Free Download: CMT Presents The Country Way Digital Vol 2

In conjunction with our new country music issue, American Songwriter and CMT proudly present The Country Way Digital Volume 2, featuring 31 must-hear tracks from some of our favorite artists. And the best thing about it? It’s free!

You can download the sampler on May 2nd, 2011, by going to this URL:

http://americansongwriter.bandcamp.com/album/country-way-digital-sampler-presented-by-cmt

Check out the stacked playlist below, and get ready for the country.

The Apache Relay – “American Nomad”

One of Nashville’s hottest new bands, indie rockers The Apache Relay first met as students at Belmont University. After releasing their debut 1988 in 2009, the band upped the ante with American Nomad, which shows off their songwriting chops and love of Bruce Springsteen.

Jessica Lea Mayfield – “Our Hearts Are Wrong”

Ohio newcomer Jessica Lea Mayfield wowed critics with her sophomore album, Tell Me. Music is in Mayfields’ genes: she and her brother, singer-songwriter David Mayfield, were raised on a tour bus, singing bluegrass songs with their parents in the family band.

Dylan LeBlanc – “Emma Hartley”

Dylan LeBlanc spent his early life in Blanchard, a rural outpost of Shreveport, Louisiana, in a doublewide trailer with his mother and stepfather, before moving to Muscle Shoals to live with his songwriting father in his early teens. On his debut album, Pauper’s Field, a hauntedness pervades LeBlanc’s songs, much like Gillian Welch’s early work, and his music is trance-like, with the ghosts of old country and soul records filtered through his restless mind.

Caitlin Rose – “Shanghai Cigarettes”

Caitlin Rose is a beloved Nashville singer-songwriter, and even more popular overseas. Her debut album, Own Side Now, puts her beguiling voice and smart lyrics front and center. At a mere 23, Rose is an artist on the rise.

Hayes Carll – “Stomp & Holler”

Hayes Carll’s a tall, thirtysomething guy working in the tall shadow of the Texas songwriting tradition, though the word’s already spread outside the Lone Star State that he can hold his own as a writer, and that he’s got a way with humor. It wasn’t for nothing that he had a Ray Wylie Hubbard co-write on his last album and a Guy Clark co-write on the album before that. Or that Todd Snider – who’s not a Texan per se, but stands in the writerly lineage of Jerry Jeff Walker, who is one – takes a verse during the shambling hobo ballad “Bottle In My Hand.” Carll is proving more and more that his name belongs with the heavyweights.

Joe Pug – “How Good You Are”

Joe Pug turned to songwriting for a profession after studying playwriting at the University of North Carolina. On his debut album, Messenger, the Maryland native turns unblurred thought and crisp imagery toward more introspective territory to good result.

The Civil Wars – “Barton Hollow”

The Civil Wars, a folk duo composed of singer-songwriters Joy Williams and John Paul White, catapulted to mainstream success when their debut album, Barton Hollow, shot to the top of the iTunes charts in 2010. Since then they’ve been playing sold-out shows around the country, continuing to garner attention in the worlds of both country and pop.

Matraca Berg – “Racing The Angels”

Matraca Berg, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, co-wrote her first no. 1 hit at age 18 with “Faking Love.” Her songs have been cut by Dusty Springfield, Dixie Chicks, Linda Rondstadt, and Grace Potter and Kenny Chesney, who recently scored a hit with “You and Tequila.” Her new album, The Dreaming Fields, is her first LP in 14 years.

Steve Earle – “Waitin’ On The Sky”

Steve Earle is a roots rock legend. A heroin addiction nearly sidelined his career after his critically-acclaimed debut Guitar Town in 1986, but Earle was able to turn his life around, allowing him to emulate and surpass the careers of his heroes Hank Williams and Townes Van Zandt. His latest album, I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, ranks among his best.

