10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: December 2017

From a Dwight Yoakam protégé to an Australian singer-songwriter proficient in outlaw twang-rock

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Frank Ray
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Frank Ray

Sounds Like: Easygoing contemporary country with pop-soul hooks and a dash of Southwestern spice

For Fans of: Keith Urban, Chris Young, Eli Young Band

Why You Should Pay Attention: Frank Ray, a former police officer with the Las Cruces, New Mexico, force, left his full-time police job a few months ago and his country singing career has been accelerating rapidly since then. An experienced performer who had the chance to open shows for A Thousand Horses and Keith Urban with his previous band, Ray's solo debut EP Different Kind of Country was released earlier in 2017. The EP's forlorn lead single "Every Time You Run" is currently making its way toward the Top 20 of the Texas Regional Radio Report, a list highlighting the week's most popular Red Dirt titles. In his song "Different Kind of Country," Ray sings about the Hispanic immigrant experience in America, highlighting cultural differences but pointing out values – including family and hard work – shared with the country audience. "I wanted it to be a message to say, 'Hey, we're different but we're very much the same,'" he says. "But also from a logistical standpoint, we can't deport every single illegal immigrant – United States agriculture highly relies on that labor. We have to find a way to make it work."

He Says: "My fiancée and I talked about it and she really knew this was important to me. It was funny the way she worded it – she said, 'Everybody's got confidence in you except for yourself.' But it was just scary, especially after giving a decade of your life to the police department. It was scary to leave that comfort and stability."

Hear for Yourself: Ray shows off his soulful vocals in the single "Every Time You Run," where he subtly shifts gender narratives by letting his female love interest be the restless wanderer who refuses to be tied down. J.F.

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