10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: April 2018 - Rolling Stone
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10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: April 2018

From the power-country of Rachel Wammack to the dusty vibes of Kyle Daniel

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Rachel Wammack and Kyle Daniel are among the 10 new country and Americana artists you need to know this month.

Power singer Rachel Wammack, the rock-forward Kyle Daniel and Memphis soul badass Liz Brasher highlight this month’s list of the 10 new country and Americana artists you need to hear right now.

Graham Washatka

Andrew Leahey and the Homestead

Sounds Like: Smart roots-rock that celebrates paying the dues of a working-class musician

For Fans of: Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, Ryan Adams

Why You Should Pay Attention: Singer, songwriter, music journalist and in-demand sideman, you can’t throw a stone within Nashville’s city limits without hitting Andrew Leahey. Weaned on a mix of classical music and Eighties heartland rock anthems, Leahey once moonlighted with the Julliard Chorale and worked as a staff writer for Allmusic. (He’s a regular contributor to Rolling Stone Country.) After undergoing brain surgery to remove a tumor, Leahey threw himself more wholeheartedly into his music career, releasing Skyline in Central Time via Thirty Tigers in 2016, picking up a gig as lead guitarist for Elizabeth Cook, jamming with Rodney Crowell and collaborating with fellow heartland-rock acolyte Jon Latham. His upcoming LP, Airwaves, is a celebratory mix of sharp storytelling and fist-pumping rock & roll swagger. Produced by Paul Ebersold, Leahey recorded with the Steelism rhythm section and Jason Isbell’s guitarist Sadler Vaden.

He Says: “Getting sick and being face-to-face with the likelihood, or even probability, that I couldn’t continue making music and touring the way I wanted to, that was what I needed to stop fucking around. It was like, alright, become whatever version of a guitar god you can become and write better songs and actually go and do this thing,” Leahey says of his brain surgery. Writing about music has helped further refine that focus. “It’s made me my own worst critic, which is a blessing and a curse. I’m fully aware when I’m writing something when it’s not good. If something is not good, I can’t go forward with it. I scrap it and start over. For better or worse, it’s really sharpened my idea of what a good song is and increased the hold and expectation I have on myself.”

Hear for Yourself: “Start the Dance,” the first single from Airwaves, is a rowdy show-starter with an oversized guitar riff and just the right amount of handclaps. J.G.

Kyle Goldberg

Priscilla Renea

Sounds Like: Roots-inspired soul-pop that finds the heavenly middle ground between Music Row and Mariah Carey

For Fans of: Maren Morris, Ruby Amanfu, Daydream-era Mariah Carey

Why You Should Pay Attention: A cursory listen to any of Renea’s singles should be proof enough, but the Los Angeles-based artist has the rare combination of stellar musicianship, creative vision and natural chops that make for a truly singular artist. She wrote and recorded her forthcoming album Coloured (due out June 22nd via Thirty Tigers) in Nashville with some of the city’s most prominent songwriting talent, including Kevin Kadish, Brett James, Ashley Gorley and Emily Shackleton. In addition to being a formidable songwriter, she’s also a multi-instrumentalist, not to mention, of course, that she can belt with the best of them.

She Says: “I taught myself to play guitar because I didn’t want to read music. Growing up my parents forced piano lessons on me. I was always in some sort of choir or chorale in school. My mom was always singing in the house… oldies and R&B, some country artists, too. My dad practiced his trumpet three, four times a week, and I used to play with it when he wasn’t around. He would play jazz music – Miles Davis, John Coltrane – and lyrical rap – Nas, Q-Tip. Living in my house, around my family, it was rarely quiet, especially on my Big Momma’s three-acre farm. The rooster would crow us up around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m., and then it was chaos: all the grandkids running around outside, climbing trees, me and my cousin Quinn rapping Eminem and Juvenile, my aunts and uncles outside barbecuing with the music blasting from their cars with the windows down. This was pretty much everyday: family, food, music.”

Hear for Yourself: Renea eschewed video conventions for “Gentle Hands” / “Heavenly,” a single clip that combines two beautifully shot videos for two equally compelling singles. B.M.

Rachel Wammack

Sounds Like: Country’s answer to the inspirational pop of Rachel Platten, with a dose of soul and monster choruses

For Fans of: Adele, Sara Bareilles, Faith Hill

Why You Should Pay Attention: Growing up in the land of the singing river – i.e. Muscle Shoals, Alabama – music was a way of life for Rachel Wammack, whose house was often filled with Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and whatever had been recorded down the road at the legendary local studios. Equally inspired by Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride, a middle-school-age Wammack would stay up late writing songs secretly in her bedroom after curfew, playing them on the piano before her parents got home from work and eventually gigging regularly around town. One day senior year, Wammack was performing at a local hotel, and an executive from Sony Music happened to be in the audience. Taken by Wammack’s introspective songwriting and powerful vocals, he gave her his card. Wammack wasn’t ready to move to Nashville – she wanted a degree and to study poetry – but after graduation, at the urging of that same executive, she made the move. Nine months later, she had an official record deal, a publishing contract and, eventually, a four-song Dan Huff-produced EP that’s a unique combination of soul, gospel and power pop.