Robert Ellis – “Westbound Train”

22-year-old Houston native Robert Ellis recently joined the ranks of New West Records, the label home of Steve Earle, Kris Kristofferson, and Buddy Miller. If this young Texan is the future of country music, the future looks good.

Buddy Miller – “”God’s Winged Horse”

Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant needed only one man to help him spearhead his reinvention as an Americana artist; multi-instrumentalist and singer-songwriter Buddy Miller. Miller just released the career highlight Buddy Miller’s Majestic Silver Strings.

Ponderosa – “I Don’t Mind”

If you’re looking for a band that can rock out and sling sweet harmonies like the Grateful Dead, look no further than Atlanta-based root rockers Ponderosa. Their debut album, Moonlight Revival, was cut at Nashville’s famed Blackbird Studios.

Andrew Combs – “Wanderin’ Heart”

Andrew Combs’ Tennessee Time is a polished work reminiscent of the Nashville of the ‘70s; a time when Guy Clark played at the local folkie club, Exit/In, and Mickey Newbury mentored Kris Kristofferson. The EP was recorded at The Castle, a music studio in Franklin, Tennessee, and it feels like some of the ghosts of the room filtered into the honky tonk piano on “Hummingbird” and the Willie Nelson-inspired harmonica on “Don’t Catch Me.”

Marty Stuart – “Hummingbyrd”

Marty Stuart is a Music City legend. In addition to putting out amazing country records like Ghost Train – The Studio B Sessions and hosting his own TV show, he serves as an archivist for country music’s great legacy. His private collection of rare memorabilia in Henderson, Tennessee rivals the Country Music Hall of Fame’s.

Jim Lauderdale – “Patchwork River”

An icon of Americana, Jim Lauderdale is a singer-songwriter and instrumentalist who can be seen leading Gwyneth Paltrow’s band in the movie Country Strong. His latest album, Reason & Rhyme, is a collaboration with lyricist Robert Hunter (Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan).

Lori McKenna – “Still Down Here”

Massachusetts singer-songwriter Lori McKenna saw her modest career skyrocket when country star Faith Hill recorded four of her songs on her album Fireflies, and invited her to tour alongside Hill and Tim McGraw. After signing to Warner Bros. Nashville, McKenna released her major label debut Unglamorous in 2007. Her latest album, Lorraine, was released in early 2011.

Dylan LeBlanc – “Emma Hartley”

Dylan LeBlanc spent his early life in Blanchard, a rural outpost of Shreveport, Louisiana, in a doublewide trailer with his mother and stepfather, before moving to Muscle Shoals to live with his songwriting father in his early teens. On his debut album, Pauper’s Field, a hauntedness pervades LeBlanc’s songs, much like Gillian Welch’s early work, and his music is trance-like, with the ghosts of old country and soul records filtered through his restless mind.

Miss Willie Brown – “Couyon Crazy”

Miss Willie Brown, the first group signed to New York-based A&M/Octone Records, is a country duo consisting of Amanda Watkins and Kasey Buckley. The group has spent the early part of 2011 on the road with the Jagermeister Country Tour Featuring Dierks Bentley.

Jason Isbell – “Codeine”

The former Drive-by Trucker is prodigiously talented, with a singular ability to write thought-provoking, literate lyrics and deliver them in a direct, clear tenor bearing traces of Jackson Browne’s (without the occasional descent into whine). His latest album if full of trashed Hendrix and trashed hearts, but leavened with the bayou blues and doses of slightly fuzzed Southern-comfort slide guitar, jazz piano, bluegrass breaks and, yeah, maybe even flickers of hope here and there.

Sunny Sweeney – “From a Table Away”

A native of east Texas, Sunny Sweeney is a country singer in the traditional mold, all grits and griddle. She was the first singer signed to Republic Nashville, a joint venture between Big Machine Records and Universal Republic Records. From A Table Away, released in 2010, became her first single to chart on country radio.

