Best New Country and Americana Songs: May 2018

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

“Sucker for a Good Time,” Brent Cobb

Enjoyably sleazy, slide guitar-backed tune, sung with the sort of heavy, funky malice of “Come Together” by The Beatles. Country music for doing bad.

“All Hat, No Cattle,” Cowboy Troy

On an album that’s mostly brashly comic country rap songs, the drawled irony of this song, over punchy acoustic country riffs, is closest to Shel Silverstein’s goofball country songs. The story is of a compulsive liar.

“The Giver,” The Dead Tongues

Selected at random from an album, “Unsung Passage,” where every song is superb, I especially like this song’s old weird American-ness. Its jerky acoustic guitar rhythms, beer bottle percussion, and moaning fiddles sound ancient.

“All on the Table,” Robby Hecht and Caroline Spence

A plaintive, gorgeous ballad, highlighting Spence’s heartbroken-sounding voice over fingerpicked guitar. The song makes extensive, intriguing use of the imagery of playing cards, which, in isolation, sound almost mystical.

“Hajimari,” Stu Larsen and Natsuki Kurai

Had the New Age music genre used folk guitar and mournful 70’s country harmonica as its starting point, we might have wound up with a lot of this kind of gentle, meditative music. A soundtrack to a never-made Harry Dean Stanton film.

“Way Down,” The Lacs

I can’t help it; I love the bombast of country rap. This song behaves like gangsta rap by way of Kid Rock over chain gang harmonies and a gutbucket blues slide guitar. “People said it couldn’t be done,” the song begins, and it can, but should it? Maybe yes.

“Sweet Melinda,” Joel Levi

Levi’s songs recall the smart singer-songwriter era of Jackson Browne. This one, for example, has a chugging acoustic guitar, tidy lead guitar part, and, soon, a Dylan-style organ in service of a neatly crafted, empathetic portrait of a woman in love.

“Age Old Dream,” Pharis and Jason Romero

Classic, spooky hill song, with banjo and guitar, raw and whooped lyrics, close harmony singing, and a story of hard luck, bad opportunities, exhausting labor, and distant love.

“Freewheeling,” Kelly Willis

Mellow, fiddle- and dobro-backed tune that superficially seems to be an easygoing celebration of footless, fancy free living, but hints that this sort of life leaves a wake of heartbreak and disappointment behind it.


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