In one of the year's most powerful country songs, singer Willie Jones delivered an "American Dream" through his eyes.
The Louisiana-raised artist belted lines about Colin Kaepernick, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., singing that he's "proud to be a Black man/ Livin' in the land of the brave and the free/ Yeah I'm all-American/ And that American dream ain't cheap."
He began writing the song last year, days after George Floyd's killing and protesters marching against racial injustice. He said the song derived in-part from a moment in 2020 when he balked at wearing red, white and blue on Independence Day.
On the song, he's "still reppin' the country, but through my eyes the time that I wrote it," Jones said.
"We all in America and we hope for better," he told The USA TODAY Network. "This is where it came from."
And his growing catalog of country-hip-hop doesn't stop with a civil rights anthem. Jones released his debut album, "Right Now," earlier this year. It's a musical blender of polished pop-ready production with country imagery and rap influence. The album finds Jones bringing the party — especially for nights in downtown Nashville with "Bachelorettes on Broadway" — and toasting to low-key moments at home, on the timely "Back Porch."
No song may introduce Jones' line-blurring delivery better than "Country Soul," an album opener that name checks Tim McGraw, T.I., Marvin Gaye and Aerosmith.
"A lot of times people try to box me in as far as my sound, but I'm bigger than what people think of me," Jones said. "This is one of them statement ones. ... This is my love for music."