This month’s selections include Joy Williams, Ruston Kelly, Justin Moore, Brett Young, Walker Hayes and Kip Moore.
Lydia: “Lela’s Stars” by Walker Hayes
Some say he’s not country and simply dismiss Walker Hayes but nevertheless, there’s one thing that you can not dispute. His ability to convey honesty and passion through his music is unquestionable. Take this lesser-known song released on his EP: 8Tracks Vol 2 Break the Internet. Sit and listen to the words he sings. “Am I a failure or a father? Father, help, look at the felt on my f’ed up ceiling, had to bum thumbtacks from my nine and a half-year-old daughter Lela just to keep it from coming down, kinda like my tears when I count le-le-le-le-la-la-la-la’s stars / The sky ain’t fallin’ it’s just the roof of my car.” Walker struggled to make ends meet while working multiple jobs and raising a large family until the “You Broke Up With Me” singer’s career took off. If holding the ceiling up in your beat-up car with your child’s thumbtacks but still persevering so that your children see the benefit in never giving up isn’t passion I don’t know what is. Hey, if award-winning songwriter/producer Shane McAnally believes in him, perhaps you should too.
Annie: “Ticket to L.A.” by Brett Young
I am super freaking stoked for the new BY album, and this song is yet another reason why. The details are crisp and paint a strong visual, leaning into some of Brett’s strengths: catchy melodies, sweet lyrics. This isn’t the Californian’s first song about romance as it relates to plane travel, but it’s a fresh and engaging song without being redundant.
Markus: “Blackout” by Ruston Kelly
I finally got around to this Ruston Kelly project, and man is it good. The track I keep going back to is “Blackout,” which in my mind encompasses the best aspects of the album. The production is equal parts gritty and atmospheric, opting for a darker sonic environment while building up to a borderline-anthemic chorus. Lyrically, it’s clever yet evocative with its emotional imagery, while Kelly puts in a tremendous vocal performance. “Blackout” pushes boundaries and is a standout for country and Americana in 2018.
Natalie: “Canary / The Trouble with Wanting” by Joy Williams
This double release ushers in the long-awaited Joy Williams solo era with quite the overdue – yet tastefully understated – bang. Stunning and haunting and perfect for stormy afternoons, these tracks truly showcase her songwriting skills and isolate her vocals in a way her previous work never had. “Canary” (written with Angelo Petraglia and Caitlyn Smith) boasts determined lyrics and slow-building strings, while “The Trouble With Wanting” (written with Natalie Hemby) offers powerful lyrics about longing and desire layered over delicate, subdued production and delivered with heartstring-pulling harmonies. Both tracks were produced by Kenneth Pattengale (Milk Carton Kids), and were released as a preview of Williams’ solo album Front Porch
, due in early 2019.
Amanda: “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home” by Justin Moore
For anyone who has ever lost a loved one in the military, Justin Moore’s latest release, “The Ones That Didn’t Make It Back Home” is sure to hit you the hardest. Co-written with Paul DiGiovanni, Jeremy Stover, and Chase McGill, the Arkansas native tells the devastating story of a young soldier who lost his life overseas while serving his country, and the unimaginable pain that his family and friends are left with as they honor the memory of their fallen hero.
While melodically not as somber as one might expect, rest assured Moore’s recent single is gut-wrenching and will leave you in tears. Easily his best song since “If Heaven Weren’t So Far Away,” fans of the singer’s early work will no doubt be excited to hear this side of Moore again, and eager to hear what the rest of his forthcoming album will sound like.
Natalli: “Plead The Fifth (Acoustic)” by Kip Moore
As part of an upcoming acoustic album Room to Spare, out November 16, Kip Moore has reimagined the once fast-driving, beat-thumping track, “Plead the Fifth,” from his third studio album Slowheart. The heartache in the lyrics (penned by cowriters Luke Dick and Josh Kear) is brought to the forefront when Moore’s gravely, emotionally wrought vocals are left alone with a simple guitar, singing, “Have I ever mixed your memory with Tennessee? / Have I ever dialed you up, but never let it ring? / Do I wonder where you are with every sip?” While Moore’s rebel attitude permeates his catalog, this passionate single gives us a glimpse into another side of him – a side fans will only crave more once they listen to the track.