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10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: March 2017

From a soulful vocalist who evokes John Mayer to the fiddle-playing protégée of Jack White

An anonymous country shtick-kicker, the son of a late cowboy legend and the fiddle player whose latest album was produced by Jack White make up this month’s installment of new country and Americana artists you need to hear right now.

Joshua James

Joshua James

Sounds Like: Heartland folk with a dark edge, like Bright Eyes reimagined for the Americana set

For Fans of: Andrew Combs, Conor Oberst, Joe Purdy

Why You Should Pay Attention: Joshua James has been making thoughtful, unorthodox folk music for over a decade now. The Lincoln, Nebraska-born artist, who splits his time between his home state and American Fork, Utah, first gained attention with 2008’s The Sun Is Always Brighter, and has released a series of increasingly ambitious albums since. His forthcoming album My Spirit Sister, out later this year, is his rootsiest yet, though not without the philosophical, cerebral lyrics for which James has come to be known. It’s a record that poses a lot of questions – and more often than not, the beauty of the music is answer enough.

He Says: “Do you know that place between sanity and mindlessness? The sentiment of ‘Pretty Feather’ came from that location. ‘Pretty Feather’ is a blurry collection of feelings and frustrations amounting to a song that describes something I can hardly recall. It’s Stockholm Syndrome: when you are in a relationship where you are so entangled and indebted to the person that no matter what the other does to you, you don’t want to see them go.”

Hear for Yourself: The folky jangle of “Pretty Feather” is offset by ominous electric guitar stabs, creating a musical tension that reflects the tenuous relationship in the lyrics. B.M.