Summer is officially here. Bars and restaurants have opened their patios for drinking and dining alfresco, and while I can’t speak for the tunes pumping from such establishments where you are at, here in Central PA, it’s pretty much mainstream country. Such thoughts prompt memories of a time a former co-worker asked me why I listen mostly to edgy and twangy country music as opposed to the more popular variety. Yes, good question, I had to chew long and hard on that one (not). My response about liking the variety that doesn’t get played on mainstream radio was all I could muster, and pretty much went over his head. “So, no Dierks Bentley, then?” Which brings me back to patio season – while I can’t control what is playing when I’m there to eat, I can think about the type of country tunes I want to hear, and spread the word about. Even some mainstream ones too. So, hear you go, former co-worker – here’s some non-twang country music that is just hot, hot, hot right now – and it sure ain’t from Nashville.
Lemon Cash, “Breakup Song”
I must confess that when attempting to connect good summer ‘top-down’ driving country music with a geographical region of Canada, I can’t be alone believing that the capital city of Ottawa to be somewhat of a mismatch? But, when stumbling upon this latest summer sizzler from emerging country duo Lemon Cash, boy, was I ready to eat crow. When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade, right? Sell a lot of lemonade, why not name your band Lemon Cash – that’s exactly what Ottawa siblings Cory and Jeff Papineau did in homage to their lifelong creative brotherhood. “I got the house back / You got your freedom / I got these memories / Even though I don’t need them / I still got our playlist / You always sing along / You got your, you got your, you got your breakup song.” This toe-tapper captures the essence of a relationship that has turned sour long before the song could be written – while simultaneously showcasing the infectious energy that the brothers bring to their craft. With a unique blend of heartfelt storytelling and great melodies, this is THE summer cruising anthem that you didn’t know you needed, until it hits your radio dial. CRANK IT – sorry, couldn’t help myself.
Sarah Segal-Lazar, “This Old House”
Mainstream country music coming fresh out of PEI – now that sounds more geographically convincing to me, given the seriously high ‘musical talent per capita’ that Canada’s smallest province can heartily boast. And this latest tune from Sarah is a little old-school in sound and style, overloading the senses with charm and nostalgia. “There’s a farmer in the small community where I live on PEI, an older fella, gentle soul,” she shares. “He lives alone in a big house … some say he’s a bachelor … others say he was once married.” “This old house / Where you’re gonna stay ‘til the day that you’re gone / Down by the water where your father was born / Wallpaper’s patched / And the door’s never latched / Cos you’ve never used a key / To this old house / At the edge of the sea.” “One day while visiting, I noticed a room with women’s clothes still hanging in the closet. I didn’t know whose they were, I didn’t have the nerve to ask,” Sarah continues. “So, I let my imagination take me on a journey, weaving so many beautiful tales from his house – the carpet that his grandmother made, all of the faded family photos, the embroidered tapestries – and I wrote this song for him. For him, and all of the folks whose stories we so often don’t get to hear.”
Hailey Benedict, “Damn You July”
While I often hit the same SXM folk-roots preset on my radio when out on the road, every now and then I’ll mix things up and toggle through a few other saved channels – sometimes landing for a while on a Canadian country outlet, and finding myself left flabbergasted by some of the emerging talent from our northern neighbor. If there was ever a song to burst across the airwaves and simultaneously cease and desist my compulsive station-hopping, this stunning new tune from St. Albert, AB artist Hailey Benedict is clearly the choice. Through some moving lyrics and an incredible vocal range, Hailey paints a picture of a bittersweet summer – one marked by both love and loss – and captures the lingering pain and longing associated with these experiences. “I have been inspired by some ‘90s country lately, so I enjoyed exploring and bringing some of those classic sonic elements into this song,” Hailey offers. “It’s unlike anything I’ve released before, and although that can be a bit daunting, it makes me even more excited to showcase this new era of my music.” Spend a little time with this stunning piece, and you will soon appreciate just why Hailey Benedict has been named a finalist in the 2023 SXM Top of the Country competition.
Colter Wall, “For A Long While”
I know, I know, I promised that this Snappy Singles would be devoted to mainstream country jams today, but come on, when Battle Creek, SK crooner Colter Wall announces new music, this vintage outlaw country fan cannot resist spreading the word. If blasts of harmonica, some slide guitar, and some sweet acoustic strumming are not enough to earn your attention, Colter’s smooth baritone certainly will, not only delivering tales of life on the ranch, but whisking the listener off on a musical journey to the plains of Saskatchewan. “Things get slow / Got to go / Hear that highway whine / The more you roam / You long for home / With every passing mile / I guess that’s how / It’s always been / Or at least for a long while / I guess that’s how / It’s always been / Or at least for a long while.” “For A Long While” is the latest teaser of new music from Wall’s forthcoming “Little Songs” album (released tomorrow) – with this track in particular laying out the small things that bring a smile to a ranch hand’s face – a prairie ode to a great guitar, a timeless song, appreciation for rest after a hard day’s work, and the perpetual itch to roam. So go ahead, spin this one a few times…then spin it some more, and come on over to my preferred side of the country music spectrum. And bring cookies….