Best New Country and Americana Songs: March 2018

Here are Max Sparber's picks for the best new country and Americana songs of March, 2018.

“Two Cold Nights in Buffalo,” Courtney Marie Andrews

Over Bob Dylan-style organ and a Band-style country rock arrangement, Andrews sings a quavering song of lovers trapped on the wrong side of town in a hurricane.

“Whistle Down the Wind,” Joan Baez

Tackling Tom Waits’ quietly heartbroken song off “Bone Machine,” Baez recreates it as a gentle folk masterpiece, her lilting, heavy vibrato making the song’s longing and wistfulness almost unbearable.

“The Burden,” The Bones of JR Jones

A sprightly, charming duet between singers Jonathon Robert Linaberry and Nicole Atkins, over a pounded kick drum, handclaps, and a poppy piano figure. The singers insist to each other that they really, really want to help the other out.

“Basil Gone to Blossom,” Caitlin Canty

I loved “Take Me for a Ride” from this album when it was released as a single; now I’m going to recommend “Basil,” a quiet honky tonk number with classic pedal steel solo and lyrics in which a lost love plays out as nature going to seed.

“Faded Red,” Kevin Daniel

Cheerfully soulful tune, backed by banjo and organ, about recovering from a traumatic past and barely holding it together in the present. “If you want to break down, break down the whole way,” Daniel sings, unexpected ska-like horns rising behind him.

“The Load,” Katy Guillen & The Girls

Over swampy slide guitars Guillen sings a bluesy number about just what a drag the day to day can be and what a relief it is to just refuse to be responsible. “The load will make you older,” Guillen explains.

“Roads We’ve Never Taken,” High Valley

A rip-roaring ode to the pleasures of long drives, benefiting from a Statler Brothers-style melody, banjo and slide guitar duet, and close harmony singing.

“Cold Mountain,” Vivian Leva

A magnificent, old-timey mountain holler. Leva’s singing is precise and lovely, but also unafraid of leaning into the distinctive keening twang of Appalachian music.

“Lungs,” Long Tall Deb and Colin John

A rendition of Townes Van Zandt’s corrosive classic that sounds like local singers at some cheap hotel cocktail lounge that somehow convinced Iron Butterfly to be their backup band. The results are unexpectedly delightful.

“Melt Like Wax,” Logan Magness

Over a rattling combination of ratatat drums and a high, keening pedal steel guitar, and plinky piano vamping, Magness sings of going for a long drive with someone you love to try and escape lingering self-loathing.

“Wind-Up Man,” Trixie Mattel

The award-winning drag artist sings a buoyant country novelty about receiving a robot as a gift and falling desperately in love with the gift. A Peter Paul and Mary song from another, better dimension.

“Girl Going Nowhere,” Ashley McBryde

On an album largely comprised of bombastic (albeit excellent) pop country, I prefer this quieter ballad about the pleasures of succeeding when everyone expects you to fail and do not hesitate to remind you.

“Heartbreak Man,” Sam Morrow

Over a shockingly good, fuzzy guitar riff and pulsing electric guitar, Morrow belts out his post-romance warning that he’s no good and people should know it. It’s like Dr. Teeth’s Electric Band was spitting out a bitter country tune.

“Pablo,” Lindi Ortega

Much of Ortega’s new album sounds like David Lynch had hired Ennio Morricone to score “Twin Peaks,” and then set it in Mexico. This ode, as an example, a love song to a Mexican cowboy sung partially in Spanish.

“Smooth,” Maggie Rose

Country singer Rose makes a solid detour in clavichord-driven, Pointer Sisters-style pop soul. I am a fan of when soul singers tackle country and vice versa, and this is a terrific example.

“Maybellene,” Chris Smither

A radical re-imagining of the Chuck Berry classic, ignoring everything Berry brought to the song except for the lyrics and an occasionally minor-key gloss on his melody. This is the song as a growled, back-woods blues number with mournful fiddle.


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