10 New Country, Americana Artists You Need to Know: Winter 2019 - Rolling Stone
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10 New Country and Americana Artists You Need to Know: Winter 2019

From the trad-country stylings of Joshua Ray Walker to the witty wordplay of Carsie Blanton

New Country Artists, Joshua Ray Walker, Carsie Blanton

Joshua Ray Walker and Carsie Blanton are among the new country and Americana artists you need to know.

A wandering songwriter unafraid to make you uncomfortable, an Illinois band that mixes bluegrass with hip-hop cadences and a Texas troubadour who specializes in stark, old-school country are among the artists you need to hear right now.

Lula Wiles

Lula Wiles

Sounds Like: Carefully-crafted, traditionally-arranged acoustic folk with a distinctly contemporary songwriting sensibility

For Fans of: I’m With Her, Milk Carton Kids, socially conscious songwriting

Why You Should Pay Attention: Despite having only finished college a few years ago, the three members of the folk group Lula Wiles (named after the Carter Family standard “Lulu Walls”) have been playing music together for the better part of a decade. Mali Obomsawin, Isa Burke and Eleanor Buckland all met as teenagers attending a summer camp for traditional fiddle music in Maine, where they bonded over their love of modern New England roots groups like Crooked Still and Della Mae. After convening in Boston during college and officially forming as a group in 2014, Lula Wiles have spent the last several years becoming an integral part of the New England folk community. Their brand-new second album, What Will We Do, is a triumphant collection of originals that establishes the trio as a confident, vital young voice in roots music.

They Say: “Every type of traditional music that comes through Maine we’ve played together in some capacity,” says Burke, who explains how the group moved past their traditional roots on their latest record. “We’ve grown a lot of as people, we’ve seen more shit, we’ve gone through a couple heartbreaks since the last album. Our songs developed more of a political consciousness. The things we’re focusing on in our songs is changing, and our ability to write about things that maybe felt inaccessible to us before, that’s changing too.”

Hear for Yourself: That progression can be heard most plainly on the standout “Good Old American Values,” a biting send-up of cowboy nostalgia written by Obomsawin after the singer began studying up on the troubling history of indigenous representation in folk music. J.B.

Jon Langston

Jon Langston

Sounds Like: Bluesy, lived-in country music that, thanks to Langston’s smart songwriting, freshens up country-lyric tropes

For Fans of: Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett, the Peach Pickers

Why You Should Pay Attention: The latest in a long line of Georgia exports, Langston is opening for Luke Bryan on his Sunset Repeat Tour. On the strength of his song “When It Comes to Loving You,” the artist has already made an impact on the charts by spending a full weekend atop iTunes’ all-genre songs. His songwriting isn’t your run-of-the-mill stuff either. He credits hit songwriter Rhett Akins for that — the Peach Picker took him under his wing and even let him live with him upon moving to town.

He Says: “The inspiration behind ‘When It Comes to Loving You’ was a bluesy guitar riff that my co-writer, Dan Isbell, always played when we were sitting around. One day, I came up with a tile that fit that vibe,” he says of writing his burgeoning single. “As an artist, it shows my soulful side and things I love about life, like ‘watching college football with my granddad.'”

Hear for Yourself: “When It Comes to Loving You” is that rare type of ballad that bristles with energy, just waiting to escape when Langston’s deep voice hits the chorus. J.H.

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