Jewly Hight

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

There's a time-tested tradition in popular music of women speaking their minds about no-good men, a practice that links R&B diva Ruth Brown with alt-rocker Alanis Morissette and country foremother Loretta Lynn with pop queen Beyonce. We're accustomed to such songs liberating female anger in myriad forms, be it searing animosity, icy disgust, malevolent wit or some other strain.

It is a familiar posture: the popular musician who heroically resists the demands of mainstream popularity, aiming instead for loftier notions of statement making, authenticity flaunting, muse following and the like. Yet country acts tend to avoid such passion projects, at least until they've aged out of competing for radio hits and are repositioning themselves, perhaps as emboldened individualists or intrepid interpreters of musical traditions they hold dear.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

Failure has always been a favorite topic of Texas troubadour Hayes Carll. Much of the songwriting catalog he's built up over the last dozen-plus years revolves around dashed dreams, doomed romance and drunken predicaments. Very often, though, he's leavened the losing with cleverly deployed gallows humor, self-deprecation and yarn spinning, linking his work to his native state's tradition of wryly winning musical wit, a writing trait he shares with Guy Clark, Robert Earl Keen, Lyle Lovett and even Miranda Lambert.

Note: NPR's First Listen audio comes down after the album is released. However, you can still listen with the Spotify playlist at the bottom of the page.

There's a certain sort of vacancy to many holiday songs, their picturesque settings and sentiments functioning a bit like portrait studio backdrops, ready and waiting for somebody, anybody to walk into the frame and momentarily own and animate it with their presence.

Pages