Music

8 Must-Hear New Country Songs: Charlie Worsham, Jordyn Shellhart, Conner Smith, Hailey Whitters & More

Collaborations rule the day in this week’s Must-Hear Songs column, as triple-threat singer-songwriter-musician Charlie Worsham teams with newcomer Jordyn Shellhart, Grammy-nominated The War and Treaty pair with Wilder Woods, while Kameron Marlowe and Ella Langley trade vocal harmonies. Conner Smith, who just released his top-shelf debut project, also teams up with Hailey Whitters on a new track.

Jordyn Shellhart feat. Charlie Worsham, “A Nice Thing to Do”

Labelmates Worsham and Shellhart team up for an important and timely message of civility and kindness in this track, setting the scene of a high-powered businessperson who brushes off an industry admirer at a party. “What if your castle ever crumbles under you?” they sing, delivering a word of caution that there is no merit in embracing a manner of rudeness, and noting that whether or not the dismissed person ends up being powerful themselves at some point, kindness is still optimal.

Shellhart and Worsham both possess amiable, relaxed vocal styles, which bubble atop clean, graceful pop-country production; Shellhart wrote the song with Cameron Jaymes, with Jaymes producing.

Wyatt Flores, “Milwaukee”

Even before releasing his EP Life Lessons, “West of Tulsa” singer Wyatt Flores has demonstrated his knack for wielding musical prose and melding it with a jangly country-rock style that frames a charismatic voice.

On his latest, which Flores wrote with Graham Barham, Gavin Lucas and Cole Miracle, fiddle and guitar drive this track depicting a wrenching moment of crashing into the realization that he should attempt to convince an exiting lover to return, but isn’t. “You can hate my eyes for watching you leave/ Hate my should-have-chased-you-down feet,” he sings. Along with his new project, he also recently made his Grand Ole Opry debut, and is opening shows for Charles Wesley Godwin at the Ryman Auditorium, as he steadily continues his impressive ascent to star status.

Kameron Marlowe and Ella Langley, “Strangers”

Langley and Marlowe offer a mighty vocal pairing here, with each vocalist’s octave-jumping talents pushing the other’s to ever-heightened moments of angst. A moody, waltzy rhythm heightens the tensions here, as the song depicts two lovers caught in the grey area between remaining friends, lovers or strangers — knowing their emotions run too high for any of those categories to quite encompass their feelings and history. As they put it, “There’s too much love, there’s too much anger.” Langley and Marlowe wrote “Strangers” with Will Bundy and Chase McGill.

Conner Smith feat. Hailey Whitters, “Roulette on the Heart”

Nashville native Conner Smith has a top 15 Country Airplay hit with “Creek Will Rise,” and he just released his stellar project Smoky Mountains. The album includes this collab with “Everything She Ain’t” hitmaker Hailey Whitters — one that further cements his place as one of country music’s most promising newcomers. Written by Smith with Jessi Alexander, Chase McGill and Mark Trussell, this churning mid-tempo track showcases the tale of a couple caught in a relationship that runs hot and cold. “Are you tryin’ to love me, are you tryin’ to kill me/ every night is a shot in the dark,” they sing, though it’s clear no resolution is coming swiftly. His crackling firewood burnished tones are a match for her airy, bright-lit twang.

Corey Kent, “This Heart”

Heartbreak, crunchy guitars and sleek production collide as he blames his latest emotional-relational ache on his own heart, wishing he could stop the pain from seeping through. “I’d rip it out, girl, if I didn’t need it,” he sings, his beseeching tenor at once raspy and resonant. A collective of hit radio songcrafters are behind this one, written by Thomas Archer, Blake Bollinger, Jacob Hackworth and Michael Tyler.

Kylie Frey, “Miss Thang”

Frey was recently feted as one of CMT’s Next Women of Country, and this Louisiana native offers plenty of reasons for the accolade with her latest release. This rollicking barnburner of a track is a lyrical confection, but rocks with driving percussion and sizzling fiddle. Frey, a third-generation rodeo gal, sings with a powerful dose of charismatic twang.

Wilder Woods feat. The War and Treaty, “Be Yourself”

Singer-songwriter Bear Rinehart, a.k.a. Wilder Woods, teams with Grammy-nominated duo The War and Treaty for a new version of this song from Woods’ 2023 project Fever/Sky, resulting in this wondrous soul-Americana collab. The affirming, inspiring anthem of acceptance embedded in this song begs to be sung by high-caliber talents — the kind that Woods and The War and Treaty bring to the table — and they don’t disappoint.

Sammy Arriaga, “The Boat

Miami native Arriaga faces head-on a difficult but necessary conversation in this ballad, detailing the back-and-forth between a father and son, laying out which siblings will inherit certain belongings after the father’s death. Written by Arriaga with Devin Barker and Emma Lynn White, the song quickly dispels any notion that mere physical items are the crux of the conversation, as the son makes it clear that all those days spent with his father fishing on their boat were never really about casting lines and reeling in a good catch. A heart-tugging, solid release here from Arriaga.

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