Alan Jackson, "A Long Way to Go" In this up-tempo tune, he's got a bug in his margarita -- and a hit on his hands. It's a little bit gross that he swallows the tiny insect, though worse things have happened after drinking tequila. With the festive mariachi horns and a carefree attitude, this one's worth saving for a rainy day.
Augustana, "On the Other Side"
This is an atmospheric pop song about loving someone beyond this life. Each time I listen, I can totally hear
Bahamas, "You're Bored, I'm Old" Let's say you're dating someone much younger. Some folks might offer their congratulations with a sly wink. But not Afie Jurvanen, a.k.a. Bahamas. His acoustic ode to May-December romance works, though, even as the reasons for the breakup run deeper than the title suggests.
Blind Boys of Alabama, "Jesus Built a Bridge to Heaven"
This iconic gospel group allows a hint of traditional country influence on their latest album, Take the High Road, co-produced by
Colin Hay, "Send Somebody"
It's after midnight and he's clutching the phone, trying to stay strong. No, it's not
Eliza Gilkyson, "Roses at the End of Time" This sweet-voiced folk songwriter from Austin, Texas, keeps her eyes on the horizon. In this gracious and romantic ballad, she commits to carrying her beautiful bouquet through eternity. She enlisted her son, Cisco Ryder, to produce her compelling new album of the same name.
Jennifer Hudson, "Believe"
When this R&B singer belted out the
Jeremy Lister, "Sinking Stone"
This Nashville-based songwriter found a true fan in
Louisa Branscomb (sung by
Oh Susanna and Jim Cuddy, "Lucky Ones" In my 20s, I took this advice to heart: "Don't compare your own situation to someone who seems to have it all, because you never know the whole story." This love-gone-wrong country weeper drives the point home. Still, who'd think they were so miserable with such beautiful harmony?
Owen Temple, "Mountain Home" A fine songwriter from Austin, Temple found a muse in folks on the fringe for his latest album, Mountain Home. In the brisk title track, a long-imprisoned man is on a bus ride back to the familiar forest. It may look like the middle of nowhere to you, but for him, it's home.
Robyn Ludwick, "Hillbilly"
This longing ballad gives a melancholy twist to the adage, "You can take the boy out of the country." A Texas native, Ludwick (a sister of songwriters
Tara Nevins, "Wood and Stone" With the wonderful fiddle groove and vividly written lyrics, Nevins gives a glimpse into her roots. Stepping out for a rare solo record (beyond her beloved band, Donna the Buffalo), she meshes her Cajun influences, unique voice, drums and steel guitars for an intriguing look at her heritage.
TJ Broscoff, "Ready to Fly" As a young musician in Dallas, TJ Broscoff lost his fledgling career to cocaine and whiskey. After hitting rock bottom, he ditched the drugs and renewed his interest in songwriting. Many addicts will identify with his path in "Ready to Fly," a rugged and honest look at his life.
The Waifs, "Beautiful Night" Any happy yet harried parents will identify with this nifty song about finding time to reconnect romantically despite the piled-up laundry and toys. The Australian band recorded their loose and likable project in a basement studio in St. Paul, Minn., while living above it for two weeks.
Whiskey Myers, "Broken Window Serenade" When the Texas band played Nashville, this melodic, hard-luck ballad drew me in. The object of the singer's affection failed to make it in Hollywood and came back home to fight depression, poverty and addiction. It's a sad country song with an honest look at the seedier side of life.