This is a track from The Ghost Who Walks, the debut album of British model Karen Elson, who is the wife of American musician Jack White. In addition to Elson's husband, she is backed on the record by various friends including The Dead Weather's Jack Lawrence on bass, My Morning Jacket's Carl Broemel on pedal steel, Rachelle Garniez on accordion and vocals, and Meg White's husband Jackson Smith, son of Patti Smith, on guitar.
Elson wrote this song in 2009 after a series of intense storms hit Nashville. She told The Sun newspaper May 21, 2010; "It was the wildest weather I'd ever seen. Every other day there were tornado warnings with the sky darkening in the middle of the day with greyish green clouds. It was really beautiful and scary at the same time. All those things infiltrate me and get pushed into a song."
Mostly for The Ghost Who Walks, Elson riffed on country tunes that draw from old Nashville traditions. She told Spinner UK: "When I wrote 'Cruel Summer,' I was definitely thinking of Hank Williams. Even some of the jangly Hank Williams songs, there's still a morbid undercurrent and I find that interesting instead of talking about how happy we are."