This week's new releases include Hard Working Americans, Shawn Camp, Ana Carter Cash, Elvis Costello & The Imposters all inspired by the poetry of Johnny Cash, and new rarities album from The Wild Feathers, and a genre-expanding album from Front Country.
Johnny Cash was a prolific writer, most of which was never published in any form. In 2016 a collection of Johnny Cash’s unpublished writings were released as a book of poetry under the title Forever Words: The Unknown Poems. Cash’s voice bellowed from every page, filled with longing, lament, and love. His words sparked inspiration in musicians across the country who put them to music. Kacey Musgraves, Ruston Kelly, Brad Paisley, Jewel, Rosanne Cash, former Highwaymen Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, and many more all created striking music from the poems of Johnny Cash. In 2018 a collection of music using the poetry of Johnny Cash as lyrics was released under the title Johnny Cash: Forever Words. The album was a hit reaching the ninth spot on the Billboard Country Album chart.
It was recently announced that we are getting a new version entitled Johnny Cash: Forever Words Expanded. The special edition of the album will include 18 new songs, which will be released in four tranches. The first batch of songs was just released. Hard Working Americans perform a fuzzy guitar riff and organ humming "Big Hearted Girl.” Shawn Camp sings a trucker ballad galloping over riveted roads named "I'm Comin' Honey.” Ana Cristina Cash croons a tongue and cheek Christmas classic to be titled "Brand New Pair of Shoes.” Elvis Costello & The Imposters bang, clash, and jangle through "If You Love Me.” All four of the songs are thrilling because they diverge stylistically, but are underpinned by the craftsmanship of Johnny Cash. The album and the new batch of songs feel unencumbered by the weight of performing a cover of a Johnny Cash song but are inspired by the uncovering of never-before seen lyrics by one of America's greatest artists.
Over ten years The Wild Feathers have gone from hustling to get booked by small dive bars, to opening for Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson, and headlining big venues. At the same time churning out number one albums heaped with critical acclaim. The Wild Feathers have never lost a sense of who they are and why they formed as a band. Sounding like a mixture of The Band, The Replacements, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, The Wild Feathers would have been rock radio juggernauts before Clear Channel (now iHeartRadio) and Infinity Broadcasting caused radio homogenization.
To celebrate ten years of hard work The Wild Feathers are releasing Medium Rarities, a career-spanning album of unreleased material. Medium Rarities opens with a cover of The Jayhawks classic “Blue.” Soaring vocals, a southern tinged guitar, a lurking organ, all create a song that perfectly incapsulates The Wild Feathers sensibilities as a band. Lead single “Fire” rains down shimmering cymbals all over a bright musical tapestry, as flecks of mandolin cut through the gorgeous chorus. The new song “My Truth” finds The Wild Feathers pulling out the Aqua Net and doing their best interpretation of a hair metal ballad, as they invoke Bon Jovi’s “Bed Of Roses.” It is exciting to see a band maintain a sense of style while they explore varying genres in American rock n’ roll.
Front Country’s new album Impossible World is a breath of fresh air as they merge UK garage with traditional Americana instrumentation. From song-to-song Front Country will fluidly mix Haim, Fleetwood Mac, Sade, Jessie Ware, and Rhye. Opening song “Miracle” has the tightly coiled bounce of a Haim song and has the layered vocal style of Jessie Ware. Lead single “Broken Record” is a fizzy dance number built around a punchy acoustic guitar funk rhythm and explodes like Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Emotion” during the chorus. On “Real Love Potion” Front Country pounds out a steamy love song, that is pure pop ecstasy. “Mother Nature” is the perfect mixture Rhye and Fleetwood Mac. Front Country will blindside many of their fans as they have skewed towards a bluegrass version of Americana.
Front Country is doing something entirely original in the Americana genre by integrating new sounds from genres that seem divergent. Front Country’s new album Impossible World is a daring expansion of the Americana sound.
Cory Martin is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tenn., writing about movies, music and pop culture.