This week welcomes new country albums from Darius Rucker and Reba McEntire, as well as a new duet from Noah Kahan and Kacey Musgraves, and new music from Kelleigh Bannen, Harper O’Neill and bluegrassers Russell Moore and IIIrd Tyme Out.
Reba McEntire, “Seven Minutes in Heaven”
Country Music Hall of Famer McEntire returns with this new track, from her acoustic album Not That Fancy. Like the rest of the album, “Seven Minutes in Heaven” places the focus on McEntire, who still possesses one of the most distinctive voices in country music. Though she’s known for her vocal power and ability to wrap a single word with a multi-syllable trill, here McEntire tenderly bares her emotions, imagining how she would spend “seven minutes in heaven” — not catching up with music cornerstones such as Johnny Cash or Elvis Presley, or even posing questions to a higher power — but rather, spending time with a loved one who has passed on.
The album, which was released on Oct. 6, serves as a companion project to her lifestyle book Not that Fancy: Simple Lessons on Living, Loving, Eating and Dusting Off Your Boots.
Darius Rucker, “Never Been Over”
In 2008, Rucker released “It Won’t Be Like This For Long,” as a couple welcomes a young child and looks at how fleeting the years ahead will be. “Never Been Over,” from his new album Carolyn’s Boy (named after Rucker’s late mother), flips the perspective, looking back on a couple’s love nearly two decades later, chronicling years of emotional zeniths and low points, a duration spent raising kids and building a life together one day at a time.
“We’ve been holdin’ onto love so long/ That we don’t know how to run,” he sings expertly on this track — written by Rucker with Lee Thomas Miller and Brothers Osborne’s John Osborne, and bolstered by discreet, serene pedal steel and mandolin.
Noah Kahan & Kacey Musgraves, “She Calls Me Back”
Kahan and Musgraves each separately paired up with Zach Bryan on songs from his previous projects –now they are teaming up together on a refreshed version of “She Calls Me Back,” originally from his 2022 hit album Stick Season. Kahan’s ragged vocal contrasts with this immensely danceable groove, as he’s wrought with tension over his lingering obsession with an estranged lover.
With her 2018 song “High Horse,” Musgraves proved her hypnotic voice paired with a dancefloor-ready beat made for a heady mix. Here, there’s a similar feel, as Musgraves’ kaleidoscopic voice cooly floats above the propulsive rhythm. The back half of the song is interwoven with new lyrics, with Musgraves responding to his pondering with a nonchalant, forthright answer: “I’m running out of tears to cry/ They’re gone before they hit my cheeks/ Maybe it’s the air out here, or maybe something’s changed in me.” Their voices intermingle wondrously.
Kelleigh Bannen, “I Know Better Now”
Bannen is well-known for her “Today’s Country” show on Apple Music, but she’s been creating music for well over a decade. “I Know Better Now” marks her first new music in nearly four years, with Logan Wall being the sole writer on the song. “I Know Better Now” is rife with wisdom gained from years of hopes, dreams, and crushing disappointments, as she sings of growing up and learning that “life’s a string of things you gotta let go.” She holds fast to the soul-lifting aspects of music and deep breaths, and notes that “You lean a lot harder onto faith when your luck runs out.”
Piano, strings and Bannen’s voice are each rich and distinct, with the song’s uncluttered production highlighting the elegant interplay between the group of instruments.
Harper O’Neill, “Dark Bar Daisy”
“I’ve always bloomed a little later/ Closer to closing time,” Texas native O’Neill sings, offering an ode to midnight barflys. The track is led by her wisened vocal, which expertly bends notes and imbues the lyrics with the husky realism of someone who has lived, loved, lost and seen a few things. Sultry, horn-driven production, courtesy of Jake Gear, further elevates the song. O’Neill wrote “Dive Bar Daisy” with frequent collaborator Meg McRee (they also wrote O’Neill’s breakthrough 2022 song “Somebody”). Here, they craft what feels like a sparkling homage to fellow Texan Miranda Lambert’s fan-favorite “Dark Bars.” The song serves as the title track to her new project Dark Bar Daisy, released Oct. 6, which also houses previous releases like “Guilty” and “Somebody.”
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, “Heading East to West Virginia”
This seven-time International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) vocal group of the year winning ensemble returns with its first new music since 2015’s It’s About Tyme, with a pair of new tracks, including this sprightly love song. The band is as sharp as ever, while three-time IBMA male vocalist winner Moore’s octave-leaping voice remains nimble and crystalline.
Banjo player Keith McKinnon, fiddler Nathan Aldridge, bass player Kevin McKinnon and mandolin player Wayne Benson capture the heart-quickening anticipation of reuniting with a lover, as Moore sings of making the trek from Texas to West Virginia, braving stormy weather as soon as he gets the call for reuniting with his lover.
Colbie Caillat, “Meant for Me”
Nearly two decades after breaking through with her 2007 debut single “Bubbly,” this California native (and now longtime Nashville resident) makes her official foray into country music. In this song from Caillat’s debut country solo album, Along the Way, she ponders the edifying moments from both love and loss–acknowledging that some relationships are meant to be temporary. “Meant For Me” was written by Caillat with AJ Pruis and Liz Rose and here, her voice is richer, more mature, but still with her signature, even-tempered rendering. Throughout the album, Caillat delves into appreciating the positives brought by a long-term relationship, even as it dissolves, gleaning lessons from the memories, the ache, the understanding and the moving forward.
John Morgan, “Remember Us”
Morgan has already established his bonafides in the songwriting realm, thanks to more than a dozen songs recorded by Jason Aldean — including the Carrie Underwood duet, “If I Didn’t Love You.” On the title track to his new EP, Morgan sings from a wistful, bittersweet position, recognizing that an ample amount of whiskey has unlocked his willingness to work through the more halcyon moments shared with an ex-lover. Sonically, the track hews close to Aldean’s polished country-rock sound, though Morgan’s vocal brings a patina that leans toward tender more than swagger.
Powered by Billboard.