At Sounds Like Nashville, we pride ourselves on bringing our readers updates about the latest and greatest songs coming out of Music City. Whether it’s a new single from the biggest superstar or the debut track from a new artist, we hope to bring fans a wide range of what’s hot in country music. At the top of each month, our staff selects their personal favorite new songs and updates SLN’s ongoing 10 Songs You Should Be Listening To playlist. This month, Sounds Like Nashville has a variety of songs from a few of country’s most iconic voices and several from the genre’s brightest rising stars. On the traditional side, Vince Gill and Randy Travis land on the list with their latest, while stepping outside of genre lines is Diplo, who enlisted Cam for his techy-track “So Long.”
Lady Antebellum – “What If I Never Get Over You”
Walker Hayes – “Don’t Let Her”
Keith Urban – “We Were”
Hayley Orrantia – “If I Don’t”
Vince Gill – “A Letter To My Mama”
Old Dominion – “Some People Do”
Baylee Littrell – “Boxes”
Luke Combs – “Beer Never Broke My Heart”
Diplo – “So Long” feat. Cam
Randy Travis – “One In A Row”
The country icon made his film debut alongside two legends in a film that was directed by an Academy Award-winning director when he appeared in The Electric Horseman in 1979.
The Electric Horseman starred Robert Redford as Norman “Sonny” Steele, a washed-up former championship rodeo rider who’s been reduced to earning a living by making public appearances to sell cereal. When he’s in Las Vegas to ride a $12 million champion thoroughbred racehorse named Rising Star at an appearance, he finds out the horse is injured and has been drugged, so he decides to steal the horse and travel across the country to release Rising Star in a canyon full of wild horses to live out its life.
Nelson was also deeply involved with the soundtrack to the film, recording “My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys”, “Midnight Rider,” “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” “So You Think You’re a Cowboy” and “Hands on the Wheel” for the movie’s score.
Released on Dec. 21, 1979, The Electric Horseman was well-received, earning $68.1 million at the box office against a budget of $12.5 million. Reviews were somewhat mixed but leaned toward the positive, and Pollack was so impressed with Nelson that he would go on to produce the country legend in his first starring vehicle, Honeysuckle Rose, in 1980. Nelson would go on to act in many other films, including Songwriter, Red Headed Stranger, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and The Dukes of Hazzard, but the multi-talented entertainer is openly dismissive of his own acting ability.
“I’m the worst actor ever,” Nelson said in 2013. “Somebody asked Slim Pickens about my acting one time, and Slim said, ‘He plays Willie Nelson better than anybody.’ I have to agree with him on that one, I guess. I usually pretty much play myself, whoever I’m supposed to be. And that doesn’t require a lot of acting.”
Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images
Willie Nelson, 1964
After a little taste of success, Willie got another big break. In 1964, he signed with RCA Records (pictured).
Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images
Willie Nelson, 1965
The Grand Ole Opry welcomed Willie Nelson in 1965 and he released his first album on RCA Records. Nelson released Country Willie – His Own Songs, which was his third album. This one was produced by Chet Akins, who was largely responsible for Nelson signing with RCA.
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Willie Nelson, 1966
Willie Nelson started climbing the charts in 1966 when he received his first Top 25 hit. The first was “One in a Row,” which peaked at No. 19. He had a string of hits following this one and was becoming a household name.
Willie Nelson, 1967
In 1967, Willie Nelson charted an extremely successful single in “The Party’s Over.” The party wasn’t over — it was just beginning. The track stayed in the Top 25 for an amazing 16 weeks!
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Willie Nelson, 1969
1969 brought another big hit for Willie Nelson, but this time it was his recording of a cover. His version of “Bring Me Sunshine” was a Top 20 hit.
Willie Nelson, 1971
Willie Nelson, 1972
Willie Nelson decided to “retire” from music in ’72 and moved to Austin, Texas. It didn’t last long though and he got right back into the music scene.
Willie Nelson, 1973
Willie Nelson gained a lot of success in 1973 when he released his album Shotgun Willie on Atlantic. This was the turning point for Nelson who turned to outlaw country and was well-received by critics.
Willie Nelson, 1974
Phases and Stages was Nelson’s 1974 album. The record tells the story of divorce from both the man and the woman’s perspective. “Bloody Mary Morning” was his biggest hit on the record. This same year, Nelson was arrested for the first time for possession of marijuana in Dallas.
