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10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: June 2018

From the indie-country of Liz Cooper + the Stampede to the small-town nostalgia and fake IDs of Travis Denning

10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: June 2018

Liz Cooper and the Stampede, and Travis Denning are among the 10 new country and Americana artists you need to hear this month.

Liz Cooper & The Stampede; Eric Brown

The indie-country of Liz Cooper and the Stampede, the New Wave country of Tyler Dial and a fake ID cherished by Travis Denning all figure into this month’s list of the 10 new country and Americana artists you need to hear right now.

Carolina Story

Laura Partain

Carolina Story

Sounds Like: Sonny & Cher meets Whiskeytown

For Fans of: Whiskeytown, Shovels & Rope, Emmylou Harris and pretty much any talented dude she’s ever sung with

Why You Should Pay Attention: Have we mentioned that this married duo sounds like Whiskeytown? It’s a comparison they’re flattered by, having recently taken part in a Stranger’s Almanac tribute show at Nashville’s Basement East. Ben and Emily Roberts nearly called it quits at one point, but thought better of it, playing gigs at a handful of nursing homes to keep their calendar full. “You could tell they were dancing on the inside” when Carolina Story covered “Folsom Prison Blues,” Ben says of his elderly audience. The band’s full-length debut, Lay Your Head Down (out July 13th), is a collection of mature, introspective love songs.

They Say: The couple has two young children and enjoy a shared sense of humor born of parenthood – Emily thinks pedal steel would be the hardest instrument to play while toting a kid around simultaneously, while Ben argues the fiddle would pose the most difficulty. “You’d have to sort of set your elbow on the baby’s head,” he says, “[but] maybe it’s easier at that point.” A burly individual who used to play and coach football, Ben also thinks New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady would be the NFL player who’d most easily transition to a career in country music due to his “schoolboy look.” If he could prepare a meal for any country musician, dead or alive, he’d serve over-easy eggs with ketchup for Hank Williams. Emily? “Pancakes with maple syrup and sugar for Gram Parsons.”

Hear for Yourself: Tender, wistful and set to a languid rhythm, “We Were Young Once Too” is a candid take on ripened love where sweet barely overcomes sour. M.S.

Phil Cook

Phil Cook

Sounds Like: New Orleans second-line meets Appalachian moonshine and winds up in church, with ample love and happiness all around.

For Fans of: the Band, Ry Cooder, Allen Toussaint, Randy Newman, pure joy

Why You Should Pay Attention: Based on his warm and funky blue-eyed soul, you’d never guess that Cook originally hails from the frigid reaches of Wisconsin. But the South becomes him. Since decamping to North Carolina more than a decade ago, Cook has worked with everyone from Blind Boys of Alabama to Bon Iver while also becoming a key cog in Hiss Golden Messenger’s sprawling Americana collective. He puts the connections to good use on his second full-length solo album, People Are My Drug, which finds the sideman front and center on a super-session featuring numerous guests – like Mandolin Orange’s Andrew Marlin and Amelia Meath, chanteuse of Grammy-nominated electronic-folk duo Sylvan Esso. Still, the star of the show is Cook’s backup band the Guitarheels. He’ll be showing off the album on select headline dates across America this summer, in between tours with Hiss Golden Messenger.

He Says: Cook describes his native state as “a place where if you don’t get a hobby, you get a habit.” Music became both for him, especially after the move south. “I’ve gone through enough things over and over to figure out [that] if I keep following the music, heart and gut above all else, everything will work out. I’m not playing the kind of music where I’m ever gonna get ‘big.’ I don’t want a ‘hit,’ which would throw a lot of weirdness into my life. I’d rather build it up through word of mouth, fan by fan, room by room, day by day. All my favorite bands that are actually happy have created a universe where people can feel comfortable being a part of it.”

Hear for Yourself: “Miles Away,” a soulful duet with Meath, works a subdued vibe similar to Bill Withers’ 1971 classic “Ain’t No Sunshine.” D.M.

Hannah Ellis

Preston Leatherman

Hannah Ellis

Sounds Like: Forward-thinking country-pop delivered by a songwriter unafraid to draw from today’s musical trends

For Fans of: Jillian Jacqueline, Maren Morris, spontaneous declarations of love

Why You Should Pay Attention: The best country songs parlay our deepest thoughts and emotions into a relatable three minutes and change. Which is why the tracks on Hannah Ellis’ self-titled debut EP, released last fall, succeed. With just over 1.8 million Spotify streams collectively, the songs on the project look at the evolution of both a person and a relationship in reverse. “My EP is laid out in a bit of a retrospective order. It starts with ‘Temporary Feeling’ and ‘ILYSoWhat,’ both written about my current relationship,” says Ellis, “and works its way backwards to where I was before.”

She Says: “[“ILYSoWhat”] was written after my now boyfriend and I had gone to a wedding together, when we were still in the ‘friend zone.’ Afterwards, we went to Robert’s [honky-tonk] on Broadway and I nonchalantly turned to him and told him I was in love with him, and he smiled and said, ‘I know’ and we just went on with the night.”

Hear for Yourself: With Ellis’s vocals soaring over a heavy pop groove supported by hip-hop hi-hats, “ILYSoWhat” is a contemporary ode to the slow burn of a relationship. L.L.

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