in the 1960s and 1970s with her duets with George Jones and Charlie Louvin, and later the No. 1 hit “No Charge.”
As such, this track is country, country, country. A barroom shuffle, tinkling piano, sighing fiddles and Leigh’s time-worn vocal lift this tale of a woman who can’t quite let go of a man who’s treated her wrong.
BlackHawk, “Blue Highway”
In the 1990s, BlackHawk earned a smattering of top 10 Hot Country Singles hits, including “Every Once in a While” and “I’m Not Strong Enough to Say No.” A new album, Blue Highway (out June 24) mines older recordings from the group, including vocals from original BlackHawk member Van Stephenson, who died in 2001. The tracks get an update with the addition of bass, drums, electric guitar and mandolin. This freewheeling, twangy title track features Henry Paul on lead vocals, with harmonies from bandmates Stephenson and Dave Robbins.
Tyler Hubbard, “5 Foot 9”
For the past 10 years, Hubbard has been known for not only his work as half of the duo Florida Georgia Line, but also as a writer on songs recorded by Jason Aldean, Jimmie Allen, Chris Tomlin and more. Now, Hubbard steps out on his own in his first solo release, which he co-wrote with the Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnston and songwriter Chase McGill. Here, he retains much of the sunny, pop-inflected sound of FGL, fusing it with lyrics that celebrate the “good stuff” in life–including country music, whiskey, dirt roads and most of all, the one he loves. This radio-friendly track is a promising introduction to Hubbard’s solo music.