First Country: New Music From Kelsea Ballerini, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood & More
First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos & albums that dropped this week.
Country music’s female artists and duos lead the way this week, as Kelsea Ballerini releases the first track from her upcoming album, Miranda Lambert revels in freedom from expectations on a new release, and Carrie Underwood delivers ’80s pop vibes on her latest. Duo Kat & Alex continue broadening country music’s edges with their all-Spanish version of one of their previous releases, and Jillian Jaqueline teams with Brothers Osborne’s TJ Osborne for a moody duet.
Read about all these and more in our First Country roundup below.
Kelsea Ballerini, “Heartfirst”
After earning her latest Billboard Country Airplay No. 1 hit with a heartfelt ode to her east Tennessee roots with “Half of My Hometown” (featuring Kenny Chesney), Ballerini returns with a poppy, boppy groove reminiscent of Faith Hill’s jubilant late ’90s hits.
She has a random encounter with someone at a bar and though neither knows where the chance meeting will ultimately lead, she’s fearless and willing to take a risk — because, as Ballerini puts it, “only the moon knows what’s in the stars.” Ballerini wrote this shimmering, sunny and very radio-friendly track with Alysa Vanderheym and Little Big Town’s Karen Fairchild.
Miranda Lambert, “Actin’ Up”
The reigning ACM entertainer of the year teamed with longtime collaborators Luke Dick and Jon Randall (one of her The Marfa Tapes collaborators) in the writing room. Like its predecessor “If I Was a Cowboy,” “Actin’ Up” leans into themes of freedom, though this track trades languid country rhythms for greasy guitars and moments of spitfire lyrics. Along the way, she name checks Billy Bob’s Texas, Tiger Woods, Ricky Bobby and Elvis, before ultimately declaring that doing things her own way have reaped rewards.
“With my microphone money bought my own milk and honey/ I’ve got my own kind of country, kinda funky,” she sings — and at this point in her career, she’s more than proved it’s a winning style. “Actin’ Up” is from Lambert’s upcoming April 29 project Palomino.
Carrie Underwood, “Denim & Rhinestones”
The title track from Underwood’s upcoming June 10 release, this disco-inflected track drips with 1980s vibes. Dolly Parton gets a shoutout here, as does Underwood’s own 2012 hit “Two Black Cadillacs” — alongside a plethora of things that naturally pair well together, like sweet tea with lemon, quarters and jukeboxes, her relationship with her lover, and of course, denim and rhinestones. A swirling, delightful summer party soundtrack.
Kat & Alex, “Yo Quiero Amarte”
This married country duo is among a crop of Latino artists helping to broaden country music’s impact and audience, and they take another step with this fully Spanish rendition of their power ballad “I Want It All.” Here, on a song inspired by their wedding vows, their powerful, pitch-perfect harmonies sound even tighter and more urgent.
Porter Howell, “This Town Was”
When the pandemic forced artists off the road, Little Texas founding member and lead guitarist Porter Howell used the time off to continue writing songs and recording demos. The lead single and title track from his upcoming album, This Town Was, is an ode to the ever-changing ways of Nashville.
“It’s where lonely voices dared to bare their hearts and souls/ and if you listen close enough you’ll hear the ghost of who this town was,” he sings, his weathered voice a perfect foil for the song’s nostalgic lyrics. The video contrasts Music City’s small-town past with the now towering high-rises that dominate Nashville’s skyline. Older photos showcase several former Nashville mainstays including the Barbara Mandrell Country shop, the Conway Twitty Country Store and Record Shop, Ernest Tubb Record Shop’s Demonbreun Street location, Sub Stop, and more.
Arlo McKinley, “Stealing Dark from the Night Sky”
In 2020, just months after the passing of John Prine, Prine’s Oh Boy Records released its first album from newcomer Arlo McKinley, titled Die Midwestern. On July 15, he’ll follow that project with the new album This Mess We’re In. In this first release from the project, piercing fiddle and steady percussion drive heart-on-your-sleeve songwriting and an unvarnished tale of finding comfort and momentary diversion from all manner of emotional demons in the arms of another.
Thompson Square, “Country in My Soul”
Crunchy guitar chords and boppy harmonies lead the way on the latest from married duo Keifer and Shawna Thompson. From there they detail a lengthy list of attributes certifying their country “bona fides,” from buttered biscuits, backyard crickets and twangy accents. This clean, bright production, coupled with Shawna’s distinct phrasing, sounds like a throwback to the best of Sugarland’s late 2000s hits.
Jillian Jacqueline feat. TJ Osborne, “Better With a Broken Heart”
Some things are just meant to be together, like broken hearts, smoky bars, meandering drives and this moody, bluesy song that bears witness to emotional wreckage. Vocally, Jacqueline and Brothers Osborne’s TJ Osborne offer a complementary, silk-over-steel wool tension that heightens the song’s mournful undertones.
Jacqueline wrote the song with Tofer Brown and Adam James. The song is from her upcoming album, Honestly, set for release June 10. Jacqueline co-produced the set with Tofer and Bryan Brown.
First Country: New Music From Kelsea Ballerini, Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood & More First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos & albums that dropped this week. Country music’s female artists and duos lead the way this week, as Kelsea Ballerini releases the first track from her upcoming album, Miranda Lambert revels…