Jay DeMarcus, “Music Man”
When Rascal Flatts’ bassist DeMarcus lost his father last year, his thoughts turned to how to memorialize him. “”The night he passed, I sat down at that piano, and the lyrics to this song just poured over and spilled out of me,” he says. Though the gentle ballad is a personal tribute to his father, like many songs about loss, the themes here are universal.
Jimmie Allen and Brad Paisley “Freedom Was a Highway”
A standout track from Allen’s Bettie James EP, “Highway” has the casual, nostalgic feel of a breezy summer day. In the best possible way, “Highway” is the kind of wistful song that Keith Urban has built a career on, so there’s no reason to think that Allen and Paisley won’t see similar success with this engaging mid-tempo track that, of course, includes a blazing guitar solo from Paisley.
Niko Moon & Shaggy, “Good Times”
As Moon’s original of “Good Times,” sits comfortably in the Top 10, it gets a snappy remake courtesy of Shaggy who joins Moon on a reimagining that transports the song from Anywhere, USA to a Caribbean island. The shuffling beat gets reinvigorated with a reggae, island feel, then Shaggy adds his distinctive patois to a verse about enjoying every moment.
Margo Price, “Hey Child”
Price channels her demons on the video for the track, originally written in 2012 after the loss of her child, and featured on her current album, That’s How Rumors Get Started. From snorting coke in the dressing room and going on stage under the influence to ending up in jail, Price is extremely affecting as she stares straight into the camera, telegraphing her grief.
Southerland, “Little Bit of You,” “Along Those Lines”
Following the twangy toe-tapper, “Thing Is,” the duo of Matt Chase and Chris Rogers return with two tunes with every man themes. “Little Bit Of You” celebrates clocking out and counting the minutes until you’re reunited with the one you love at the end of a long day, while “Along Those Lines” heralds small town life, and shows off their pleasing harmonies.
Heath Sanders, “Common Ground”
Straight out of the Hank Williams Jr. school of country rock that lifts up patriotism, God and mama— not necessarily in that order— newcomer Sanders embraces those virtues on “Old School’s In,” the opening track to his four-song EP. On emotional ballad, “Can’t Undo I Do,” about sticking with a marriage no matter how hard it gets, the Arkansas native shows off his gruff, heavily accented vocals, whereas the title track displays his keen observational skills with a clever twist and is a unifying tale with attention. Closer “Love Needs Makin’” is a sunny, accessible ode to romance.
Lauren Weintraub, “She’s Mine”
Emerging singer/songwriter Weintraub taps into the acute pain of seeing an ex with someone new. “Is her kiss one you could stop time with/do her lips fit better than mine,” she asks as she tries to work her way through to the other side, knowing full well for now that the thoughts of her beau’s new love are going to be what keeps her up at night.
Teenager Ooms has a maturity that belies her age on “Hideaway,” her alluring single about not bottling up secrets. The enigmatic lyrics are wrapped around an organ bed that adds to the mystique. Produced by Jamie O’Neal, best known for her 2000 No. 1 hit, “There Is No Arizona.” O’Neal also sings harmony on the track.