Check out what we’re playing on repeat this month, from Old Dominion’s heartfelt “Be With Me” to Lukas Nelson’s jam-worthy album.
Lydia: “Be With Me” by Old Dominion
I’ve personally been loving Old Dominion’s latest album Happy Endings and the message of this song, written by Matthew Ramsey, Brad Tursi, and Ross Copperman, strikes a chord with me. Sure it’s poppy and fun, and on the surface may seem like just another uptempo song to dance around to, but it’s got an important meaning. As Old Dominion frontman Matthew Ramsey says in a letter published on Refinery29, “Underneath the candy-coated melody and popping production of the demo was a surprising message of female empowerment.”
The video that accompanies the song drives that message home, as it’s filled with women of all ages and backgrounds singing and dancing along to the lyrics, letting go of inhibitions and simply being themselves. Ramsey sings: “Like your daddy told you when you were a little girl, you could be anything … Your momma brought you up in a woman’s world, you could be anything.”
Annie: “I Need A Ride Home” by Carly Pearce
There’s something really direct and incredible about this instant grat song from Carly Pearce, which was recently released from her upcoming debut album. “I Need A Ride Home” was written by phenoms Ashley Gorley, Matt Jenkins, and Hillary Lindsey, and is sort of house-that-built-me in making its listeners crave a visit to their hometowns. It’s a nice twist on the title, and Pearce presents it beautifully.
Markus: Life Changes by Thomas Rhett
In all honesty, my hopes weren’t all that high for Thomas Rhett’s third studio album upon the release of lead single, “Craving You.” It was an uninspiring retread of a familiar topic, and the production fell well outside the realms of country music. Coming off the largely-disastrous Tangled Up, I didn’t expect a ton out of the project. However, with each subsequent iTunes release, I became more and more optimistic.
First came the light, charming single “Unforgettable,” followed by the outstanding “Sixteen,” the adorable title track, and rock-solid “Grave.” As it turns out, the album is mostly outstanding. Is it all that country? No, for the most part, not really. That said, it is exceptional pop music, and a style that fits Rhett far better than any of his previous offerings. “Renegades” shows Rhett’s Mellencamp side, while “Drink a Little Beer,” a duet with his father, is a traditional uptempo country track.
Meanwhile, “Marry Me” is a touching, raw ballad, and “Gateway Love” brings a peppy production and strong melodic tendencies to a somber lyric. Even the likes of “Sweetheart” and “Leave Right Now,” despite removal from the genre’s roots, are effective in their delivery. Do I think Thomas Rhett should be on country radio? No, probably not, with a handful of exceptions. Am I fond of his past work? No, not at all, for a large of portion of his discography. But Life Changes is outstanding pop music, and is one of my most thoroughly enjoyed projects of the entire year, country or not. It’s creative and diverse, yet fits Rhett like a glove, and plays to his strengths perfectly. Tremendous stuff from a performer who seems to have finally found his niche.
Natalie: Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real by Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
First, I must confess that it took me two days of listening non-stop to figure out that Lukas Nelson is Willie’s son. Willie, as in Willie Nelson. *face palm* But now I know! Anyway, this album is most often a total jam session and occasionally a tear-inducing introspective journey – in my opinion, an ideal balance of emotions. Nelson and his band teamed up with Lucius, queens of flawless harmony, for many of the tracks, and their soaring, gospel-leaning backing vocals contrast nicely with Nelson’s gritty soul vibes.
Standout tracks include the smooth, swaying “Carolina,” the powerful “Find Yourself” featuring none other than Lady Gaga (yes, really), and the absolutely heartbreaking “Forget About Georgia” (that guitar, though). Nelson has a knack for storytelling and lesson-teaching in a way that doesn’t feel preachy or overdone – he’s funky, insightful, and knows how to jam. Kudos, sir, and can’t wait to see the live show.