Songs From Carrie Underwood, Parker McCollum & More – Billboard

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First Country is a compilation of the best new country songs, videos & albums that dropped this week. Here, Carrie Underwood releases a haunting new track, while Parker McCollum and Charles Kelley cover some classic tunes from George Strait and Ray Charles.

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Carrie Underwood, “Ghost Story”

He left heartbroken, but she assures him her memory will haunt him. This sleek track, written by Josh Kear, Hillary Lindsey and David Garcia, blends a sweet waltz melody with evocative lyrics of a former lover who encounters wisps of his ex’s memory everywhere.

The song mingles the moody framework of former Underwood hits such as “Two Black Cadillacs” with the pristine production of songs like “Heartbeat” or “Something in the Water.” Though Underwood is known for her ceiling-scraping upper octaves, “Ghost Story” also ends with a rare highlight of her warm, husky lower register.

High Valley feat. Anne Wilson, “Somebody Tell That Girl”

High Valley’s Brad Rempel teams with CCM newcomer Anne Wilson on this uplifting duet, detailing the story of a young woman who struggles to believe in true love and self-acceptance. The song ripples with jangly guitars and handclaps that underscore this smart vocal pairing, which highlights their tight phrasing and cool harmonic blend. Rempel wrote this track with Jason Gant and Matthew Joseph Rogers.

Deborah Allen, “Patsy Cline Crazy”

Allen brings a throaty, wisdom-filled rendering to this piano-laced heartbreak song that namechecks numerous country classics, from “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” and “Hello Walls” to “Long Black Train.” The song is included on her new album The Art of Dreaming, which also is released today.

Meghan Linsey, “If You Need Me Don’t”

Louisiana native Linsey returns to her roots on this blue-eyed soul track, teaming with musicians including Daru Jones, Jon Jackson and Ty Bailie. She’s freed from a tumultuous relationship and has no trouble telling her ex to leave her alone. Driven by a choir, saxophone and organ, this track is proof that Linsey’s powerhouse, full-bodied vocal is as impactful as ever.

Madeline Edwards, “Port City”

Last year, Edwards performed on the CMA Awards, lending her voice alongside Mickey Guyton and Brittney Spencer to a rendition of Guyton’s “Love My Hair.” Here, Edwards lends her pure siren of a voice to a retelling of her own journey to Nashville.

“Sometimes, I feel lost in my own mind/ Hoping what I left for I’ll one day find,” she sings. The song’s verses simmer with emotion, though the limited range in the chorus prevents Edwards from showcasing her voice’s full power.

Ray Wylie Hubbard feat. The Band of Heathens, “Desperate Man”

With five decades of crafting some of music’s most raw songwriting, 75-year-old Hubbard returns with a new slate of eclectic collaborators, from Willie Nelson to Wynonna Judd, on his Co-starring Too project, which releases today. On this standout track, Hubbard offers his own take on “Desperate Man,” a track he co-wrote with Eric Church. The song became the lead single and title track of Church’s 2018 album. Here, Hubbard partners with The Band of Heathens, and this sizzling, raucous rocker benefits from Hubbard’s vocal, which leans more gritty and understated than sneering. Blazing harmonica and greasy guitar work only add to the party.

Parker McCollum, “Carrying Your Love With Me”

McCollum just notched his second No. 1 Billboard Country Airplay hit with “To Be Loved By You.” Here, he pays tribute to another Texan, country legend George Strait, with a rendition of Strait’s 1997 hit “Carrying Your Love With Me.” It’s clear Strait has had an influence on McCollum’s phrasing and laid-back delivery, and McCollum capably delivers.

Steven Lee Olsen, “Nashville or Nothing”

Known for writing hits including Keith Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color” and Kip Moore’s “More Girls Like You,” Olsen pays tribute to his own Nashville story in this churning R&B-centered track, detailing how the music of Johnny Cash and Garth Brooks brought him to Music City. “Still got my first guitar, momma’s still my biggest fan/ Still reaching for that star, still got no backup plan,” he sings, retaining the buoyant, ambitious feeling of a young dreamer, while being clear-eyed about the chances of success in a competitive industry.

Charles Kelley, “Georgia on My Mind”

Lady A member Kelley has always stood out for bringing his soulful vibe to the trio’s glossy brand of pop-country. Here, he covers this 1960 Ray Charles standard for the official commercial for ESPN leading up to the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. His rendition trades sweeping strings for bluesy guitar work, while this refined rendering posts Kelley’s voice at its soulful best.

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