Country Jukebox Jury EPs: Nate Barnes and Southerland

Nate Barnes – You Ain’t Pretty EP

Nate Barnes is a mixed-race chap who came to market with the excellent song You Ain’t Pretty last year, which he co-wrote. The song gives its name to Nate’s debut EP which features four outside writes from some top songwriters.

Steve Moakler contributes to the ‘getting over her’ song Ain’t Got a Shot, an ode to whiskey which here cannot heal his heart. I get Aldean and Jake Owen from If This Ain’t Heaven. That makes sense because it was written by Wendell Mobley who can be spotted in many of Aldean’s song credits. The song isn’t about very much but it’s sung powerfully and is good for driving around ‘out in the middle of nowhere’.

Right About Me is a chugger with wide-open guitars and a singalong hook. It reminds me of Charlie Worsham, perhaps on purpose, while I Love You Too is a list of things Nate loves about his beloved that has been said by other country musicians to their beloved 300 times before: she likes to ‘tug on my shirt, whisper and flirt…Wreck all my plans just cos you can’ and drink alcohol, which is pretty unfair if you’re sober or teetotal. All the same, great guitars and it rounds of an impressive set of songs. I reckon he’ll be pushed to the UK by Quartz Hill Records, a Sony Music imprint which has also signed Joe Nichols.

Southerland – Boot Up EP

Southerland are a duo, Chris and Matt, who are signed to Sony Music whose seven-song EP Boot Up came out at the end of May. Smartly, their influence comes from the muscular country music of the Garth/ Brooks & Dunn era, which is basically Luke Combs’ way to success. I wrote a song about boots once (called Boot Camp) so I like the message of Boot Up, which contains a squealing solo in the middle and a long wigout at the end. It almost dares the listener to keep listening to the rest of the EP.

The harmonies on Might As Well Be Us (‘Some things gotta last forever’) remind me of Holloway Road but the percussion is live and punchy like those of Luke Combs. Thing Is closes the EP with a honky-tonk Jon Pardi vibe with some great chords and licks, and a chorus which focuses on a lady.

Dance is a ‘how to pick up a girl’ guide set to a Mumford kick drum beat. The take-home point is to spin her around, not spin her a line. It’s a country song that I’d expect a Texan star like Aaron Watson to put out and (I smirked here) George Strait gets a mention in the chorus!

Came Out of Nowhere is a co-write with Jessi Alexander, who writes love songs which Blake Shelton often takes to number one. If Blake put this midtempo ballad out maybe ten years ago, it would be a smash because his audience would connect with love falling ‘out of thin air’.

Along Those Lines wafts along with such brilliance and elegance that I had to listen to it again to find out what it was about. It’s a reminiscin’ song about love and growing up and stuff, obviously, and quotes Chattahoochee because that was on the radio back then. Luke Combs would be proud to have written this song.

Little Bit of You substitutes a bar for what’s ‘at home’ after work. It’s a song of devotion that reminds me of Grady Smith’s discovery that country music prefers wine to beer, if you run the numbers (there’s ‘white wine on your lips’). I was singing along instantly, which is always a sign of a strong melody. There are seven superb songs from Southerland, who deserve not to get lost in the glut of new music this summer. I hope they have already sorted a UK visit out as we will go wild for them, just as we have taken Luke Combs to our bosom.

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