First Country: New Music From Kenny Chesney, Trace Adkins, Garrett Hedlund & More

Kenny Chesney, “Da Ruba Girl”

Chesney pays tribute to the life of his beloved rescue dog Ruby here, who recently passed away. This laid-back acoustic track details life with his furry companion, detailing the joy “Da Ruba Girl” brought to his life in a myriad of ways, from watching her chase squirrels, noticing the hair that didn’t grow or curl, and finding a jewel of a friend in a shelter, “lying there like a lost string of pearls.”

This fan favorite “Da Ruba Girl” previously aired regularly on Chesney’s SiriusXM station, No Shoes Radio, and all proceeds for the song will be donated to Stray Rescue of St. Louis. 

Ashley McBryde and Benjy Davis, “Gospel Night at the Strip Club”

You can let the needle drop anywhere on this project and land on an excellent track courtesy of McBryde and her creative cohorts on Ashley McBryde Presents: Lindeville. But this standout, which details the stories of a bartender, musicians and a dancer that help make a small-town bar a near-churchlike setting of its own — building to a key line, “Hallelujah/ Jesus loves the drunkards and the whores and the queers.” This track highlights Davis’ grainy, world-weary vocal. Written by Davis, McBryde, Brandy Clark, Connie Harrington, Aaron Raitiere and Nicolette Hayford, this evinces their talents as keen-eyed, open-hearted troubadours.

Garrett Hedlund, “Always Wanted To”

Actor/musician Garrett Hedlund released a pair of new songs today, including this heartbreaking track sung from the perspective of a 95-year-old man in a nursing home. His velvety-yet-grizzeled voice is a perfect match for the track, pulling out the nostalgia and resolution in lines such as, “Outside there’s a rusty pickup, underneath the shed/ Mockingbirds nest in the tail pipe, empty feed sack in the bed/ They took away my keys, saying I’m too old to drive/ It’s like they’re trying to bury me, while I’m still alive.” If the song sounds familiar, it’s because Cody Johnson also recorded it for his Human: The Double Album project.

Lily Rose, “Truth Is”

Lily Rose is willing to linger in the boozy space between the first crushing blow of a breakup and moving on with life, if it means feeling like she’s holding onto the relationship just a bit longer. “Chasing down what we were with this 100 Proof/ Is easier to swallow than the truth is,” Rose sings in her latest release. Earlier this year, Rose’s polished pop-country sound and unvarnished lyrical vulnerability earned an ACM Awards nomination for best new female artist.

Trace Adkins and Melissa Etheridge, “Love Walks Through the Rain”

This track from Adkins’ 2021 album The Way I Wanna Go features singer/songwriter great Melissa Etheridge. The song (and newly-released video) are a tribute to the hearty, enduring power of love. Each, of course, is a sturdy soloist on their respective verses, while Adkins’ gravelly baritone potently underscores Etheridge’s vocal fervor when their voices intertwine on the choruses. Adkins previously told Billboard that the song is “the best duet I’ve ever done.” 

Rusty Truck, “Ain’t Over Me” (Music Video)

Musician and photographer Mark Seliger put his myriad talents to use in the crafting the new music video from his band Rusty Truck. Seliger directed the clip, which intertwines elements of theater, music and performative dance, and features actress Katie Holmes and dancer/actor Benjamin Freemantle, with choreography from Twyla Tharp. Holmes and Freemantle convey the emotional pull, the angst, the loneliness and the hope that unfurls in this folksy ode to unrequited love.

Ashley Cooke, “It’s Been a Year”

An appropriate track as 2022 draws to a close, Cooke ponders the swift passage of time on this song she wrote with Brett Tyler and Will Weatherly. With a tender voice floating above understated guitar, she sets the scene of returning home after so long away, to visit grandparents and see her best friend’s baby, born earlier in the year. Alongside the high points and the long days of grinding out a career, she chronicles the relative swiftness with which an ex-lover has moved on: “Now he’s at her place five nights a week/ Yeah, that feels kinda quick to me, but I guess it’s been a year.”

Larry Fleet and Mike Ryan, “Quittin’ Ain’t Workin’”

Fleet and Ryan bring the honkytonk vibes on this remake of a song that originally appeared on Fleet’s 2021 album Stack of Records. On “Quittin’ Ain’t Workin’,” he’s committed to getting sober after his ex left him behind, with a promise of reconciliation if he changes his ways. But after seeing her out with another lover, he swiftly ditches his plans and heads for the nearest watering hole. A rowdy romp for fans of ’90s barroom songs.

Jessica Nicholson