10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: November 2016 - Rolling Stone
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10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: November 2016

From a honky-tonk troubadour with a soaring Orbison voice to an ‘Urban Cowboy’ country trio

10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: November 2016

Joshua Hedley and the trio Midland are two new country artists you need to know for November.

(left) Laura E. Partain; Harper Smith

An Americana singer with an endorsement from Huey Lewis, two multi-instrumentalists with country-radio in their sights and a pair of trios  – one male, one female – highlight this month's installment of new country and Americana artists you need to hear. 

Shane Owens

Courtesy Webster PR

Shane Owens

Sounds Like: A long-lost member of the Class of '89

For Fans of: Randy Travis, Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks

Why You Should Pay Attention: With a pure-country baritone and a stubborn love of timeless, gravel-road themes, Alabama native Shane Owens has been waiting on his big break for a damn long time. It may have finally arrived with his new album, Where I’m Coming From (out December 9th), if for no other reason than the big names throwing their weight into Owens' corner. John Anderson appears on a renewed version of the clucky "Chicken Truck," which has been picked up by Sirius XM's Outlaw Country channel. Meanwhile, Randy Travis makes a rare cameo in Owens' video for the easy-going "Country Never Goes Out of Style," even going so far as to tell Owens point blank, "You're good." Travis is also the executive producer of Where I’m Coming From, backing the play of another industry vet: producer James Stroud (Tim McGraw, Clint Black, Chris Young).

He Says: "People may not realize it, but this is my third record deal. Some people portray me as a new artist, but truth be told, I've been doing this a long time and have had my share of lumps and pains in this business. It's part of the process just like anything else. It's going through those hard times that have really shaped me in to who I am today. I simply love what I do and I've learned in life you can't quit, no matter how hard it is. I've come too far to throw in the towel now.”

Hear for Yourself: "Country Never Goes Out of Style" takes no offense to the world's ever-changing ways – it's just a bright and breezy reminder that some things have never required an update. C.P.


Harper Smith


Sounds Like: Cleverly blending Seventies California country with Eighties crossover vocal groups, Midland are a Friday-night back-porch guitar pull where everyone knows the songs and isn't afraid to sing along

For Fans of: George Strait, Eagles, Glen Campbell, honky-tonk karaoke

Why You Should Pay Attention: Three words: Solid. Country. Gold. The chemistry between bassist Cameron Duddy, lead singer Mark Wystrach and guitarist Jess Carson is undeniable – both to fans who discover them and to the members themselves, who jammed for the first time at Duddy's wedding. Named after Dwight Yoakam's song "Fair to Midland," the band captures harmony-rich, California country on their new self-titled EP for Big Machine Records. The trio recently finished up a run of shows opening for two of their heroes, Yoakam and Willie Nelson, and will hit the road with labelmate Aaron Lewis in January.

They Say: "[Outlaw country singer] Gary Stewart is a huge influence on our sound. He made being down and out sound appealing with a shooting-dice-in-the-alley behind the honky-tonk, devil-may-care effortlessness," says Wystrach. "The three of us got on stage together for the first time at a 'talent show' during the rehearsal dinner for Duddy's wedding. However, it was the bonding, fighting, drinking, writing and crying that took place during our first studio sessions at El Paso's Sonic Ranch that crystallized us as a band."

Hear for Yourself: "Drinkin' Problem" rolls along on a slinky barroom shuffle as if it's coming straight out of a neon-lit jukebox circa 1978. W.H.

Joshua Hedley

Laura E. Partain

Joshua Hedley

Sounds Like: Marty Robbins, Ray Price, Roy Orbison

For Fans of: Merle Haggard, Sturgill Simpson, the Sixties golden era of country music

Why You Should Pay Attention: Pound for pound, there's no better unsigned artist working in Nashville today. A nuanced, heart-tugging fiddle ace – he was playing in bars before age 11 – Hedley has been the go-to sideman for Justin Townes Earle and Jonny Fritz. And his voice – he guests on the new track "Shadows" by Southern rapper Yelawolf – is just as striking, a warm, smooth baritone that's nonetheless capable of hitting honky-tonk highs. As such, Hedley has become a fixture of the bars on Lower Broadway, particularly the classic-country outpost Robert's Western World, which he calls "my spot forever, no matter what happens." Should Jack White be looking to sign the male counterpart to Margo Price, he needn't look any further.

He Says: "So many of my contemporaries dabble in a classic sound but there's always some sort of new innovative twist. My new innovative twist is that there isn't one. It's important to exercise your creative muscles, but for me the genre of country music was perfected in 1965 and anything after that, albeit good, was experimentation. When it comes to making country music, my mantra is, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'"

Hear for Yourself: "Don't Waste Your Tears," off Hedley's upcoming EP (a record he made for his father, who died two years ago), is a cry-in-your-beer breakup ballad with a soaring chorus. J.H.

