Lil Nas X, “Old Town Road (I Got The Horses In The Back).” This viral hit that’s half-rap half-country broke out on the short-form video app TikTok and got hyped by Justin Bieber. The song by the African American rapper from Atlanta kicked up a controversy last week when it hit the Hot Country Songs chart and then was removed by Billboard despite a banjo-plucking vibe that gives it at least as much of an authentic flavor as many a washed-out soft-rock country hit. Why? Because Lil Nas X doesn’t look like a country singer?
Robert Ellis. Houston songwriter Robert Ellis cleans up nice. On his fifth solo album, Texas Piano Man, Ellis dresses up in a white tuxedo and tails as he ditches his guitar to tickle the ivories instead. The switcheroo works wonders for his tunesmithery: Suddenly he’s funnier and not so self-serious on songs like “F- Crazy” and the ode to his favorite mineral water “Topo Chico.” Monday at the Foundry.
Better Oblivion Community Center. At the XPoNential Music Festival in 2017, Conor Oberst brought out a then little-known songwriter named Phoebe Bridgers for a duet of his fragile, haunting Bright Eyes song “Lua.” Since then, Bridgers has made a name for herself with her gripping Stranger in the Alps debut and teamed with Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker for supergroup boygenius. And last month, she and Oberst revealed a surprise: A full-length album as BOCC that effectively demonstrates their advanced verbal skills and heart-on-sleeve sincerity. Tuesday at Union Transfer.
Prince: The Last Interview and Other Conversations. The titular conversation in question with Guardian critic Alexis Petridis in 2015 is not much of an interview at all, which could also be said of the other conversations gathered here in which the purple enigma bobs, weaves, playfully obfuscates, and ducks questions. Still, he was a sui generis genius, and while attempting to puzzle him out can be maddening, it’s rarely boring.
Ruston Kelly. This Nashville songwriter didn’t have quite as successful of a year as his Grammy-winning wife Kacey Musgraves, but that’s a hard standard to live up to. The former competitive figure skater who fashions himself as a cross between Townes Van Zandt and Kurt Cobain did all right for himself anyway, breaking through with his album Dying Star and displaying a winning sense of humor while playing two top shelf shows in Philly in one day last fall with a band that includes his father on pedal steel guitar. He’s got two more coming up this week. Thursday at 2 p.m. at Main Street Music and Thursday night at Union Transfer, opening for Patty Griffin.