The best new rock songs you need to hear right now, including Gary Clark Jr, Mark Knopfler, Mick Mars and more

Tracks of the Week artists
(Image credit: Press materials)

“It’s a heavy song," said Blackberry Smoke's Charlie Starr, upon the release of the band's recent single Azalea. "It's not a happy song, per se. There’s some hope in there, too."

Well, hopefully he'll be happy now, as you voted Azalea into the top position in our most recent Tracks Of The Week tournament. So congratulations to the Smoke, and congratulations to Joanne Shaw Taylor, whose A Good Goodbye wasn't far behind, and to Automatic Shoes, whose This Car single was a little further back, in what we've officially labelled "third place".

This week, another eight tracks have registered to win over your hearts and minds.

And you marks, get set, go! (And please vote down there ⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇⬇)


Tuk Smith & The Restless Hearts - Take The Long Way

Few musicians could write a song called Take The Long Way from such a legit place. The former Biters frontman has been low, high, low again, on the verge of stadium tours and record deals and back out on his own again, as the ripples of the pandemic turned into waves. Somehow he finds the physical, emotional and creative reserves to keep writing songs – and, as this glittery, warm-hearted new earworm affirms, sounding all the better for it. The real deal.

The Gems - Fruits Of My Labor

Another group who aren’t strangers to the long road to rock’n’roll glory, ex-Thundermother members The Gems add a strain of brooding minor-key grunge to their strapping rock  riffasaurus foundations on Fruits Of My Labor. “This song is about overcoming and appreciating the struggles on the way to making your dreams come true,” the band say. Like the sound of this? Their full debut album, Phoenix, has just come out. 

Gary Clark Jr - Maktub

The Texan guitar-slinger seemed to retreat a little after 2019’s brilliant This Land. Now he’s back with a four-track sampler from his upcoming record, from which this is taken. Maktub is a hot psychedelic mix of Africa and the American South, all percussive World beats, jagged blues grooves and hypnotic refrains, spiked with spoken-word lines. Gary isn’t a stranger to genre fusions, but here he takes things to a deeper level. Expect samples of Thelonious Monk and Sonny Boy Williamson on the full LP, JPEG RAW, along with rock, hip hop, blues, R&B, jazz… Resting on his laurels? Not so much.

The Zutons - Creeping On The Dancefloor

Remember The Zutons? Stalwarts of the ‘00s guitar wave, pepped up with Abi Harding's saxophone stylings – and best-known for Valerie, which was turned into an uber-smash by Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson – the Liverpudlians seemed to have gone quiet on the release front. Until now. Creeping On The Dancefloor is their first new single in sixteen years, and it’s a toe-tapping, disco-balled banger. Part of a comeback album co-produced by Nile Rodgers, stuffed with shimmying guitars and 70s dancefloor feels. A shot of light for dark winter days.

Black Smoke Trigger - Perfect Torture

New Zealand hard rockers Black Smoke Trigger head to the UK later this year, in support of a certain Bruce Dickinson on his solo tour. If you’re going to one of those shows, this hard-hitting, emotive ballad – arena-sized, smokey, slick without sacrificing soulfulness – suggests it’ll be worth heading down early to check them out. There’s also an album, Horizon, on the…erm, horizon. Nice.

Willie Dowling - The Simpleton

Willie Dowling knows his way around a pop song (anyone familiar with The Dowling Poole, Honeycrack, Jackdaw4 or his work with The Wildhearts, Shane McGowan, Andy Taylor, The Quireboys etc etc will know this), and this solo tune finds him continuing in the textured, sunshine-and-spite tradition of ELO, Jellyfish and like – only this time, he’s stripped it back to voice, piano, drums and bass. Simple, you could say, but so full of mood shifts and bittersweet shades that it hits much harder than its title implies.

Mick Mars - Undone

With a riff that sounds like Rammstein playing T.Rex's Telegram Sam and a video that finds Mick Mars looking mysterious in a coal mine, Undone is further proof that the former Mötley man is more than capable of conjuring up the kind of epic, planet-melting rock that frequently seemed beyond the reach of his old band. The vocal comes from Brion Gamboa, who says he's "beyond excited" for the song to see the light of day, and so he should. The Other Side Of Mars – that's the album will be out on February 23.  

Mark Knopfler - Ahead Of The Game

Finally, onto the musician least likely to release a single that sounds like Rammstein playing T.Rex's Telegram Sam, Mark Knopfler. You know what you're gonna get from The Knop, as we've just christened him, and it's rather lovely: a gentle, countryfied strum, a wistful lyric about making it in the music business, and soloing so low-key it suggests the former Dire Straits man has absolutely zero interest in showing off. New album One Deep River will be released on April 12. 

Polly Glass
Deputy Editor, Classic Rock

Polly is deputy editor at Classic Rock magazine, where she writes and commissions regular pieces and longer reads (including new band coverage), and has interviewed rock's biggest and newest names. She also contributes to Louder, Prog and Metal Hammer and talks about songs on the 20 Minute Club podcast. Elsewhere she's had work published in The Musician, delicious. magazine and others, and written biographies for various album campaigns. In a previous life as a women's magazine junior she interviewed Tracey Emin and Lily James – and wangled Rival Sons into the arts pages. In her spare time she writes fiction and cooks.

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