Seth Ennis

Courtesy Arista Nashville

Seth Ennis

Sounds Like: A lovelorn, multi-instrumentalist phenom influenced equally by Vince Gill and Boyz II Men

For Fans of: Hunter Hayes, Billy Currington, Justin Bieber in ballad mode

Why You Should Pay Attention: Ennis penned his debut single "Woke Up in Nashville" with David Hodges and Blair Daly, a true-to-life account of his move to town. But Ennis, signed to Arista Nashville, has also written with Liz Rose and Nathan Chapman (on Tyler Farr's new single "Our Town"), two writers with a gift for pop crossover, which Ennis approaches wholeheartedly: his live sets often include a medley of hits from the Killers, Fall Out Boy and Blink-182. He also says he writes rap music as well as country. "I love writing different sounding songs," he notes. "There's no limitations on what you can do."

He Says: "I wanted to play CMA Fest really badly after my first year in town. I didn't have a booking agency or a record label that could get me on a show like that, but I saw this advertisement for a Bud Light Battle of the Bands, and the winner got to play one of the stages at CMA Fest. We entered the competition and our application got denied. The day before, they called and said, 'We had a band drop out, can you guys still do it?' It was just one of those crazy Nashville right-place-right-time stories. There was a label executive having a beer with a friend from college, there was an agent in there watching another act, and my producer now, Corey Crowder, was there judging the thing for free beer. We played and we ended up winning. I couldn't have written it better myself."

Hear for Yourself: "Woke Up in Nashville" builds slowly but surely, blossoming from solo piano lament to an immaculately produced, full-band bit of soft rock, with Ennis playing every instrument on the session. E.L.

Colter Wall

Kevin Mazur/GettyImages

Colter Wall

Sounds Like: The rough-hewn rumblings of a 21 year-old Canadian millennial armed with the weathered voice, writing chops and bushy facial hair of his 1970s country favorites

For Fans of: Steve Earle, Dylan LeBlanc, Parker Milsap

Why You Should Pay Attention: Raised in the Saskatchewan prairieland, Wall makes lonely, wind-blown country music that's as lovely and rural-sounding as his hometown. He's already made a dent in the States, too, opening for Lucinda Williams at the Ryman Auditorium and receiving a standing ovation from Steve Earle during a recent appearance at Nashville's Skyville Live. The biggest splash may be yet to come, though, with Wall's full-length debut – a raw, minimalist record, with production by Dave Cobb – due out in mid-2017.

He Says: "I'm living in Kentucky now, and a lot of the people I meet will say, 'Hey man, I didn't even know Canadians listened to country music.' But the reality is, if you're in a rural community, it doesn't matter where you're at. Country music is country music. People in Minnesota love Waylon just as much as people in West Virginia. It's a lifestyle kind of thing. It's universal."

Hear for Yourself: Wall strums, stomps and shudders his way through this live version of "Kate McCannon," a moody murder ballad that'll make an appearance on next year's album. A.L.

Hudson Moore

Dove Shore

Hudson Moore

Sounds Like: One of those road-trip radio sweet spots where two great stations – in this case, modern country and Top 40 pop – weave in and out to create a unique sonic hybrid

For Fans of: Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, John Mayer, guitar-fueled twang-pop

Why You Should Pay Attention: Moore is a talented multi-threat who co-wrote every song and played 11 different instruments on his most recent album Getaway, out this past summer. Tracks "Might As Well" and "Some Are" have been released as singles, with the latter's music video garnering significant fan support on CMT. While Moore has shared the stage with Alan Jackson, Rascal Flatts, ZZ Top and Gary Clark Jr., his most recent set of shows found him opening for Martina McBride, Thompson Square and Cassadee Pope on the Band Against Cancer: The Sarah Cannon Tour. 

He Says: "In the studio, playing the majority of the instruments is a very rewarding – but tedious – process. I spend a lot of time layering instruments, crafting guitar parts, playing solos and doing mandolin, piano and banjo overdubs. It's a marathon trying to get everything down the way I hear it in my head, but it's always a fun process to build a song from the ground up and watch it grow. My producer [Dwight Baker] and I really set out to make this album as authentic and real as possible. We purposefully left in little imperfections to give it that real, human feeling that you only get from watching a live show. That's the magic we wanted to capture."

Hear for Yourself: "Might As Well" is a radio-ready anthem that sneaks up on you with an intoxicating instrumental pulse, before leaving its mark with a scorching guitar solo. W.H.

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