Middle Brother – “Me, Me, Me”

Middle Brother is the collective side project from the frontmen of Deer Tick, Dawes, and Delta Spirit. They recorded their self-titled debut in the fall of 2009 in Nashville. The supergroup’s brand of raw, rootsy Americana showcases the craftsmanship of the three songwriters.

Josh Kelley – “Gone Like That”

Josh Kelley is living the good life. His family unit is strong (Kelley and his wife, actress Katherine Heigl, are enamored with their newly adopted daughter, Naleigh, and Kelley’s younger brother Charles is tearing up the charts in Lady Antebellum), and his country music career is in full swing. Kelley’s “Georgia Clay,” co-written with his brother, even landed as a Top 40 hit.

Randy Montana – “1000 Faces”

A native of Albany, New York, Montana moved to Nashville as a teen. He is the son of singer-songwriter Billy Montana, who has penned songs for the likes of Garth Brooks and Sara Evans. Montana spent much of 2010 on the road, touring with artists like Sugarland and Little Big Town.

Randy Rogers Band – “Interstate”

Before Randy Rogers Band signed its major label deal in 2005, the Texas quintet carved out one of the most successful indie careers in country music, selling thousands of copies of its early albums while earning a reputation as one of the hardest working acts on the famed Texas/Oklahoma “Red Dirt” music scene. Today, they’re a major-label act, yet still in touch with their roots.

Diana Jones – “High Atmosphere”

This Long Island native embraced Appalachian folk music after reconnecting with her birth family in eastern Tennessee. Since then, she has released a string of critically-acclaimed albums. Her most recent effort, High Atmosphere, was co-produced by Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show.

Ryan Tanner – “I Never Did My Best”

Ryan Tanner, a singer-songwriter from Salt Lake City, Utah, won the 2010 American Songwriter Lyric Contest Grand Prize for his song “I Never Did My Best,” which originally took top honors in the November/December 2010 issue. Tanner’s prize package included a co-write with Jim Lauderdale in Nashville, along with a demo recording session at Denny Martin Music.

Charlie Louvin – “Weapon Of Prayer”

The Louvin Brothers became one of the most successful, respected — and many argue the best — duos in country music history. They blurred more genre lines than just about anyone, following their muse wherever it led, be it traditional country, bluegrass, hillbilly, Appalachian, pop, gospel or folk. Their collaborative process was simple but effective. Charlie was the guidepost, the idea man, the title streamliner. Ira was the interpreter, the melody man, the lyrical talent. They just clicked, and the rest is history.

Wrinkle Neck Mules – “Catfish And Color TVs”

The Wrinkle Neck Mules push the boundaries of American roots-rock with well-crafted tunes about whiskey, murder and the decisions we make after the party ends. The Mules juggle rock and roll and acoustic music in a fashion similar to bands like Uncle Tupelo and Neil Young and Crazy Horse. And they do it with an undercurrent of humor even when themes turn darker.

Sons of Bill – “The Rain”

Sons Of Bill are three brothers: Sam Wilson, James and Abe, alongside drummer Brian Caputo and Seth Green on bass. They’re distilling their own blend of American alt- country-rock up in the Virginia hills and hollows near Charlottesville. The youngest, James, is the outfit’s principal songwriter.

Jonny Corndawg – “Night Rider”

A craftsman, artist, and unofficial member of the band Middle Brother, Music City native Jonny Corndawg is also a wickedly clever singer-songwriter in the Roger Miller tradition. His new album, Down On The Bikini Line, was released in conjunction with local tastemakers Thirty Tigers.

Walker Hayes – “Why Wait For Summer”

Mobile, Alabama country artist Walker Hayes first broke through in 2010 with the humorous single “Pants.” His self-titled debut was released by Capitol Records, and featured the followup hit “Why Wait For Summer.” Hayes was featured on the Country Throwdown Tour with Jamey Johnson, Little Big Town, and Ryan Bingham.