10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: April 2017

From a Texas songbird with a sly sense of humor to a Tennessee singer proud of his drawl

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Kenny Foster
Rorshak/Courtesy of Kenny Foster8/10

Kenny Foster

Sounds Like: Meat-and-potatoes songs about small-town roots and making sacrifices, sung by a guy who's taken a few licks and kept on ticking

For Fans of: Rodney Crowell, John Mayer, Charlie Worsham

Why You Should Pay Attention: Joplin, Missouri, native Foster has been kicking around Nashville's music scene for some time, having co-founded the rock band Philos before venturing out on his own. After a tornado destroyed many parts of Joplin in 2011, Foster wrote and independently released the song "Hometown," gaining some viral fame and raising money for the devastated community in the process. Foster's new full-length Deep Cuts (out April 17th) was produced by Mitch Dane (Jars of Clay) and collects 12 songs he wrote over a very prolific couple of years – he amassed around 450 songs in that stretch – that local publishers, for whatever reason, couldn't imagine another artist singing. He decided to sing them himself, which was a smart move: these are his stories, told without conceding to commercial demands but not scared to employ a polished hook. "All of my favorite records, the song that made me fall in love with the artist were track 12, 13, 14," he says of his open-to-interpretation album title. "I felt like that's when you really got to know who the artist was."

He Says: "I wanted to make great art. I wanted to make something that could move somebody – not because it would work for an industry. I tell people I'm a long-form man in a soundbite world. Everybody needs the elevator pitch or the single, and I feel like I've figured out this way to put real life into three-and-a-half minutes. I think that's what I do."

Hear for Yourself: Album opener "Stand," which transforms from a deliberate, acoustic meditation to a soaring anthem, is about fighting the good fight and getting back up when you get knocked down. J.F.

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