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10 New Artists You Need to Know: Fall 2014

From Loretta-like traditionalists to the garage-rock-loving granddaughter of a country legend, our picks for 10 must-hear artists

Margo Price, Canaan Smith

Margo Price / Canaan Smith

Micki Leonardi / Jim Wright

The fall edition of Rolling Stone Country's guide to new artists hints at a return to more traditional sounds. There's an instrumental duo that mixes Bakersfield twang with James Bond soundtrack spyjinks, a pair of traditionalists who evoke Loretta and Hank, and a more mainstream artist dedicated to making his audience feel not a fleeting party high, but lasting human emotion. Here's 10 of the genre's most captivating newcomers and why you should be paying attention.

Margo and the Price Tags

Margo and the Price Tags

Micki Leonardi

Margo Price and the Price Tags

Sounds Like: Tammy Wynette and Elliott Smith's lovechild

For Fans Of: Justin Townes Earle, Jack White-produced Loretta Lynn

Why You Should Pay Attention: A vintage-adorned mainstay of the East Nashville scene, Margo Price had been trucking along as the frontwoman of local rock outfit Buffalo Clover until things got stale. So she reconnected with her latent country roots — her great-uncle was a songwriter for the likes of Conway Twitty — picked up the acoustic guitar and dove into deeply personal and painstakingly crafted tunes, evoking the weeping willow vibe of Hank Sr. but pairing it with the realities of modern life. "I killed the angel on the shoulder with a handle of tequila," she sings in "Since You Put Me Down," her voice hitting haunting high notes with weariness and reverence.

She Says: "It can be easy to tread around in the same crowd and play the same bills," says Price, who is working on her debut LP with the Price Tags. "While it's good to be very connected, it's also good to not be out constantly. There's only so far you can go with networking in East Nashville, and being out all the time can kind of take away from the mystery of who you are."

Hear for Yourself: The aching ballad "Since You Put Me Down," recently premiered on Rolling Stone Country —Marissa R. Moss

Steelism

Steelism

Don VanCleave

Steelism

Sounds Like: The eclectic, instrumental score for a cinematic road trip through the dustbowl via time machine

For Fans Of: Duane Eddy, Don Ho, Santo and Johnny, Ennio Morricone, Caitlin Rose and Kraftwerk

Why You Should Pay Attention: Sidemen, long the unsung heroes of country music. Such is the case (quite literally) with instrumental group Steelism, made up of the dynamic duo of ace guitarist Jeremy Fetzer and pedal-steel maestro Spencer Cullum Jr. — a Midwesterner and an Englishman, respectively. The pair long provided the melodic backbone of Caitlin Rose's touring band, while Cullum most recently moonlighted as pedal-steel player on Miranda Lambert's Platinum Tour, a gig he got after the singer's bandleader watched him masterfully wail on a talk box in a video on YouTube. In the spotlight, however, Fetzer and Cullum find common sonic ground channeling romantic visions of classic country sounds and Southern-steeped Americana aesthetics. Their ensemble genre-jumps from string-section-boasting spaghetti-western soundtrack inclinations to gorgeously playful slack-key stylings. They even throw in a Kraut-rock-inspired tune on their latest, 615 to FAME, which they recorded partly in their hometown Nashville and partly at Muscle Shoals' legendary FAME Studios with Alabama Shakes keyboardist Ben Tanner, their co-producer.

They Say: "We love the initial confusion that our set causes to a new crowd, where it's like, there's no singer, the spokesman for the group has a cockney accent and it's led by pedal-steel and guitar," Fetzer tells Rolling Stone Country. "With instrumental music, it's not as serious as 'songwriter' music," Cullum adds. "With lyrics, you're kind of being told how to think, or how to feel. With instrumental music you can just have your own interpretation of a feeling. It's very relaxed." 

Hear for Yourself: "Cat's Eye Ring," from 615 to FAME. —Adam Gold

Girls Guns and Glory

Girls Guns and Glory

Photo Courtesy of Shock Ink

Girls Guns and Glory

Sounds Like: Modern-day Buddy Holly plus Dwight Yoakam divided by the Mavericks

For Fans Of: Think-y, soulful lyrics paired with a beat you can dance to

Why You Should Pay Attention: The band, which was named (tongue in cheek) for everything representative of the country music front man Ward Hayden was listening to, is on the road 250 days a year, bringing its Boston-bred Americana sound across the globe. Hayden cites his discovery of Hank Williams' music as a turning point for his own songwriting. "I had never heard something that had hit me on such a deep level." Fittingly, in February, GGG will release a Hank Williams tribute album.

They Say: "When I am going through the process of something, I don't do any writing," Hayden says. "But when I come out on the other side, that's when I can make it rhyme." Hayden thought about the story behind "Centralia," a fire-ravaged Pennsylvania mining town, for two years before he sat down to write. Once he did, the lyrics came in about 20 minutes.

Hear for Yourself: The yearning "All the Way Up to Heaven" from the new album Good Luck
— Margaret Littman

Canaan Smith

Canaan Smith

Jim Wright

Canaan Smith

Sounds Like: A kinder, gentler Jason Aldean

For Fans Of: Keith Urban's Fuse album and Smith's musical hero, Dierks Bentley

Why You Should Pay Attention: Because Smith is a three-tool artist: He sings, plays guitar and drums, and, most importantly, writes, which in the world of contemporary country can be a rare combination. The Virginia native has also paid his dues, humping it around clubs with just a guitar on his back. As such, he's had his share of amazing journeys to inspire him and, he hopes, those willing to listen.

He Says: "I'm not a big fan of bubblegum," Smith says of disposable songwriting. "I hate when people say their music, 'makes you want to roll down the windows and turn it up in the sunshine.' Music should make you feel a human emotion. If that makes you want to turn it up, great. And if it makes you want to punch the radio because it brings up an old memory, then that's great too."

Hear for Yourself: The metaphor-rich "Love You Like That," which Smith calls a "man's man" take on a love song. — Joseph Hudak

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