Willie Nelson, 1975
In 1975 Willie Nelson switched to Columbia Records, where he released his Red Headed Stranger record. The contract he signed with Columbia left him very much in control of his music — including this well-received record. This same year he embarked on a tour with some proceeds benefiting Austin City Limits.
Willie Nelson, 1976
Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings’ similar outlaw country style was front and center in ’76 when they released Wanted! The Outlaws with Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser. The album did so well it was the very first platinum record in country music. This same year he also earned a No. 1 hit with “If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time.”
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Willie Nelson, 1978
1978 meant two platinum albums for Willie Nelson. He collaborated with Jennings on Waylon and Willie which had the hit “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” as well as Stardust, another important Nelson record.
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Willie Nelson, 1979
Willie Nelson made his first appearance in a movie in ’79 — but it wouldn’t be his last. He played Wendell in the Sydney Pollack directed The Electric Horsemen.
Michael Putland, Getty Images
Willie Nelson, 1980
In 1980, the braided singer had the opportunity to perform on the lawn of the White House. Jimmy Carter was in office at the time and Nelson performed a duet of “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother” with first lady Rosalyn Carter.
Willie Nelson, 1981
Somewhere Over the Rainbow was one of two albums Nelson released in 1981. The year wasn’t all rainbows for the legend, though, whose lung collapsed that same year while he was in Hawaii.
Willie Nelson 1982
1982 was a really important year for Willie Nelson! He released Always on My Mind on Capitol Records. He released the single of the same name in ’82, which was a No. 1 hit on the country charts and a Top 10 hit on the Hot 100. It’s still one of his signature songs.
Ebet Roberts, Getty Images
Willie Nelson, 1983
The year ’83 meant another collaboration with Nelson’s good pal Waylon Jennings titled Take It to the Limit. Nelson proved to be extra supportive of his friend Jennings when he cut off his signature braids and gave them to him to celebrate his sobriety.
Ebet Roberts, Getty Images
Willie Nelson, 1985
Willie Nelson released Half Nelson in 1985. The record was a compilation of duets with other artists including Merle Haggard, George Jones, Ray Charles, Hank Williams and several other big names. That same year, he helped to create Farm Aid with John Mellencamp and Neil Young — a benefit concert for family farmers.
Willie Nelson, 1986
1986 was a fun year full of success for Willie Nelson. His album Promiseland was released this year and topped the Billboard charts. His first gospel album, which was released many years prior, was certified gold this year and he starred as the lead in the film version of his album Red Headed Stranger.
Simon & Schuster
Willie Nelson, 1988
Willie: An Autobiography, Nelson’s first book was published in 1988. The autobiographical book was written by Nelson and Bud Shrake and received good critical reviews. He also divorced Connie Koepke this year.
Michael Ochs Archives, Getty Images
Willie Nelson, 1990
In 1990, Willie Nelson had a difficult year regarding the IRS. They seized a lot of his assets claiming that the singer owed roughly $32 million.
Willie Nelson, 1991
Clean Shirt, a split album between Nelson and Jennings was released in ’91. It was the least successful of their collaboration albums and only one single even charted. He was still in battles with the IRS at this point and worried that his beloved guitar, “Trigger,” could potentially be taken from him.
Willie Nelson, 1992
The IRS Tapes: Who’ll Buy My Memories was released in 1992 as a way for Willie Nelson to pay off his substantial debt to the IRS.
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Willie Nelson, 1993
By 1993, Nelson’s debt was finally paid off, but that wasn’t his only victory this year. He was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in ’93 — a huge honor!
Willie Nelson, 1996
Spirit was Willie Nelson’s 1996 album released on Island, an album that was different than his previous records.
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Willie Nelson, 1998
In 1998, Willie Nelson released Teatro, a successful record that peaked at No. 17 on the Top Country Albums chart. He also received the Kennedy Center Honors this year.
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Willie Nelson, 2001
2001 was a devastating year for America, with the Sept. 11 attacks. Following them, Nelson was a part of America: A Tribute to Heroes, a telethon. He led “America the Beautiful.”
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Willie Nelson, 2002
Willie Nelson proclaimed his love for meat in 2002 when he became the spokesperson for Texas Roadhouse. Some of their locations even included a Willie’s Corner, dedicated to the singer. “Mendocino County Line” was also one of his singles this year — a duet with Lee Ann Womack.