She Says: “I feel like it’s in my DNA,” Wammack says of Muscle Shoals. “My music now has a lot of soul in it, so I feel like Muscle Shoals has really impacted me for the long run in my career, which I didn’t even realize was going to happen. My parents and my grandparents all sang in the choir at church, and I just loved music that I felt moved me, and that has a lot to do with Muscle Shoals: soul music, gospel and blues. [Those genres] just have a lot of moving tones and qualities to them.”

Hear for Yourself: Centered on an emotive piano riff, “My Boyfriend Doesn’t Speak for Me Anymore” is a bold, brazen and goose bump-inducing reminder to women everywhere who are sick of being told to stay quiet. M.M.

Scott Willis Photography

Kyle Daniel

Sounds like: The gravely twang of Steve Earle with Chris Stapleton’s range, plus bigger hooks

For Fans of: Stapleton, Will Hoge, anything from Dave Cobb’s Low Country Sound

Why You Should Pay Attention: Daniel’s parents always knew they had a musical kid on their hands, even before he came out of the womb: when his banjo-playing dad would strum for his pregnant wife, Daniel would kick up a storm. True to his Kentucky roots, Daniel would make the rounds with his father to local bluegrass festivals and picking parties, taking up the guitar at 13 years old after first trying the saxophone, drums and keys. “When I felt all the notes underneath me, it felt so natural and clicked almost instantly,” he says. “I never looked back.” Daniel moved to Nashville a decade ago and roomed with buddy Anderson East, spending time in bands (like RS Country New Artist alum Jericho Woods) and supporting Clare Dunn on the road. It may have taken years to get his solo work front and center, but his rich, melodic breed of baritone country is perfect for a moment that finally embraces the Stapletons and the Sturgill Simpsons of the world.

He Says: “It’s given artists like us an opportunity to be heard,” Daniel says about the current state of country. “People are catching the curve ball, and going, ‘Whoa, what is that?’ It’s different than what people are getting fed by the mainstream. For true music lovers, it’s a great thing. These different looks, throwback sounds, live-to-tape versus digital machine-produced content. People are hungry for it.”

Hear for Yourself: Single “Hangover Town” is a rocking bit of Stones swagger, with the dusty sing-along quality of Hayes Carll’s “Bad Liver and a Broken Heart.” M.M.

clarence bucaro

Todd Heisler

Clarence Bucaro

Sounds Like: Buoyant, sometimes playful folk songwriting with a deep well of social consciousness

For Fans of: Josh Ritter, Joshua Radin, Wilco

Why You Should Pay Attention: Calling Clarence Bucaro a new artist is a bit misleading, as the Ohio-born songwriter has released a dozen albums over the last 15 years. His most recent, Passionate Kind, has been something of a rebirth for Bucaro, though, thanks in no small part to its willingness to engage with the current moment. Single “Where Do I Go?” is a plea for direction in confusing times, which Bucaro wrote in the wake of the 2016 election. Other tracks on Passionate Kind, like the prescient “Sleepwalker,” take similar stock of today’s particular brand of social ills.

He Says: “Songwriting to me is a deeply personal thing. How does one take one’s most intimate feelings and experiences and turn them into songs without them seeming like diary entries? On this album, I tried to connect with feelings I have had and imagine them through a different prism while still maintaining the truth or essence of them. I wanted this album to feel distinct from my others. I challenged myself lyrically. I absorbed anything I could over the past year. I watched opera. I read classics. I studied art and listened to tons of music from Beethoven to Duke Ellington to Kris Kristofferson. These elements helped to inform the album as well. At the top of my writing notebook, I wrote, ‘Is this interesting? Is this honest?’ and I tried to keep these two questions in mind with every song I wrote for Passionate Kind.”

Hear for Yourself: “Sleepwalker” is a gently soulful admonition to someone who can’t open his eyes to the vast, colorful world around him. B.M.

davisson brothers band

Davisson Brothers Band

Sounds Like: The soundtrack to making moonshine; a dancefloor playlist for Jesco White

For Fans of: Justin Moore, Hank Williams Jr., the Southern-rocking side of Kid Rock

Why You Should Pay Attention: Made up of singer-guitarist brothers Chris and Donnie Davisson, bassist Rus Repert and drummer Aaron Regester, the Davisson Brothers Band credit influences as far flung as Dickey Betts, Del McCoury, Garth Brooks and Willie Nelson with shaping their sound, a mix of country and rock with a heavy dose of their native Appalachia. The group became fast friends with Chris Janson, who’s had the band open many of his shows, helping them break out of what Chris Davisson calls the “animal circuit: the Eagles, Elks and Moose Lodges.” With a new album produced by Keith Stegall on the way, the band is gaining traction with lead single “Po’ Boyz,” which marries the Davissons’ live energy with a dab of country gloss.

They Say: “We take a lot of pride in making music that is true to us, where we come from and our life on the road,” says Chris. “We’re just country boys who like to have fun with what we do … we’re hard-working folks who live a bit of a ‘rock & roll lifestyle’ writing and performing music for the everyday working folks.

Hear for Yourself: The snaking “Po’ Boyz” puts a new spin on country-cred songs, highlighting not some polished version of the rural life, but the grit and toil of growing up in the West Virginia hills. J.H. 

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