First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos and albums that dropped this week.
Blake Shelton, “Come Back as a Country Boy”
“A country boy is all that I know how to be,” Shelton sings in this ode to blue collar workers, backbreaking work, and days that begin long before the sun comes up. The song starts with the sounds of a crackling fire and howling coyotes, soon joined by Shelton’s muscular lead voice and tightly-packed harmonies. The song offers a lengthy list outlining the kind of rural living he craves — so much so, that when he dies, he wants to come back as a country boy. If that’s not possible, as he so straightforwardly points out — “leave my Hank crankin’, beer-drinking a— in the ground.”
Penned by HARDY, Josh Thompson and Jordan Schmidt, the song is included on Shelton’s upcoming deluxe version of his album Body Language. Its driving rhythm and gritty melody recalls Shelton’s own 2019 hit “God’s Country” — another HARDY and Schmidt co-write.
Kane Brown and H.E.R., “Blessed & Free”
Kane Brown has long been known for a lengthy list of collaborators, from Khalid and Swae Lee to his most recent Billboard Country Airplay chart-topper “Famous Friends,” alongside labelmate Chris Young. Now, Brown welcomes Grammy winner, soulful vocalist and ace guitarist H.E.R. for this bluesy, moody anthem of hope and freedom. Meaty, propelling guitar work enhances the pair’s bid for space to decompress and heal.
“I ain’t hurtin’ nobody so just let me be/ I got good intentions I don’t need your blessings… I’m already blessed and free,” they sing on this gospel-tinged chorus.
Justin Moore, “With a Woman You Love”
“Another man’s early was my gettin’ home late,” Moore sings on his latest release. Then those plans quickly change, as he finds the one love worth (mostly) putting his rowdy ways behind him and coming home early to — a sentiment he’s previously espoused on songs such as 2013’s “Point at You.” Since first topping the Billboard Country Airplay chart with 2009’s “Small Town USA,” Moore has staunchly adhered to his own brand of polished country-rock sounds and traditional-leaning lyrics that champion small towns, well-worn barrooms and enduring love. With this song — which Moore penned with Paul DiGiovanni, Chase McGill and Jeremy Stover — he proves he still has a keen ear for what his fans want.
Lily Rose, Stronger Than I Am
In December 2020, Rose’s song “Villain” went viral on TikTok and earned Rose deals with Big Loud, Republic and Back Blocks. In the song, Rose was willing to “take the fall” to let the other half of a failed relationship appear as the victor. Her new EP effortlessly melds country, pop and acoustic rock. Adding to the project’s intimacy, Rose is a co-writer of four of the EP’s seven tracks. The project launches with “Villain,” and from there, each tale offers a potent blend of vulnerability and strength, particularly on the title track. She knows her way around a small town, her favorite barroom and a guitar, but in the smoky siren call “Know My Way Around,” Rose is determined her learn her way around a new love interest. Powering each track is Rose’s distinctive, wise voice.
Dustin Lynch feat. Riley Green, “Huntin’ Land”
His new girl has a keen distaste for his dog, his truck, his boots and all his country boy ways. Her critical demeanor may not be the way to his heart — but her daddy’s top-notch stretch of Kentucky hunting land sure is. This rollicking track keeps the storyline front and center, accented by tasty fiddle lines and the jovial vocal collab from Lynch and Green. Lynch wrote the track with Andy Albert, Hunter Phelps and Will Weatherly. With the track’s clever hooks, it’s sure to find a warm welcome on country radio.
Tyler Childers, “Yes I Guess They Oughta Name a Drink After You”
Childers expertly takes on a John Prine classic here, offering a fiddle and piano-drenched country shuffle. The original was included on the late Prine’s 1972 album Diamonds in the Rough. “The more I drink/ The less I feel blue,” Childers sings, his voice more reedy than Prine’s warm, intimate vocals, and running more wounded than tongue-in-cheek. Childers’ rendition is included on Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows: Songs of John Prine, set to release Oct. 8 via Prine’s Oh Boy Records.
Pistol Annies, “Snow Globe”
Pistol Annies members Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley return with a collection of holiday tunes on Oct. 22, when they release the album Hell of a Holiday. On “Snow Globe,” they temporarily put aside their signature witty, sharp lyrics in favor of this wistful, sweet holiday track, bolstered by handclaps, horns, and occasionally doo-wop-inflected harmonies. “We could shake it up, shake it loose/ A white Christmas all year through,” they sing of making their own style of holiday spirit, hopeful and tired of waiting “for the magic to finally happen.”
Brandon Lay, “Back Home”
Some things never change in hometowns, and that’s just fine by Lay. George Strait songs are still playing in the kitchen, the fried chicken is still homemade, and the local Waffle House sign is still missing a letter or two. The new track joins a flux of songs on country radio right now that already center on reminiscing about the days of small-town youth, but Lay’s relaxed, evocative vocal and the track’s bright production will sound right at home. Lay penned the song alongside Lynn Hutton, and the recording was produced by Jonathan Singleton.
Dalton Dover, “You Got a Small Town”
Dover’s a Georgia native, but he infuses his brand of country with a bluesy intensity. The song’s tale is lifted by blazing guitar lines and Dover’s soaring vocals, transforming the track into a smoky love letter to small towns. Adam Craig, Jamie Paulin and John Pierce are the writers behind this track, and Dover is signed to former Sony Music Nashville A&R veteran Jim Catino’s new Droptine Recordings venture.