This week’s First Country column features new music from Lainey Wilson, Carrie Underwood, Florida Georgia Line member Tyler Hubbard’s first solo release, Ronnie Dunn’s collaboration with Jake Worthington and more.
Lainey Wilson, “Heart Like a Truck”
Wilson’s latest follows two No. 1 hits (“Things a Man Oughta Know” and the Cole Swindell collab “Never Say Never”). Here, she compares her heart to a rusty car that has taken a beating and is still driving. Wilson’s voice has the kind of warm, weathered tone that makes the listener think she’s lived through every verse she sings — and at the song’s climax, she intones the word “heart” with abandon, putting highlight an instrument as powerful as it is intimate. He’s an absolute star in the making.
Carrie Underwood, “She Doesn’t Know”
This sly and upbeat mix dips into a classic story song of infidelity. She sees her husband’s mistress at the grocery store and knows the wife ‘thinks she played me a fool’ – but Underwood’s stoic childbirth shows she is smiling through the pain and refusing to wallow in sorrow. “What she doesn’t know is that she can have it,” Underwood delivers the winning shot, on a stunning production.
Ronnie Dunn feat. Jake Worthington, “Honky Tonk Town”
The Country Music Hall of Famer still has one of the best voices in the genre. On track two of Dunn’s upcoming album 100 Proof Neon (out July 29), it dubs the cool, signature country sound of ’90s B&D, while welcoming newcomer Jake Worthington. Like some of Dunn’s previous releases, this song is an exquisite ode to the barflies, beer-soaked hardwood floors, cramped stages, neon lights, and free-wheeling music joints that gave birth to so many country artists. . Dunn wrote the song with David Chamberlain, Marc Howett and Jacob Lyda.
Danni Leigh, “My arms stay open late”
Danni Leigh had a few entries on the Hot Country Singles chart in the late 90s and early 2000s. Now, after a 15-year hiatus, she returns with a new album, walk on a wire, which will be released on June 10 via BFD/Audium Nashville. She wrote the first album release alongside Melba Montgomery, who achieved several chart successes in the 1960s and 1970s with her duets with George Jones and Charlie Louvin, and later the No. 1 hit “No Charge”.
As such, this track is country, country, country. A bar shuffle, tinkling piano, sighing violins and Leigh’s worn voice lift this story of a woman who can’t quite let go of a man who has abused her.
BlackHawk, “blue highway”
In the 1990s, BlackHawk earned a few Hot Country Singles Top 10 hits, including “Every Once in a While” and “I’m Not Strong Enough to Say No.” A new album, blue highway (released June 24) excerpted from the band’s older recordings, including vocals by original BlackHawk member Van Stephenson, who died in 2001. Tracks are updated with the addition of bass, drums, electric guitar and mandolin . This freewheeling, twangy title track features Henry Paul on lead vocals, with harmonies from bandmates Stephenson and Dave Robbins.
Tyler Hubbard, “5 Foot 9”
Over the past 10 years, Hubbard has been known not only for his work as one half of the Florida Georgia Line duo, but also for writing songs recorded by Jason Aldean, Jimmie Allen, Chris Tomlin and more. Today, Hubbard is embarking on his own solo debut, which he co-wrote with Cadillac Three’s Jaren Johnston and songwriter Chase McGill. Here, he retains much of FGL’s sunny, pop sound, fusing it with lyrics that celebrate the “good things” in life, including country music, whiskey, dirt roads and most importantly, the one that he likes. This radio-friendly piece is a promising introduction to Hubbard’s solo music.