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10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: November 2018

From the socially conscious folk of Rachel Baiman to the dynamic string-band sound of Martha Spencer

Rachel Baiman, Martha Spencer, new country artists

Rachel Baiman and Martha Spencer are among the 10 new country and Americana artists you need to know.

Gina Binkley; Christy Baird

Modern-country songwriter Nick Wayne, rockabilly vet Kim Lenz and garage-country outfit the Craig Brown Band are among the 10 new country and Americana artists you need to hear now.

Stephen Kellogg

Stephen Kellogg

Sounds Like: A golden hour snapshot of a shared road trip with your favorite person beside you

For Fans of: Tom Petty, Ryan Adams, Nebraska-era Springsteen

Why You Should Pay Attention: Although Stephen Kellogg has released 10 albums and played over 1500 shows over the last decade, the vast majority of his career has been as a front man for his band the Sixers. However, with this month’s release of his new solo album Objects in the Mirror, Kellogg is poised to introduce himself as a singer-songwriter who can replicate the power and electricity of a full band with only his voice and guitar. Produced by Americana rocker Will Hoge and quickly recorded in just a single week in Nashville, Objects in the Mirror captures the talent, spontaneity and humanity of Kellogg’s songwriting and presents it in a soulful, folk-rock packaging that is refreshingly free of pretense and studio polishing. In another new move for the artist, Kellogg wrote a book of companion essays called Objects in the Mirror: A Storyteller’s Take on What Matters Most that will be released next year. Kellogg is currently on a solo headlining tour that runs through the end of December and will then embark on a full-band tour next March.

He Says: “I play music to articulate the contents of my heart and in order to do that, I need to be able to approach it conversationally,” he says of the “live in the room” recording process used for the album. “If one were to try to have a conversation in bits and pieces, it would feel pretty fragmented. I’ve found the same is true with my music. In cutting all the songs live and keeping the vocal passes unedited, we allowed for something I can recognize as myself — flawed, but real.”

Hear for Yourself: The slow-burn heartland rock of “High Highs, Low Lows” unfolds like John Prine fronting the Heartbreakers with Kellogg’s relaxed vocal delivery and just enough pedal steel and piano to strike the sonic sweet spot. W.H.  

senora may

Senora May

Sounds Like: A mountain music version of Feist’s “Gatekeeper” with the occasional flute

For Fans of: Cat Power, Bright Eyes, Lucinda Williams

Why You Should Pay Attention: Growing up in Kentucky as one of six children, Senora May informed her musical identity through both the native sounds of her home state and everything from Tracy Chapman and Natalie Merchant to Led Zeppelin. Now living in an off-the-grid homestead where she spends her days hauling buckets of water, her debut LP, Lainhart, shows why it’s never worthwhile to make assumptions based on where someone might be from or how they live. Although she uses the tools of Appalachia to create a lush folk landscape, her breed of sonic inquisitiveness feels more about finding the universal within the personal and less about a particular sense of place. Fittingly, much of Lainhart is about refusing to be what we’re expected — from the point of view of a woman who grew up defining her identity around a slew of brothers; to one in love but not willing to lose herself; to one from the holler who looks to Beyoncé as a main source of inspiration. “It’s a borderline dangerous obsession,” she says of her Beyoncé fandom. “But I think it’s remarkable how she’s kept control of every situation after being in the limelight for so long.”

She Says: “My dad always chose the boys to do stuff, and I always wanted to be a boy because of how much recognition they got,” says May, who worked through that concept in songs like “Female” and the album’s title track, where she explores what women are conditioned to give up when they get married. “I tried to capture those sides,” she says. “From the raising I had, from the more independent side from my mom, and then growing up and finding myself and my sexual power. That’s another reason I adore Beyoncé: she’s so comfortable with that side of herself, but it’s all for her art.”

Hear for Yourself: Keith Urban may have tried (and, arguably, failed) to capture the spirit of women on his “Female,” but May’s “Female” truly hones in on the balance between power, sexuality and the ability to let go of the definitions and road maps placed on women from the pink-colored cradle and on. “You say I’m just so pretty, you say I look real small, I ought to be at home pinned against the wall,” she sings to a soulful shuffle, her voice rolling to wistful highs. M.M.

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