10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: March 2017

From a soulful vocalist who evokes John Mayer to the fiddle-playing protégée of Jack White

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Matt Urmy
B.K. Monroe3/10

Matt Urmy

Sounds Like: The classic country of vintage AM radio fleshed out with modern-day hooks and choruses

For Fans of: John Prine, Lyle Lovett, Kris Kristofferson, richly cinematic story-songs

Why You Should Pay Attention: The title of Matt Urmy's new album Out of the Ashes (out March 31st) is not a metaphor: the record was literally salvaged from a historic fire. After a ballsy cold-call to country icon "Cowboy" Jack Clement asking if he could perform at an upcoming show, Urmy struck up a friendship with the influential songwriter and producer, who agreed to produce Urmy's album at his Cowboy Arms Hotel & Recording Spa in Nashville. They made it all the way to the mixing stage before an electrical fire destroyed Clement's house and studio. A year later, Urmy received a call that the raw session files had been recovered. Clement and Urmy finished the album, adding the on-the-nose new song that would become the project's title. Clement passed away in 2013, but his spirit and voice run throughout the project.

He Says: "The week before we began the recording sessions, [Clement] asked me if I'd bring over all my home recordings so we could pick the songs we were going to do. It was the most excruciating couple hours of my musical life, just sitting there at his desk while he listened through the tracks in silence, smoking cigarettes and looking out the window. When all the songs had finished playing, he let out a sigh and said, 'You kind of remind me of Kris Kristofferson. You can't really sing, but your songs and lyrics are really good.'"

Hear for Yourself: Previously recorded by such country greats as Johnny Cash, Crystal Gayle and Clement himself, the Bob McDill/Allen Reynolds composition "We Must Believe in Magic" becomes a poignant duet between the upstart Urmy and the wizened Clement. W.H.

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