Jim Allen

For a guy with a luminous past, Glenn Morrow sounds firmly fixated on the future on this tune from his first album in 28 years. In the '80s, Morrow was at the epicenter of the Hoboken indie scene that spawned the likes of The Feelies, The Bongos and Yo La Tengo. He fronted local linchpins The Individuals and had played in 'a,' the band that evolved into The Bongos and basically laid the groundwork for the whole Hoboken movement.

Steve Earle has always kept at least a foothold in his outlaw country roots, but he's seldom embraced them as explicitly as he does on So You Wannabe an Outlaw. Over the past couple of years, Earle's been enmeshed in specialized projects — the 2015 bluesman's holiday Terraplane Blues and 2016's covers-heavy duo album with Shawn Colvin.

Nick Lowe has always been something of a prankster. The guy who called his first album Jesus Of Cool and once notoriously rhymed "Rick Astley" with "ghastly" always loved to give people's expectations a bit of a tweak. So in retrospect it's not surprising that his 1984 album Nick Lowe And His Cowboy Outfit featured only one actual country tune, a cover of the Faron Young hit "Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young," buried at the end of the LP's second side.

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

Five decades after The Byrds forged the Big Bang of country rock with Sweetheart Of The Rodeo, the impact's still being felt: An alt-country love letter to that influential LP was what tripped the trigger for rising Americana artist Pete Mancini's solo debut.

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

From its very beginnings, country music has scarcely lacked for songs about Jesus — you could fill several box sets with them and barely scratch the surface. But thanks to rising Texan alt-country songsmith Jason Eady's "Barabbas," the shadowy figure whose presence is crucial to Christ's tale is getting a rare shot at the spotlight.

If Buddy Holly is somehow still capable of hearing the sounds emanating from this mortal plane, there's a good chance he's sporting a broad grin upon encountering "Tip My Heart." The title track from the debut album by Sally & George bears a Spartan sparkle not far removed from the kind that marked the late rock 'n' roll pioneer's venerated output.

Don't be misled — the rugged, timeworn quality of the vocal at the center of this song from Michael Chapman's latest album, 50, has nothing to do with the fact that the veteran British troubadour is 75 years old; he already sounded like that when he was in his 20s.

As partners in marriage and in the rootsy duo Shovels & Rope, Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent used to think there was no way their worlds could get any more intertwined. Then they had a kid.

With nearly seven decades in the rearview mirror and some of the finest songs in the English language under his belt, John Prine can do whatever tickles his fancy. As septuagenarian status looms, the celebrated singer-songwriter's muse has moved him to release an album of country duets.

"If I had to live in L.A., I'd be building pipe bombs. It drives me bats," says David Crosby, who — between co-founding The Byrds and Crosby, Stills & Nash — is more commonly associated with the place than 99.9 percent of the musicians on the planet. But he's not just railing arbitrarily against his hometown; he's wryly comparing it to New York City, the object of his affection in "The City," a sinuous song from his new solo album, Lighthouse.

There's a muffled snare beat, like a throat-clearing cough at the start of a speech, and then a gentle cascade of guitar arpeggios before Kayla Cohen starts to sing. The bucolic vibe is the ideal complement to her warm, aqueous tones, as she begins to spin a tale as pastoral as the production on "Buddy."

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