Sounds Like: A rough-around-the-edges return to country traditionalism, full of honky-tonk shuffles, steel solos and the big, booming baritone of a former ranch hand who's actually lived the cowboy lifestyle
For Fans of: Dwight Yoakam, J.P. Harris, Roger Miller
Why You Should Pay Attention: Raised less than an hour's drive from Yellowstone, Bell spent his summers working on his grandparents' ranch in Shell, Wyoming. "I built fences, worked horses, stacked hay, dug sewage lines and fixed water tanks," says the 26-year-old, who later resettled in Nashville. There, a weekly gig at Santa's Pub — the double-wide trailer and karaoke bar that's become an unlikely home for Nashville's traditional country scene — helped Bell sharpen his honky-tonk chops. His self-titled debut for Thirty Tigers hits stores this summer, bringing with it a sound that splits the difference between his Bakersfield influences, Wyoming roots and Nashville ties.
He Says: "I grew up on all kinds of music, just like everybody else. I loved Nirvana. I loved punk rock. But I'm very drawn to the simplicity and timelessness of honky-tonk music. A lot of different music is about examining the human condition, but with honky-tonk, you get to have a sense of humor in the delivery. You can laugh at yourself."
Hear for Yourself: "Sometimes" is a super-sized slab of throwback Bakersfield twang (and its video was shot with Santa's regulars). Andrew Leahey