10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: May 2017

From a country-soul chanteuse to a hard-stomping band of Southern rockers

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Steel Woods
Allen Clark8/10

Steel Woods

Sounds Like: Drinking a bottle of bourbon and having inebriated hallucinations of Gregg Allman and Lucinda Williams standing hand in hand in powder-blue choir robes, as "Melissa" plays in the background

For Fans of: Jamey Johnson, Chris Stapleton, the Allman Brothers

Why You Should Pay Attention: Southern rock is having a moment right now, and this group of ruffians reminds everyone why the genre is one of the best forms of American music. For years, lead guitarist Jason "Rowdy" Cope actually played in Jamey Johnson's band. "We go at this thing with the same musical integrity as Jamey," says Cope. "Honest songwriting, always trying to push the boundaries of our musicianship and keeping it really close to our roots when it comes to our influences." Those roots are in Alabama (lead singer Wes Bayliss) and North Carolina (Cope). The two met at a club gig in Nashville, where they're both based, and began taking dude-bonding fishing trips to Kingston Springs shortly thereafter. It was only a matter of time before a killer new band was born. Their debut LP, Straw in the Wind, comes out May 19th.

They Say: When asked if they'd rather run a marathon in cowboy boots or wear a pair of gaudy running shoes while performing onstage at a honky-tonk like John T. Floore's Country Store in the Texas Hill Country, Bayliss opts for the "marathon in boots, assuming that it's possible for me to run a marathon." (Probably not.) Cope agrees. "I feel like we'd be less likely to get beat up running a marathon," he says. "It'd be us beating ourselves up." After years of pre-gaming with "meat and moonshine,” Cope clobbers himself a little less nowadays. He jokes he's quit boozing in favor of "ice water with lemons."

Hear for Yourself: "I'm Gonna Love You" evokes the best of Chris Stapleton while balancing lyrical tenderness with a propulsive, Skynyrd-esque guitar solo from Cope. M.S.

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