Willie Nelson, 2003
Nelson released his memoir in 2003 titled The Facts of Life: And Other Dirty Jokes. This year was also the year Toby Keith released his successful single with Nelson titled “Beer For My Horses.” He was also on Ringo Starr’s album this year.
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Willie Nelson, 2004
Willie Nelson shared an ACM Award win with Toby Keith in 2004 when they took home best video for “Beer for My Horses.” He did have a little down time in 2004 when he had surgery for carpal tunnel, due to his guitar playing.
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Willie Nelson, 2005
Willie Nelson had a jam-packed 2005. He headlined the Tsunami Relief Austin to Asia concert and him and his family hosted the inaugural Willie Nelson & NORML Benefit Golf Tournament. Nelson had worked with NORML for years to fight for marijuana legalization.
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Willie Nelson, 2006
2006 brought more legal trouble for Nelson. He was arrested in Louisiana for marijuana possession yet again as well as the possession of hallucinogenic mushrooms. He also published his third book, The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart.
Jeff Gentner, Getty Images
Willie Nelson, 2008
Nelson’s “Always on My Mind” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008 — a huge honor for the track. He also published another book this year titled, A Tale Out of Luck, as well as reopened his truck stop, Willie’s Place. The truck stop is located in Texas.
Ian Gavan, Getty Images
Willie Nelson, 2010
2010 brought Country Music and it went into the Top 5 Billboard Country Albums. He was once again arrested for marijuana this year, which prompted him to create the TeaPot party, which strives to legalize pot and tax it. Austin, Texas also honored Nelson this year by naming a street after him.
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Willie Nelson, 2011
In 2011 Willie Nelson was granted several honors. He was nominated for a Grammy this year for his album Country Music, and he was also inducted into the National Agricultural Hall of Fame for his work with Farm AId.
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Willie Nelson, 2012
Nelson signed with Legacy Records in 2012. He also released a new autobiography titled Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die: Musings From the Road. Austin also unveiled their statue of Nelson this year.
Willie Nelson, 2013
To All the Girls was released in 2013 on Legacy. It was a record full of duets with important female singers, including Dolly Parton, Miranda Lambert, Loretta Lynn and several others. This same year he got an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music.
Jason Merritt, Getty images
Willie Nelson, 2014
2014 brought Band of Brothers, which topped the charts. This year also marked the 20th anniversary of him practicing Korean martial arts, so he earned his fifth-degree black belt. He also sold his braids in 2014 for over $30,000.
Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images
Willie Nelson, 2015
Nelson released another autobiography in 2015. In this photo, he’s at a signing for It’s a Long Story: My Life. He also underwent a stem cell procedure this year in hopes that it would improve his lungs. Most importantly this year, though, he was awarded the Gershwin Prize from the Library of Congress.
Morgan Evans was already a star in his native Australia when he crossed two oceans to bring his talents to America. He begins a new life chapter by taking his life experience and turning it into 11 personal songs on his new album, Things That We Drink To.
There’s a youthful, vibrant spirit that runs throughout album in a way that feels celebratory. You feel this on the opening track “American,” a song that turns his coast-to-coast exploration of the place he calls his new home into lyrics, from the red sunset in California to the streets of New Orleans, all expressed over a sunny pop-country melody. This same energy is present on “We Dream” where Evans calls on a chorus of singers to help him share the message that no matter what corner of the world you live in, we all use our dreams to break out of the constrictions placed upon us. “When we look at the world and we don’t like what we see, we close our eyes and we dream,” he chants.
On the title track, “Things That We Drink To,” Evans digs deeper, co-penning a reflective track that was inspired in part by the sudden death of his friend and manager Rob Potts, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in 2017. Evans uses the song as a way to raise a tall glass to his friend, the memories he’s looking back on and all the life he’s lived in between, offering enough conviction to drive home the emotion. Another pristine track comes in the form of “Dance With Me,” which features gentle background vocals from his wife, Kelsea Ballerini and feels like the most personal moment on the album. Evans doesn’t add any flash to the sweet song, letting the honesty in their voices tell the story. “Feel my heart beat through your body to your feet, if you dance with me, hold me in the dark now until both your eyes can see,” they sing beautifully in harmony.
He rounds out the album with the equally romantic “I Do”
Though Evans constructs Things That We Drink To with common topics frequently used in country songs, he does a sound job of taking these notions and making them feel like his own. From the earnest title track to the thoughtfulness of “Dance With Me,” Evans uses the project as a way to show his growing fanbase what he’s capable of achieving – and they’re bound to want to continue growing alongside him.
