This week’s roundup of new country/Americana releases includes sterling new albums from Joy Oladokun and Kip Moore, a sizzling collab from Billy Strings and Willie Nelson, a tale of old-school love from Colter Wall and a dance-worthy track from Jamie Floyd.
Joy Oladokun, Proof of Life
On Oladokun’s latest album, the singer-songwriter-musician excavates a range of deep-seated emotions and scenarios, from unmet ambitions and wrestling persistent feelings of not measuring up (“Trying”), finding peace in a constantly shifting world (“Changes”), struggling to maintain a relationship while battling addiction (“You at the Table”) and accepting and loving yourself (“Pride”). But tying the roller coaster of emotions together are overarching themes of self-growth, self-love and positivity. This album also features a range of collaborators — including Mt. Joy, Chris Stapleton, Noah Kahan, Maxo Kream and Manchester Orchestra — but the star is Oladokun, whose coolly understated voice and vulnerable-yet-hopeful perspective is the common thread in the range of styles on the project.
Billy Strings with Willie Nelson, “California Sober”
“I’ve had years I don’t recall, but I’m told I had a ball,” bluegrass wunderkind Strings sings on this collab with music icon Nelson. Fleet-fingered guitar work from Strings, and a crash of harmonies, fiddle and mandolin lead this light-hearted nod to someone who can’t quite party as hard as they used to, so they opt for being “California Sober” — halting hard drugs and drinking, but continuing smoking weed. Nelson, who is perhaps as well-known for his longtime affiliation with weed as he is for his more than six decades of music, is a natural ally on this track. Nelson just celebrated his 90th birthday this weekend, with a two-day concert extravaganza at the Hollywood Bowl, featuring Strings and a lengthy list of Nelson’s musical companions.
Molly Tuttle and Golden Highway, “El Dorado”
On this foot-stomper of a tune, Tuttle and Golden Highway capture the high-flying dreams and wanderlust that lured many to California in search of riches during the gold rush. Written by Tuttle with Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor, this song offers a vibrant blend of bluegrass with flashes of Old West, anchored by Tuttle’s earthy-yet-angelic vocal and the entire group’s ace musicianship. “El Dorado” marks the first release from recent Grammy winner Tuttle’s upcoming album City of Gold, out July 21.
Kip Moore, Damn Love
On his fifth studio album, a baker’s dozen of songs co-produced by Moore and Jaren Johnston, Moore delves ever more thoroughly into his deep 1980s rock influences, with that electric sheen most notable on tracks including “Heart on Fire,” and “Peace and Love.” “Another Night in Knoxville” pours out a tale of a road-weary entertainer looking for love where he can find it. Meanwhile, the twists and turns that come fro his search for a place his heart can land are constant theme throughout the project on songs like “Sometimes She Stays” and the title track. Elsewhere, he turns to nostalgic portraits of childhood fishing trips and hanging with longtime friends on “Some Things.” A standout is the Ashley McBryde collaboration, the cooly romantic “One Heartbeat,” a glorious combo of two passionate vocalists. Each of these songs seems tailor-made for his much-acclaimed live shows. This album is classic Kip, kicked up a notch.
Jamie Floyd, “I Never Want to See You Again”
Floyd is known for writing songs including the clear-eyed ballad “The Blade,” recorded by Ashley Monroe and later Ronnie Dunn, as well as the Kelly Clarkson/Jake Hoot duet “I Would’ve Loved You.” Here, Floyd takes heartbreak and weaves it with bubbly exuberance. “All you ever do is mess with my head/ Always make your way back in my bed,” Floyd deadpans on this track she wrote with Jimmy Thow and Madi Diaz, capturing the continuous loop of dizzying highs and crashing lows in a “good-until-it-isn’t” kind of relationship.
Colter Wall, “Evangelina”
Wall’s applies his gravelly, haunting vocal to this cover of the 1976 Hoyt Axton song, offering a harmonica-inflected tale of a man who returns to “old Mexico” to reunite with his lover. Wall has previously performed the song during his live shows. While the Axton original plays more light-hearted with airy background vocals, Wall’s burly voice and the straightforward instrumentation take center stage, adding more drama to the tale. “Evangelina” is the first single from Wall’s upcoming album Little Songs, which will be released July 14 via La Honda Records/RCA Records.
David Nail, “Best of Me”
Nail’s superb vocal talents are country canon, thanks to songs like “Red Light” and “The Sound of a Million Dreams.” The singer-songwriter shows off his sentimental side on this solo write, about his wife Catherine, as he recalls the man-to-man conversation he shared with her father as Nail asked for her hand in marriage. Though he doesn’t have money or the finer things in life to offer, he does have one thing of even more value — a steadfast love and commitment. ‘I’ll give her the best of me/ If you’ll give her away,” he sings, as his nuanced vocal, layered over sweet guitar work, embodies the passion, vulnerability and hope embedded in the song’s sentiments. This is sure to be a wedding season favorite.
Mya Byrne, “I’m Gonna Stop”
This country-rock gem finds Byrne in a contemplative mode, halting the search for a lover, on lines such as “I’m gonna stop smilin’ back at every smile/ I’m going deeper, I know it’s time.” Byrne’s sinewy, smooth and confident voice hovers above jangly guitars and hazy production. “I’m Gonna Stop” is one of a dozen tracks on Byrne’s new album, the Aaron Lee Tasjan-produced Rhinestone Tomboy, which was released Friday (April 28) via the label Kill Rock Stars. The album also includes standouts “Come On” and “Don’t Hold Your Fire.”
Brett Kissel, “When I Get on a Memory”
Having previously notched hits including “Make a Life, Not a Living” and “A Few Good Stories” on Canadian country radio, as well as his first American country radio single, “Drink About Me” in 2019, Kissel returns with this slice of sweet nostalgia. Here, anything from a rainy day to a the right song at the right moment conjures up hometown memories of grandpas, tackle boxes and heartfelt conversations. Shuffling acoustic guitar and shining fiddle elevate this easygoing tune, which makes the best of Kissel’s warm, amiable vocal. One of Kissel’s best releases to date.
Sophia Scott, “In Her Shoes”
Scott, who is signed to Warner Chappell Music and Ross Golan’s Unknown Music Publishing, lifts up a musical tribute to the indelible influences of her mother in this sweet-yet-sassy tune. Here, Scott details the bold personality and unflagging work ethic, as well as the penchant for good wine and good friends and an innate confidence she learned from her mom. But the song isn’t all sugary; Scott’s also clear-eyed about a role model who has “a long list of bad men/ Holds her liquor better than a bottle can/ Ain’t afraid to let’cha know where she stands.” This is an ace outing from the newcomer.