Darius Rucker releases a romantic new offering, Elvie Shane sticks up for the working class heroes, and newcomer Brittany Moore offers a stirring song about motherhood and the right to choose.

Darius Rucker, “Fires Don’t Start Themselves”

The affable Rucker dips into sultry territory on this track, setting the scene with wine, some Conway Twitty records and effective use of the impressive vocal control and power in his lower register. This seductive toe-tapper of a track is rooted in crunchy, ’90s country-style guitar and is an early offering from Rucker’s upcoming album Carolyn’s Boy, out later this year.

Jenna Paulette, The Girl I Was

From the opening (and later, closing) notes of the classic “Home on the Range,” Paulette makes it clear on her debut album that much of her heart (and journey) resides under open skies and in spacious landscapes. A member of CMT’s Next Women of Country Class of 2022, Paulette fills this dozen-plus-song project with a step-by-step process of a woman unfurling the insecurities, hurt and pain of a past relationship and finding the freedom to fully express her own desires and perspective with engrossing candor (“I can’t believe I ever thought she wasn’t good enough/ I’m getting back to the girl I was,” she deadpans on the title track).

“You Ain’t No Cowboy” is a sure-footed kiss-off, while tracks like “Stop and Smell the Horses” and “Make the World a Small Town” brim with soft-hearted wistfulness, and “Fiddle and a Violin” cheers the common ground people of all kinds find in country music and a good libation. Paulette is a worthy contender in a new crop of artists weaving their unique perspectives and backgrounds into their music, reaching beyond country music’s well-worn path of ballcaps and pickup trucks.

Jesse Daniel, My Kind of Country Live at the Catalyst

Daniel gives fans a glimpse of his rowdy live show, with his first live project, recorded at the Catalyst Club in his hometown of Santa Cruz, California. For Daniel, performing on the club’s mainstage is the fruition of a long-held dream, as he cut his musical chops performing at the club’s upstairs bar and at one point worked as a stagehand and in security for the club. But on this album, he brings center stage his freewheeling brand of honky tonk country — soaked in steel guitar, sparse drums and fueled by Daniels’ more-grit-than-silk voice.

The project picks up fan favorites from Daniels’ three studio albums, with songs including “Lookin’ Back” (2021’s Beyond These Walls), “Tar Snakes” (2020’s Rollin’ On) and “Soft Spot” (his 2018 self-titled debut project), But it infuses each with the high-velocity craftsmanship of Daniel and his band, and the easygoing improvisation that comes from an artist who has truly learned to listen to his audience each night and give each something special.

Brittany Moore, “Some Mamas”

Indie artist Moore traverses the spectrum of emotions felt by expecting mothers, from joy and surprise to fear. In this song written by Moore with SaraJane McDonald and Stefanie Joyce, Moore pointedly maintains that regardless of circumstances, women “oughta have a say so, because some mamas want to be mamas and some mamas don’t.” The understated acoustics lend heft to Moore’s steely-yet-velvety vocal.

Elvie Shane, “Forgotten Man”

In 2021, Shane’s debut single — the sentimental viral hit “My Boy” — became his first Billboard Country Airplay chart-topper, leading to the release of his debut album, Backslider. Now, he returns with “Forgotten Man,” an ode to blue-collar workers that exposes the heart-aching realities of the working class (calloused hands, failed retirement plans, and the struggle to afford a home as developers race to build condos and apartments). Materially, “Forgotten Man” has more in common with songs such as Hank Williams Jr.’s “A Country Boy Can Survive” than the plethora of poppy, nostalgic anthems out right now, while Shane’s backwoods growl and heartland rock sound sells it hard.

Casi Joy, “Partners in Time”

This hooky love song plays with classic pairings like Bonnie and Clyde (though Joy sings pointedly, “Let’s lock this down without the crime”), as well as country music power couples past and present, like Johnny Cash and June Carter, and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. This shimmering pop-country confection plays up the subtle shades of blues in Joy’s voice, as well as her flutter-soft falsetto, as she chronicles a couple’s lives — from a nervous first kiss to a love still going strong after a decade. This former Voice contestant just offered up her debut album, Miles and Maybes, which was released March 31 in partnership with ONErpm.

Taylor Edwards, “Don’t”

This Arkansas native first caught the attention of music companies including EMPIRE and Dreamcatcher Management with her viral hit “Call Your Sister.” This time around, she pairs a slickly packaged track with sharply detailed lyrics that call out a spineless sometimes-lover.

“If you don’t wanna stay, just go,” she deadpans, but spells out the consequences: “You don’t get the right to know if I made it home, if I’m there alone.” Edwards manages to sound both buoyant and defiant, while the song itself is rooted in pop sensibility.

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