Best New Country Songs: July 2017

Mickey Guyton

Belatedly, here are Max Sparber's picks for the best new country songs of July, 2017. 

1. "Roust-a-Bout," Mark Kuykendall and Bobby Hicks

A solid old-timey bluegrass number from Asheville, NC, guitarist Mark Kuykendall and Newton, NC's Bobby Hicks, a Grammy-winning fiddler. A cheerful, chugging rendition of the the classic Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs about a streamboat worker's travels and travails, this version is a bit less gospel-tinged than the original, serving as a showcase for both performers' instrumental skills, especially Hicks', whose cheerful fiddle parades alongside most of the song, providing marvelous little fills and turnarounds.

2. "You're Drunk,"  Brandy Clark

A delightfully exhausted-sounding song, rolling jazzily atop a frog-croak of a clavinet and a reggae backbeat, this was a recording left off Clark's critically acclaimed "Big Day in a Small Town," presumably for space, as it is irritably joy. The song is largely a lecture to a male friend who only calls on her drunk, unannounced, and looking for rebound sex after a breakup.

3. "Nice Things," Mickey Guyton

A pop country song with a lovely, mournful melody, largely performed over a restrained, guitar- and dobro-driven arrangement that showcases the forceful but unexpectedly fragile-sounding vocals of Nashville's Mickey Guyton. A song about heartbreak, with keen, aching lyrics that parallel a lover's romantic failings with his general, unmindful tendency to break anything precious he gets his hands on.

4. "Paper Cowboy," Margo Price

Boasting the sort of saturated, wall-of-sound arrangement typical of vintage Nashville, "Paper Cowboy" starts with mournful lap steel that is soon traded out for funky electric piano, rattattat guitar, and, well, still pedal steel, but it soars around in the background like the sound effects to a county themed sci fi film. Price's song is an entertaining takedown of a self-aggrandizing dude who is actually a drug-dealing loser, but the song is possibly most enjoyable for its long instrumental section, a duet between the guitar and the pedal steel that could have come off an Iron Butterfly album.

5. "Pretty Pimpin," Eddie Berman

A spare cover of a Kurt Vile song, comprising just a folk banjo, what sounds like a string trio whispering in the background, and Berman's raw vocals. Kurt Vile's lyrics for this song were always terrific, a sharp look at profound self-alienation, and the L.A.-based Berman leans into that, producing a chilling portrait of a man who no longer recognizes himself.

6. "Cold Comfort," Juanita Stein

Australian singer Juanita Stein, known for leading the indie band Howling Bells, has produced a maundering, lilting song that recalls the dreamier country rock of the early 70s, with lush arrangement partnered with twitchy electric guitar and her sometimes ghostly voice. "That bottle of bourbon I keep in the fridge," she sings, "it's going to be cold comfort now I'm alone."


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