For Old Dominion, all roads led to Ascend Amphitheater in Nashville on Friday (May 3). The five-member band used their hometown show to not only treat the crowd to a vast range of hits, but convey the gravity of what it meant to perform a sold-out show after years wondering if they could transition from successful songwriters to celebrated artists. Opening the show with the upbeat “Be With Me,” lead singer Matthew Ramsey saw it as an opportunity to interact with the crowd, high-fiving as many hands as possible that were gathered in the pit around the stage. This led into the energetic “Snapback” that ended with an electrifying guitar medley between Ramsey and Brad Tursi as Ramsey shouted into the crowd “are you ready?!” signifying that this wasn’t just the beginning of the show, but rather a high-energy prelude of what’s to come.
Before sending several of their own hits to to the top of the charts, the beloved group were individually working as songwriters in Nashville, penning hits for the likes of Blake Shelton, Sam Hunt and Kenny Chesney. “You’re going to hear a lot about songwriting, it’s very near and dear to our hearts,” Ramsey confessed, immediately delivering on that promise by revealing how they wrote “Still Writing Songs About You” about that one person whose memory you can’t escape before launching into the reflective number and jamming to “Hotel Key” as retro neon graphics of palm trees and a hotel pool created an eclectic aesthetic in the background. They stayed in this songwriter vein with a new track, “One Man Band,” as Ramsey and Tursi made the song a moment of musicianship by sharing a single spotlight and microphone as they sang about a man who took pride in living life solo, but felt appreciation in finding someone to live harmoniously with. But the show’s most poignant moment culminated in an intimate guitar pull where Ramsey, Tursi and Trevor Rosen sat front of stage, passing stories between them of their early days in Nashville. Ramsey revealed the band has been in Music City for 17 years, “It took us that long to get here,” he noted, looking out into crowd of more than 6,000 people.
The three singers shared of their humble beginnings, reflecting on the amount of hard work it took to be successful songwriters, all while facing rejection from record labels. In between stories, they traded performances of acoustic selections of hits they’d written like Shelton’s “Sangria” (Rosen), “Make You Miss Me” by Hunt (Ramsey) and Luke Bryan’s “Light it Up” (Tursi). Ramsey acknowledged how songwriting kept them motivated to pursue their dreams of being the main act, and after years of proving themselves as songwriters, they found a label that believed in them as artists, making their first album with 2015’s Meat and Candy.
“Before you guys ever really realized it, you were listening to our music,” Ramsey observed. “Here we are tonight.” The reflective moment was the kind that makes Nashville special, their journey resonating as they concluded the story by launching into fan favorite “Song For Another Time,” the audience loyally singing along as the band paused the music to let their voices fill the amphitheater.
One of the aspects that make Old Dominion so distinct is the uplifting element to their catalogue of songs and their ability to turn a negative situation into positive music. “We discovered that the more people sing this song, the better we all feel,” Ramsey remarked, the crowd proving him right as they sang along to “No Such Thing as a Broken Heart,” singing the words back to them so serenely that it captured the compassionate nature of the song’s message of finding the light in the midst of struggle.
As the evening came to a close with performances of “Written in the Sand,” a cover of Chesney’s hit “Save it For a Rainy Day,” co-penned by Ramsey and Tursi, and an encore of “Nowhere Fast” and “Wrong Turns,” the show felt like an expression of gratitude from Old Dominion for their journey to success and the loyal fans who helped them get there, proving they reached the goal they’ve always been striving for.
A big reason people love country music lies in the fact that the format, for the most part, respects its elders. That’s especially true when it comes to the late, great George Jones, who is widely considered to be the greatest male country vocalist in history.
That’s why it was so shocking when the CMA Awards wouldn’t let George sing his nominated hit “Choices” in its entirety back in 1999. Due to time constraints, producers wanted George to just sing a verse and a chorus of the song. That didn’t sit well with the Possum, so he opted to skip the awards show altogether.
It didn’t sit well with country superstar Alan Jackson, either.
After he sang his hit song, “Pop a Top,” on the show, Alan abruptly launched into a chorus of Jones’ “Choices.” After he finished, Alan walked off the stage in protest of the way the CMA handled the situation with George Jones.
That moment had tongues wagging all over Nashville and in office buildings across the country the next day.
In this latest installment of the CMA’s 50/50 video series, Sam Hunt recalls, “I know that was a controversial moment, but it was a very memorable moment. I think it was really awesome of Alan Jackson when he did that.”
