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10 New Artists You Need to Know: Summer 2014

Meet the most buzzworthy new acts in country and Americana

David McClister; Tim Duggan; Jessica Wardwell

The summer edition of Rolling Stone Country's guide to brand-new artists proves just how wide country music's doors have opened. We talked to 10 of the genre's hottest newcomers, who range from classic-country aficionados to hard-rocking hell-raisers. This quarter, we introduce you to the new queen of the Outlaws, three kings of country grunge and a guitar-shredding princess.

Jessica Wardwell

Lindsay Ell

Sounds Like: John Mayer with a little bit of country; Shania Twain with a little bit of rock & roll.

For Fans Of: Sheryl Crow, Keith Urban and Canada

Why You Should Pay Attention: Coming out of Nashville by way of the Great White North, Lindsay Ell grew up idolizing fellow Canadian ex-pat Shania Twain, and it shows on sunny toe-tappers like the love-struck 2013 single "Trippin' on Us" and breakup ballads like the reflective "Not Another Me." But anyone who thinks Ell is merely a candidate for the crown of country music's next North American sweetheart is selling her short. A self-proclaimed "female Keith Urban" who was discovered in her early teens by BTO bro Randy Bachman, this precocious Canuck's got an ace up her sleeve that only a handful of her pop-country contemporaries can claim — serious, serious guitar chops and a penchant for finger-tapping like Eddie Van Halen… or wailing like Buddy Guy, who in the past has invited Ell onstage to trade blues licks.

She Says: "Moving to Nashville was a whole experience and change for me," Ell explains. "I'd never lived in a town with so many musicians in it. For once I didn't need to feel like the black sheep of the bunch who just wanted to geek out on guitar pedals and amps. Being a girl guitar player, it's definitely out of the norm. It's always baffled my mind why more girls don't play guitar, specifically lead guitar, especially in country music — you just don't see it a lot. And so I've always been in arenas and different places where I'm kind of the odd man out, or the odd woman out."

Hear for Yourself: The sassy, empowering "Trippin' on Us." By Adam Gold

David McClister

Sam Hunt

Sounds Like: Breezy hick-hop for a hot August night.

For Fans Of: Zac Brown Band, Jake Owen, Jack Johnson, Matt Kearney and football

Why You Should Pay Attention: If you haven't heard Sam Hunt sing yet, you've probably heard a few of his tunes. Kenny Chesney's "Come Over," Billy Currington's "We Are Tonight" and Keith Urban's "Cop Car" are among the cuts the 29-year-old whippersnapper songsmith has penned for the country superstars whose ranks he could soon join. Not bad for a small-town Georgia boy who, just over a decade ago, left his fledgling career as a free-agent quarterback for the Kansas City Chiefs and set out for Nashville to take a stab at a songwriting career. Now Hunt's stepping into the spotlight as a singer in his own right. Take a listen to the airy acoustic jangle, tight-locked groove and smooth lyrical flow of his debut single, "Leave the Night On," and it's no surprise the singer's soft spot for Clinton-era country is rivaled only by an affinity for hip-hop production and R&B crooners. A modern country mechanic with an ear for contemporary Top 40 aesthetics and a business savvy to match, it's also little surprise Hunt says he prefers crafting his cuts to programmed beats rather than on acoustic guitar, or that he got viral groundswell going by giving away acoustic mixtapes online.
He Says: "Within the songwriting community there are these unwritten rules for the way that a song should be written in country music, and I think that those rules are constantly being broken over the years, and the molds change and the process is evolving. So coming in not knowing those rules really helped me a lot to do what I felt was honest and right."

Hear for Yourself: The infectious, feel-good, "Leave the Night On." By Adam Gold

Jillian J.

The Cadillac Three

Sounds Like: The house band at a beer-soaked monster truck rally.

For Fans Of: Molly Hatchet, Dierks Bentley, ZZ Top

 Why You Should Pay Attention: Firing twin barrels of hillbilly punk and Southern-rock buckshot, the Cadillac Three are the sort of long-haired, skirt-chasing gang you'd keep far away from your daughter… before cranking up their debut album after she goes to bed. The guys are Nashville natives, too — a rarity in a town that imports its population from across the globe — and wear their Southern pride on their musical sleeves, stomping and slurring their way through songs that celebrate the South’s swampy, skuzzy charm. "My dad played drums for the Grand Ole Opry," says lead singer Jaren Johnston, who writes chart-topping hits for Keith Urban and Tim McGraw during his downtime. "Growing up, I'd go there on Friday and Saturday nights, and I'd see all the different sides of country music. It hooked me. You don't get storytelling like that in other genres."

They Say: "For our first tour, we spent all summer with ZZ Top and Skynyrd, then did some shows with Eric Church and Dierks Bentley. In country music right now, there's a big hole for us to fill, where Eric Church and Skynyrd meet," says Jaren Johnston. "I enjoy the country crowds just as much as the rock crowds. It's a lot of the same people."

Hear for Yourself: "The South," a modern-day "Dixieland Delight," featuring Dierks Bentley, Mike Eli and Florida Georgia Line. By Andrew Leahey