10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: November 2017

From a young singer who blends pop hooks with alt-rock, to a blues guitarist with a gift for torch songs

Sam Lewis

Sam Lewis

Sounds Like: The Black Keys meandering into Seventies psychedelic soul, with a storyteller's eye, a swampy Southern groove and an emotional, political punch

For Fans of: Parker Millsap, Anderson East, Cosmic country

Why You Should Pay Attention: For a guy who was once called "a modern Townes Van Zandt" by none other than Chris Stapleton, Sam Lewis doesn't let much go to his head – he's been working as an under-the-radar but locally-beloved artist in East Nashville since 2009, when he moved there to write songs … and work at Walmart. His focus on the music that moves him over flashier day jobs or the lure of the social scene is what's kept Lewis quietly honing his own soulful breed of Americana for years, and scored him opening slots for Stapleton and Marty Stuart. Though Lewis has released two excellent LPs, it's his forthcoming album, Loversity, that might prove to be his breakout moment: everything is a little deeper, a little darker and jams a little longer. And he's taking a closer look at a country in peril, written with an empath's heart – i.e., Lewis, like many artistic minds before him, sensed something rotten in the state of Denmark even before Trump became president. "A lot of these songs were written before that idiot got elected," Lewis says.

He Says: "Being political wasn't the mission, but it's a sense of duty," says Lewis, about his sonic dive into the world around him on Loversity, due March 23rd. "My angle and my approach is 'Ok, we've all acknowledged this thing, and what can you do about it? What do you think?' I have a microphone and I'm still learning how to use it. And this project is going to push me out there a little further into the uncomfortable zone, and that's fine. We need more conversations. I hope I'm not the only one that's getting some of this out there in a creative and loving way."

Hear for Yourself: For his cover of Loudon Wainwright's "Natural Disaster," Lewis lets the tone stay mischievous and menacing, the guitar solos brooding and his voice smooth enough to help the trouble ahead feel a little more bearable. M.M.