– Rare Country
George Strait reminded everyone why he’s the King of Country Music with a solo performance at the 54th ACM Awards. Bringing a welcome dose of classy sophistication to a night of bombastic spectacle, his rendition of “God and Country Music” was an instant classic.
Standing tall alone at the front of the stage – just like the cowboy he is – Strait delivered a tribute to two things he figures are worth saving, no matter how much the world changes. Strumming his gleaming black guitar and dressed in his usual collared shirt and black cowboy hat, Strait refocused the MGM Grand Garden Arena’s attention on to the eternal things in life, while a simple video montage of horses and sweeping Western vistas played behind him. “God and Country Music” appears on Strait’s just-released Honky Tonk Time Machine– his 30th studio album. The track features his young grandson Harvey on album.
Full of twangy, distorted guitars, foot-stomping drums and the Mississippi native’s down-and-dirty vocal drawl, the country rock anthem is all about about establishing his “county-line cred” – so don’t bother arguing over who’s “rednecker” than who. Hardy’s pretty much guaranteed to win.
“I’ve killed catfish with shotguns,” he says with a wry laugh, speaking with Sounds Like Nashville while hopping airports on a promotional tour of radio stations. “We used to trap wild hogs and take ‘em up to this guy who would keep ‘em to train his dogs with, and I’ve got the arm band that gets you into the county fair in my hometown tattooed on my wrist. There are so many things …”
Hardy – the stage name of singer-songwriter Michael Hardy – got his start as a Music Row tunesmith, honing his tightly-coiled brand of backwoods badassery with platinum-certified No.1s like Morgan Wallen’s “Up Down” featuring Florida Georgia Line (he can even been seen in the beginning of Wallen’s “Up Down” video) and FGL’s “Simple.” But with “Rednecker” and two new EPs – This Ole Boy and Where to Find Me – he’s forging his own path.
“It’s where I came from and the language I know to speak,” he says about of single’s middle-of-nowhere grit. “I feel like that, more than any other way of writing, is what I know to do the best. I’ve never gotten heavy into writing love songs, and the truest thing I can say is what I come from. I’m from the country. I’m just a good ole boy.”
“Rednecker” was written a little over a year ago with Jordan Schmidt and Andy Albert while the buddies were visiting Colorado. One of them, he’s not sure who, said “I’m rednecker than you,” and all three busted out laughing. That’s where the song got its start.
“We were in Colorado, so you can take a guess [about why we were laughing] from that,” he says. “It’s always this thing like ‘Is that a song? You think we can pull that off?’ So we walked upstairs and wrote the whole song. It started off just being funny, but we also knew it was good.”
A few weeks later the trio met up in Schmidt’s studio and fleshed out the song’s hard-driving sound, and the rest is history. “It just took on this cool vibe like ‘Man, this is funny, and it’s tough. But I bet it can appeal to a lot of people,’” Hardy says.
“My town’s smaller than your town, and I got a bigger buck and bass on my wall,” goes the chorus. “I’ve got a little more kick in my drawl, y’all, I’ve got a little more spit in my chaw.”
Soon enough Hardy signed a record deal with Big Loud Records and “Rednecker” became his first radio single. He’s been taking it out on the road with Wallen’s If I Know Me Tour – playing to rowdy, sold-out crowds all across the country – and Hardy says one thing’s for sure. He finds proud rednecks everywhere he goes.
“I’m not gonna lie, I think there might be just as many rednecks – if not more – up north than there are in the south,” he admits. “One time I drove from Buffalo, New York, to Albany, and I had no idea it was like Texas. There are signs on the road saying ‘Next gas station 40 miles.’ There’s a whole lot of nothing up there.”
Hardy’s certainly drawing attention with his own tunes, but he’s also still collaborating with his superstar pals. He’s featured as an artist and a co-writer on Florida Georgia Line’s “Y’all Boys” from their new album Can’t Say I Ain’t Country, and says part of the reason they work so well together is the duo’s willingness to stand out from the crowd
“I’m all about just really going for it, and being fearless about what you’re going to say,” he says about his songwriting approach. “Weird lines will always stand out over time, but I feel like country has gotten away from being ‘not safe,’ and I just don’t understand why somebody wouldn’t want to go for it and say something cool. There’s a lane that’s wide open for that.”
