First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos and albums that dropped this week.
Welcome to a special Mother’s Day edition of First Country. God knows country artists love and revere their mamas above all other kin, so our first few selections pay tribute to mom as her special day nears on May 10.
Tim McGraw, “I Called Mama”
This morning, McGraw, who scored a No. 2 Country Airplay hit with “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” in 2014, delivers another ode to his mom with mid-tempo “I Called Mama.” The song, his first new music since re-signing with Big Machine Records earlier this year, stresses the importance of home when we need to return to a place of love and support.
Written by Lance Miller, Marv Green and Jimmy Yeary, the song was produced by McGraw and Byron Gallimore. “ I think it’s at these very difficult times that music can help and the power of a song can give someone a moment of clarity or comfort, or just a smile,” McGraw said in a statement. “Especially now, when we seem to need it more than ever.” The lyric video includes never-before-seen footage of Tim as a baby with his mom.
Lori McKenna, “When You’re My Age”
She doesn’t mention mama, but when McKenna’s “When You’re My Age” dropped a few weeks ago, it was clear that the song was from the perspective of a mom singing to her child, reminder her “you’re still gonna be my baby/even when you’re my age.” Like “Humble & Kind,” which McKenna also wrote, “When You’re My Age” manages to deliver a beautiful message without preaching or succumbing to the maudlin.
An emotional stripped-down performance video of the piano-based ballad recorded in Nashville’s historic RCA Studio A featuring fellow writers Hillary Lindsey and Liz Rose and producer Dave Cobb arrived this week. Try to get through the opening line “When you’re my age, I hope the world is kinder than it seems to be right now” without tearing up. The track is the first from McKenna’s The Balladeer, out July 24 on CN Records via Thirty Tigers.
Corey Crowder, “My Poor Mama”
Like McKenna, Crowder is one of Nashville’s top songwriters and producers and is usually behind the scenes, but he’s stepping to the front here on “My Poor Mama,” an anthem to long-suffering moms everywhere released on his frequent collaborators Florida George Line’s Round Here Records. Written by Crowder, Jaren Johnson, James McNair and Jordan Schmidt, the crunchy, toe-tapping tune raises a glass to the literally poor mama “drained her savings account keeping me out of jail.” Crowder more recently produced FLG’s current single, “I Love My Country” and a country remix of Justin Bieber’s “Yummy.”
Maren Morris, Maren Morris Live From Chicago
With no new concerts happening for the foreseeable future, brand new mama Morris revisits the March 9, 2019 inaugural show of her Girl: The World with this four-song, available only on Amazon Music. In addition to Girl and recent No. 1 “The Bones,” the EP also includes “A Song for Everything” and “Common.” Watch the corresponding videos on Morris’s YouTube channel.
Dixie Chicks, “Julianna Calm Down”
With Gaslighter — the Dixie Chicks’ first album of new material in 14 years — postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, the trio has slipped out a second song, “Julianna Calm Down,” from the album, following the title track’s release in March. opens with a lovely, soothing vocal from Natalie Maines — backed only by an organ — as she name-checks a number of women, some of them relatives of Maines’ and bandmates Emily Strayer and Martie Maguire, as she doles out helpful advice.
In each case, each woman is about to be left by her man, but Maines is there to remind them that better days are ahead and, more importantly, “Just put on, put on, put on your best shoes/ And strut the f–k around like you’ve got nothing to lose.”
Jordan Davis, “Almost Maybes”
A sure contender for song of the summer, Davis follows “Slow Dancing in the Parking Lot,” his second No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart, with this lighthearted, sweet tune saluting all the romances that don’t work out to clear the way for the one that does. Davis, who penned the song with Hillary Lindsey and Jesse Frasure, sings, “Here’s to the tears and beers/And wasted years on the weeds that look like daisies/I wouldn’t be sitting here next to you/If it weren’t for the almost maybes.” “Almost Maybes” introduces a six-track EP coming from Davis May 22.
Danielle Bradbery, “Never Have I Ever”
Not to be confused with Netflix’s new half-hour comedy series of the same name, on “Never Have I Ever” Bradbery returns with a floaty pop-tempo ballad that complements her lilting vocals and wouldn’t sound out of place on an Ariana Grande album. The Voice season 4 winner penned the track, about being in love for the first time, with top tunesmiths Laura Veltz and Dave Hodges.
For now, the song is a one-off, but she also has “Hometown,” a track also featuring Zac Brown, on Diplo’s May 29 album, Diplo Presents Thomas Wesley Chapter 1: Snake Oil. Bradbery’s struggled at country radio- her peak was 2013’s The Heart of Dixie” which reached No. 12 —but maybe this will return her solidly to country radio airwaves.