First Country: New Music From Mickey Guyton, Avenue Beat, Chuck Wicks & More

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First Country is a compilation of the best new country albums, songs and videos that dropped this week.

Mickey Guyton, Remember Her Name

“I’m just trying to be who I was born to be,” Guyton sings in “Different,” a song from her long overdue full-length debut album, Remember Her Name, released today (Sept. 24). She reaches that aim gloriously on this project, the followup to her 2020 EP Bridges. Here, the artist who previously spent years trying to acclimate to an industry dominated by white artists and white viewpoints takes full authority of her artistry, her story and her perspective.

She shares her own experiences with racism (“Black Like Me” and “Words”), gender inequality (“What Are You Gonna Tell Her?”) and the unyielding pressures women face on a daily basis (“Do You Really Wanna Know?”). Throughout the album, Guyton’s stunning, capable voice and nuanced songwriting also champion self-acceptance, inclusiveness, fearlessness, and love, whether on a societal level as  in “All American” or on a deeply personal, individual level in songs such as the tender “Love My Hair,” the immensely joyous “Different” or the title track, which offers a testament to holding fast to the courage of youth.

Meanwhile, in “Lay It On Me” she pleas with a loved one to let their guard down, showing she is capable and eager to share “your good, your bad, your ugly… I want to show you that you’re worth it.” And elsewhere, she offers odes to the power of love in the soaring, gospel-centric “Higher” and the sultry “Dancing in the Living Room.”

Randy Travis, Storms of Life (35th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

Thirty-five years after Travis’ 1986 debut album was released, earning the singer with the rich baritone radio hits including “Diggin’ Up Bones” and “On The Other Hand,” the set that shifted 1980s country music from its polished pop sound at the time back toward more traditional roots gets a remastered rendering. The album also features three previously-unreleased tracks that Travis recorded in 1985: “Ain’t No Use,” “The Wall” and “Carryin’ Fire,” each further cementing Travis’s solid sense for recognizing (and at times writing) top-shelf material.

Chuck Wicks feat. Jimmie Allen, “On and On”

Wicks welcomes Allen on this laidback rendition of the 1977 Stephen Bishop song “On and On.” Here, they offer tales of the brokenhearted who head to Jamaica, hiding their pain behind sunny smiles, or by soaking in the sounds of Sinatra on a moonlit night. Wicks and Allen are clearly having fun on this mid-tempo bop, with easygoing vocals that blend easily over a melodious chorus, picking up on both the story’s sad tales and relaxed hope for brighter days.

Alan Jackson, “Where Have  You Gone” (video) 

The newly-released video for Jackson’s “Where Have You Gone” honors some of country music’s legendary artists. The somber black and white clip places Jackson center stage at country music’s “Mother Church,” the Ryman Auditorium. As Jackson sings about yearning for the sounds of steel guitar, songs with heartfelt lyrics and a bygone era of country music, he is joined by images of country music legends including Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Hank Williams and Tammy Wynette, enhancing the song’s reverential, haunting feel.

Pryor & Lee, “Right Now” 

This track offers a simple recipe for a good time: a couple in love, their favorite songs spilling from the radio, and a lakeside view. The song’s jangly, southern-fried guitar work sounds custom-made to rev up a live audience and draws on the influence of artists such as Brooks & Dunn and Montgomery Gentry. The duo’s Pryor Baird and Kaleb Lee penned the song with Chris DeStefano and Josh Hoge. The song is the title track to Pryor & Lee’s upcoming EP, slated to release Nov. 19.

Avenue Beat feat. Summer Overstreet, “This Is Goodbye”

This pop trio’s wry observations on the whirlwind hit “F2020” deftly captured the frustration and confusion the world felt in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, the group’s Sami Bearden, Savana Santos and Sam Backoff welcome Summer Overstreet, as they offer their swan song on the title track to their upcoming 12-song project, the debut farewell album, out Oct. 15 via Big Machine Label Group. This softly-sung ballad serves as an elegy to the trio’s DIY TikTok videos, time spent building a career in the midst of live performance shutdowns, and their quirky and impactful tracks such as “woman” and “I Don’t Really Like Your Boyfriend.”

“There’s no real drama,” Santos said via a statement of the trio’s breakup. “Sami decided this life wasn’t for her. She didn’t like what it was, and it was time for her to stop. So it was time for this to stop. We didn’t really see it coming, but we wanted to support our friend.”

Cody Jinks, “I Don’t Trust My Memories Anymore” 

In this potent, steel guitar-laden ballad, Jinks muses how he could reminisce about the “crazy nights when I held her close/ but I always cry,” before lamenting “I don’t trust my memories anymore.” With Jinks’ warm baritone backed by soft percussion, this song permeates with the influence of artists such as Merle Haggard or Alan Jackson.

The song, penned by Jinks, Chris Shiflett and Kendell Marvel, is the second from Jinks’s upcoming album Mercy, to release Nov. 12 on his indie label Late August Records. Though he can throw down a classic country song with the best of them, Jinks also has a past crafting metal jams — and it’s worth noting that on the same day he releases Mercy, he will showcase the yin and yang of his artistry with the release of metal project None the Wiser.

David Nail, “St. Louis”

On songs like “Red Light,” and “The Sound of a Million Dreams,” Nail has proven he has a voice that can effortlessly glide from silky to steely and soaring. Here, the Missouri native opts for tender intimacy on a track that recalls idyllic days spent with a lover in St. Louis. Now on the road, each time he passes through the city, those romantic moments come to mind as he sings, “If I had known it would be our last kiss/ I would have never left you in St. Louis.”

Kelsey Hunter, “Evergreen”

Newcomer Hunter blends a raw, heartland rock sound with a dose of Americana sensibility on this track. “Faithfully, you mended the pieces that you broke with me,” Hunter sings, drawing inspiration from the writing talents of artists such as Brandi Carlile, as well as the harder-edged sounds of classic rock acts.

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