With more tracks like “Rednecker” on his This Ole Boy and Where to Find Me EPs – which are out now – Hardy will do his best to keep filling that lane. Fans can check him out on Florida Georgia Line’s Can’t Say I Ain’t Country Tour this summer.
ACM nominated trio Runaway June offer an empowering, can-do message in the video for “Buy My Own Drinks.” The feisty clip highlights each band members’ self-made spirit and how all three are unique. Using adorable flashbacks to their childhood, three pint-sized actresses wait for no one to chase their dreams. Lead singer Naomi Cooke was a musical junkie, busking on street corners. Vocalist/guitarist Jennifer Wayne loved animals and sets up shop grooming dogs. And vocalist/mandolin player Hannah Mulholland couldn’t get enough of her paint brush. “The ‘Little Junes’ were the perfect way to capture that carefree feeling of returning to your inner child and getting a little wild,” said Cooke in a press release.”In doing that we can find true liberation.”
It all comes together in the upbeat track’s chorus, set up as a barroom kiss-off but actually telling a smiling story of self reliance. “I can buy my own drinks / I can pay my own tab / And at the end of the night, when they cut on the lights / I can call my own cab,” the Junes croon. “Buy My Own Drinks” appears on Runaway June’s self-titled 2018 EP. The trio are nominated for New Duo or Group of the Year at the April 7 ACM Awards. And they’ll support Carrie Underwood on her Cry Pretty Tour 360 starting in May.
Singer-songwriter Easton Corbin will kick off his busy touring schedule in support of his latest single “Somebody’s Gotta Be Country” on Thursday. He will start out by performing on the West Coast with shows in California and Arizona. The tour will then take Corbin all over the United States to play in states like Texas, Florida, Nevada and Illinois. The Florida native will finish out the trek in his home state, making stops in Jupiter, Cocoa Beach, Tampa and Jacksonville in April. Corbin dropped “Somebody’s Gotta Be Country” in January, and it is his first single since the release of his hit “A Girl Like You” in 2017.
There should be a whiplash warning on Florida Georgia Line’s new Can’t Say I Ain’t Country album. Between the guest artists, sonic variances, skits, emotions and impulses the new project keeps your head on a swivel. So we’ll parse this project, Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley’s fourth since debuting with “Cruise” in 2012. Once organized the album becomes (as promised) their most country. It’s arguably their best, but like good whiskey, songs need time to age before being distilled.
Musically three of the album’s first five songs are progressively organic, honest country songs with no filter. Paul Franklin adds steel guitar to “Can’t Say I Ain’t Country,” a song that could have been born in any era. Banjo and mandolin dominate “Simple” and for what it’s worth, you’ll find ganjo on “Talk You Out of It,” the odd duck in this opening chapter. “Speed of Love” is a two-and-a-half minute long twanger with rapid-fire lyrics that’d make Garth Brooks and John Michael Montgomery proud. It’s all good stuff shug.
From there the album adheres to the provocative, cross-genre formula this duo created with Joey Moi a half-decade ago. Florida Georgia Line call in all their contemporary influences, at times recalling the Backstreet Boys (“Told You”) Luke Bryan (“People Are Different”) and Jason Aldean. The country-rocker actually opens with “Can’t Hide Red,” the better of two sister songs to “Can’t Say I Ain’t Country” (the other being “Small Town”). Hubbard, Kelley, Rob Hatch, James McNair and Ben Stennis find a new way to package a country boy’s code. “The way we walk, the way we talk / It’s the down-home way we raised / Don’t ever wanna, ain’t ever gonna change / You can’t hide red,” they sing at the chorus. If it’s not a single sometime, it’s a missed opportunity.
With four skits Can’t Say I Ain’t Country checks in at 19 tracks, far too many to ensure no single consumer avoids skipping through one or two. This is the nature of variety. However, Florida Georgia Line don’t build albums in the traditional sense. They stack songs and aim those at specific audiences. This explains how Jason Derulo can appear on a sentimental R&B track called “Women” immediately after Hubbard finishes doing his best Big & Rich. And it explains how a tender ballad called “Blessings,” the most biographical song on the album, can follow “Swerve,” a song that warns “Yeah, I’mma two-step up to you with that booty in them pants.”
It’s whiplash, but whiplash is en vogue if you haven’t noticed. What Florida Georgia Line continue to do better than any other modern country artist is create art for the Twitter and Instagram economy. They’re not your granddad’s brand of country music because they don’t live in your granddad’s society. That is an innovator’s secret.