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10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: January 2017

From a country-pop singer for the Snapchat generation to a heartland rocker with Texas cred

A country chanteuse with a past as colorful as her songs; a Texas songwriter with a storyteller bloodline; and the daughter of one of country music's most award-winning vocalists make up this month's installment of new country and Americana artists you need to hear.

Rodney Bursiel

Billy Crockett

Sounds Like: Coffeehouse folk without pretension; spare acoustic essays on political disillusion, an earth in peril and … Mavis Staples

For Fans of: Townes Van Zandt, John Prine, Yusuf Islam

Why You Should Pay Attention: One of Nashville's most skilled musicians – and songwriters – Mac McAnally gives Crockett an endorsing thumb's up, regularly visiting Crockett's Blue Rock Studio in Texas to record and collaborate. But what really makes Crockett such an interesting listen is his own unique sense of self-identity. With his new album Rabbit Hole, he's pulled off the most difficult of transformations: leaving behind a successful but sometimes creatively stultifying career in Christian music to follow a more secular muse.

He Says: "It's really a thrill for me to get to address some new subjects now. I use a vocabulary that is broad and general and it's a conversation I've been wanting to have all my life," says Crockett, who, like his surname suggests, is a distant relative of Alamo hero Davy Crockett. "The Texas storyteller is in me, and I aspire to be one."

Hear for Yourself: Rabbit Hole standout "Mavis" is a buoyant nod to the famous soul singer, whom Crockett says has a "profound and growing sense of gravitas." J.H.

Caroline Jones

Sounds Like: An ambitious, entrepreneurial guitar heroine primed to bring back the pop-country glory of the Nineties

For Fans of: Keith Urban, Pink, Lindsay Ell

Why You Should Pay Attention: When Jones decided it was time to make a new record, she called up producer Ric Wake (Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey) and offered him a simple sales pitch: "If I could make any record, I would make a country-pop record, I would play all the instruments, I would produce it with you, and we would go to Nashville and do it." An audacious move, but not when you consider Jones' background: she's honed her multi-instrumental talents performing for an estimated 200,000 high-schoolers over the course of five years as part of her Heart Is Smart Initiative, which mixes concerts with music-business workshops. She also picked up helpful songwriting tips while hosting her own radio program on Sirius XM. It seems to have paid off: Jones' single "Tough Guys" has already amassed more than 400,000 views on YouTube in less than a month.

She Says: "I had an opportunity in Nashville when I was younger to get signed and go down that track. I was 17 or 18 at this point – I knew that I hadn't really found my voice as an artist. I wanted to learn to produce my own records, play lead guitar, write by myself. For a few years I really did my own thing: I booked my own tours, I managed myself, I produced my own records. I've always wanted to be a producer and a lead guitar player and these titles that mostly men have."

Hear for Yourself: "Tough Guys," with powerful drums, Jones' dirty guitar and a hint of Mariah Carey, skips the clubs and heads straight for arenas. E.L.  

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