Now that we’re all up to speed on January’s best new country album tracks, it’s time to delve into February. Check out our recommendations below, then discuss whatever strikes your fancy (or offer some recommendations of your own!) in the comments.
Dierks Bentley – “Diamonds Make Babies”
Another playful, infectious Bentley up-tempo in the tradition of “Bartenders, Etc.” and “So So Long.” As for the rest of the album, you’ll want to check out “When You Gonna Come Around” with Karen Fairchild, “Thinking of You” (which features an appearance by Dierks’ daughter), and the smartly patriotic title track.
Chuck Mead w/ Old Crow Medicine Show – “Wabash Cannonball”
from Back at the Quonset Hut
Chuck Mead and OCMS share a talent for tackling traditional musical forms with a youthful vigor that makes them sound new and vital again. “Wabash Cannonball” hasn’t kicked like this in years.
Moot Davis – “Rags to Rhinestones”
from Man About Town
One of the tracks on the singer’s wide-ranging third album on which he taps back into the Dwight Yoakam style that defined his first two (Pete Anderson-produced) efforts.
Trace Adkins – “If the Sun Comes Up”
from Act of Valor (soundtrack)
Adkins’ baritone was made for staring down mortality. This soundtrack cut serves as a kind of prequel to previous Adkins tracks “Arlington” and “Til the Last Shot’s Fired,” with the not-yet-fallen soldier advising a loved one on how to carry on in the event of his demise. On the other side of that relationship, the soundtrack also features a nice, restrained reading of “Whatever Brings You Back” by Wynonna.
Audrey Auld – “Last Seen in Gainesville”
from Resurrection Moon
For those with only a passing awareness of the Tasmanian-born singer-songwriter’s work, the career retrospective from which this lovely leaving (or missing person?) song is drawn makes a surprisingly compelling case for Auld as one of country and Americana’s great unheralded female voices. Includes the writer’s original version of “Next Big Nothing,” which Sunny Sweeney covered on her first album.
Katie Grace – “Can’t Save Them All”
from Best Bad Girl
A touch of graceful country-soul from Detroit’s fertile music underground.
Josh Thompson – “Love of the Common People”
from The Music Inside: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings, Volume II
Wisely choosing one of Waylon’s less familiar songs, Thompson frees himself of the need to get too artsy in trying to contend with lots of past cover versions. His simple, straight-ahead contemporary reworking of this early Waylon anthem gets the job done admirably.
Punch Brothers – “Patchwork Girlfriend”
from Who’s Feeling Young Now?
The Punch Brothers at their ragtime-y best.
Amos Lee – “Say Goodbye”
from As the Crow Flies
This Amos Lee original captures the easy-rolling charm of an old Don Williams tune.
Gene Watson – “Don’t Waste It On the Blues”
from Best of the Best: 25 Greatest Hits
Recording new versions of one’s own hits to gain ownership of the masters is generally a losing game, but it’s pretty hard to fault anything about this collection of well-sung traditional country. Not essential for anyone already acquainted with Watson’s discography, but an enjoyable introduction or refresher course.
Lyle Lovett – “White Freightliner Blues”
from Release Me
Lyle Lovett and friends celebrate the end of his Curb Records contract, tearing their way through this Townes Van Zandt classic at speeds exceeding 70 mph. Lovett’s hair remains unfazed.
Carolina Chocolate Drops – “Leaving Eden”
from Leaving Eden
A great American displacement story made epic. It’s like The Grapes of Wrath.
Wrinkle Neck Mules – “Leaving Chattanooga”
from Apprentice to Ghosts
Less epic than Eden, maybe, but no less catchy. Easy to imagine as a roadhouse singalong.
18 South – “Late Night Ramble”
from Music City Roots: Live from the Loveless Cafe
Someday, there will be a full album by 18 South, the Nashville superband headed by Jessi Alexander and Jon Randall Stewart. Until then, we’ll have to settle for odds and ends like this enticing live track from Music City Roots’ first CD offering. (Okay, so there’s also this 18 South EP from 2010. Recommended, obviously.)
SPOILER ALERT: With February accounted for, March will be next.