Things are heating up out there. The Band Perry, Kenny Chesney and Blake Shelton have offered fresh, new material over the last month or so. Willie Nelson, the Randy Rogers Band, Gretchen Wilson and a host of Americana bands and singer-songwriters have arrived with new music, too. I’ve listed some of my favorite new songs below.
To me, the title track of The Band Perry’s album Pioneer is one of the most evocative showcases for Kimberly Perry’s distinctive voice and the band’s compelling songwriting. Chesney’s Life on a Rock is a quiet and thoughtful project, yet “Coconut Tree” with Nelson is a whole lot of fun. Meanwhile, Shelton’s upbeat song “Ten Times Crazier” turns out to be an ideal title for his upcoming tour.
In addition, Nelson has recorded a splendid rendition of Irving Berlin’s “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” for his latest album of the same name. The Randy Rogers Band’s “Flash Flood” makes a splash on their latest album, Trouble. Finally, Wilson’s groovy “Still Rollin'” mashes up her country, rock and Southern leanings into one cool song, featured on the album Right on Time and written with Vicky McGehee.
It’s always a treat to find a sparkling and unexpected collaboration. For example, Steve Martin, Edie Brickell and Steep Canyon Rangers have teamed up for the creative album Love Has Come for You. Other notable duets include Dierks Bentley and the David Mayfield Parade covering Marty Stuart’s “Tempted,” Dolly Parton and Paul Anka singing “Do I Love You (Yes, in Every Way)” and B.J. Thomas and Etta Britt’s reviving “New Looks From an Old Lover.”
New projects dedicated to John Denver and the New Orleans songwriter Bobby Charles are worth a listen. I especially enjoyed Shannon McNally and Dr. John’s rendering of Charles’ “String of Hearts” on Small Town Talk. (Can’t go too wrong with Vince Gill on harmony.) On The Music Is You: A Tribute to John Denver, I’m drawn to Brandi Carlile and Emmylou Harris’ take on “Take Me Home, Country Roads,” Old Crow Medicine Show’s memorable “Back Home Again” and Allen Stone’s poignant version of “Rocky Mountain High.”
New and recommended Americana tracks include the Bills’ “Blackberry, Ivy and Broom,” Steven Casper & Cowboy Angst’s “Trouble,” Deadstring Brothers’ “Like a California Wildfire,” Futurebirds’ “Virginia Slims,” Go Jane Go’s “When I’m Not Thinking About You,” Adam Klein & the Wild Fires’ “Sky Blue Deville” and the McCrary Sisters’ soulful “Train.”
More Americana favorites include New American Farmers’ “Brand New Day,” Angela Perley & the Howlin’ Moons’ “Brooklyn Girls,” Sons of Fathers’ “Not This Time,” the Statesboro Revue’s “Fade My Shade of Black,” the Steel Wheels’ “Until the Summer Comes” and Molly Venter and Eben Pariser’s “Goodnight Moonshine.”
Among singer-songwriters, Steve Earle’s “21st Century Blues,” Lori McKenna’s “Make Every Word Hurt” and Kim Richey’s “Come On” put them back in the spotlight. In addition, I’ve enjoyed Mike Aiken’s “Virginia,” Jessica Campbell’s “The Anchor and the Sail,” Andrew Duhon’s “The Moorings,” William Clark Green’s “Rose Queen,” Ian McFeron’s “The First Cold Day of Fall,” Kenny Roby’s “Memories & Birds,” Granger Smith’s “If Money Didn’t Matter,” Amy Speace’s “How to Sleep in a Stormy Boat” and Nora Jane Struthers’ “Let Me Fall.”
Bluegrass picks include the Boxcars’ “It’s Just a Road,” Mark Newton & Steve Thomas’ “Old McDonald,” Peter Rowan’s “Keepin’ It Between the Lines (Old School)” and Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen’s “On the Edge of Letting Go.” Guitar aficionados will enjoy Jerry Miller’s New Road Under My Wheels, while mandolin admirers should check out John Reischman’s Walk Along John.