10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: January 2017

From a country-pop singer for the Snapchat generation to a heartland rocker with Texas cred

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Jack Grelle

Jack Grelle

Sounds Like: A progressive honky-tonk hero arriving at just the right time in Trump's America

For Fans of: Pokey LaFarge, Lavender Country, Merle Haggard, DIY punk

Why You Should Pay Attention: A honky-tonk dance floor probably isn't the first place one would look for progressive politics, but St. Louis' Jack Grelle is challenging that notion with his overtly political, two-stepping tunes. Having cut his teeth on the local DIY scene, Grelle – who also toured as part of the most recent incarnation of gay-country pioneers Lavender Country – blends the social awareness of punk with country twang to thought-provoking results.

He Says: "This past year I have had the pleasure to be part of Missouri's chapter of Lavender Country. The Country Music Hall of Fame has recognized [front man] Patrick Haggerty's 1973 self-titled debut as the first openly gay country album. Haggerty's lyrics and storytelling are both relentlessly political and deeply personal. I have drawn much inspiration from my time in that band and found the motivation to write songs that touch on the struggles of the times we live in."

Hear for Yourself: "Got Dressed Up to Be Let Down," the title track of Grelle's 2016 studio album, is a hardscrabble heartbreak song told from the perspective of a woman, a refreshing, subversive challenge to traditional gender norms that's also tailor-made for dancing. B.M.

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