This is the debut of a new series designed to spotlight some of the best tracks released in a given calendar month. The focus will generally be non-singles on new albums released within the month, but I reserve the right to include singles or any newish indie stuff that I discovered within the month and think you might not have heard about yet.
I’m giving myself a little extra leeway with the indie albums because they don’t get the same promotional push on release day, so they’re harder to know about right away.
It will be rare that a recommended track comes from a sucky album, so if one of my picks piques your curiosity, you’re encouraged to check out the rest of album as well.
Ryan Cook – “O.C.D. Blues”
from Peaks & Valleys
Former punk rocker raised on a Nova Scotian dairy farm teams with some of Nashville’s best pickers (Lloyd Green, Andy Leftwich, Alison Brown) to record a tongue-in-cheek, obsessive-compulsive yodeling blues? Yes please. See also: “Navina,” “Gaspereau Valley,” “My Permanent Heartache.” I should review the whole album.
Sunny Sweeney – “Staying’s Worse Than Leaving”
from Sunny Sweeney EP
Written with Radney Foster and Jay Clementi, an early favorite for coolest breakup song of the year.
Cumberland Gap Connection – “Waiting at the Harbor”
from A Whole Lotta Lonesome
If there’s a more amusingly on-the-nose metaphor for feeling left behind in love than “I feel like I’m waiting at the harbor for a train,” it’s not coming to mind. Written and sung by Mike Bentley, frontman of this talented young Kentucky bluegrass outfit, “Waiting” sounds like something Keith Whitley could have recorded.
Steel Magnolia – “Homespun Love”
from Steel Magnolia
“Glass Houses” suggests the Can You Duet duo could make a strong roots album in the vein of Rattlin’ Bones, but their spin on this Keith Urban/The Ranch chestnut proves they’re just fine right where they are. Fluffy, feel good pop-country doesn’t come much sweeter. Bonus points for the generous helping of Dobro.
Jesse Dayton – “Pretty Girls Make the World Go ‘Round”
from One for the Dance Halls
Ray Price couldn’t have said it any better.
Great Recession Orchestra – “Fan It”
from Have You Ever Even Heard of Milton Brown?
A bunch of musicians around Fort Worth got together to revive the memory of western swing pioneer Milton Brown. But their good intentions (and swanky website) might all be for naught if the music itself weren’t such a kick. Their reverent-yet-soulful take on “Fan It” is especially enjoyable.
Lori McKenna – “The Luxury of Knowing”
Another song recorded by Keith Urban, but you’ll forget that when you hear the writer’s own version.
Finis. Sample ’em below, and feel free to comment with your own January favorites.