10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: October 2018 - Rolling Stone
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10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: October 2018

Bastian Baker, Lauren Morrow, J.S. Ondara and more artists to hear this month

Bastian Baker, Lauren Morrow

Bastian Baker and Lauren Morrow are among the 10 new country and Americana artists you need to hear this month.

A Swiss country star who toured with Shania Twain, the onetime singer for Americana rock band the Whiskey Gentry and a Kenyan singer-songwriter with a fresh take on the American experience make up our list of artists you need to hear this month.

Katie Pruitt

Katie Pruitt

Sounds Like: A soulful, acrobatic vocalist with a strong sense of melody and even stronger knack for crafting an affecting narrative

For Fans of: Brandi Carlile, Elise Davis, Jillian Jacqueline

Why You Should Pay Attention: Katie Pruitt doesn’t have a proper studio release yet, but the Nashville-based singer-songwriter has already developed a following with her OurVinyl Live EP, which features five original songs recorded live before a small audience. Tracks like “Grace Has a Gun,” which grapples with the devastating effects of an emotionally abusive partner, and “Loving Her,” a soaring declaration of LGBT pride, show Pruitt to be a true triple threat with pitch-perfect vocals, smartly crafted lyrics and crunchy, roots-rock guitar. Pruitt’s appearance at this year’s AmericanaFest, which she describes to Rolling Stone Country as being an “incredible” experience, caught the ears of outlets like NPR — further proof that Pruitt’s star will only rise higher.

She Says: “‘Loving Her’ was one of those songs that fell out of me in under an hour. Not only had I wrestled with the concept before, but it was also backed by a lot of very real life experience. I grew up as a closeted gay girl in Georgia. Born into a religious family and sent to Catholic school for the first half of my life, I was taught many things were a sin, and being gay was one of them. Let’s just say it wasn’t an easy adjustment to come to terms with the inevitable. It was just a genuine response to everyone who ever told me I was wrong for loving someone.”

Hear for Yourself: On “Loving Her,” Pruitt echoes both the melodic agility and vulnerable storytelling of Brandi Carlile, opening the track with the gut-punch of a lyric, “If loving her’s a sin, I don’t wanna go to heaven.” B.M.

kristina murray

Kristina Murray

Sounds Like: Country-rock with a deep, poetic reverence for the land in which it was born; Kim Richey covering John Moreland’s “Sallisaw Blue”

For Fans of: Kelsey Waldon, Jason Isbell, Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball

Why You Should Pay Attention: Raised in Atlanta, Kristina Murray followed a love of bluegrass to the mountains of Colorado, where she spent years honing her skills in the local honky-tonks and dive bars despite a Georgian’s disdain for the cold and snow. A little over four years ago she made the transition to Nashville’s warmer pastures, and quickly found her way in the independent country scene, spending time at Derek Hoke’s $2 Tuesday at the 5 Spot and eventually the Honky Tonk Tuesday’s at East Nashville’s American Legion. It was there she “made a community” out of fellow artists like Waldon and Michaela Anne and wrote songs that dug deep into the Southern experience. On her sophomore LP, Southern Ambrosia, Murray continues this exploration with an ear finely tuned to the details of life below the Mason-Dixon: she highlights the every day glories, the long-standing traditions and the tainted pasts, too.

She Says:  “I didn’t set out to write that kind of record, but when we looked at all the songs together, it was threaded like that,” Murray says about the unique ways that Southern Ambrosia brings to life the intricacies of the modern Southern experience. “I was born and raised in Atlanta, which is the heartbeat of the South for so many reasons. Those tropes about being Southern that harken back to the big lie that we learned in school about ‘The War of Northern Aggression,’ that’s all changing. We have this beautiful new south that is really diverse and different and not playing to the old stereotypes.

Hear for Yourself: “Forged out of red clay and Georgia rain,” she sings on “Made in America,” Southern Ambrosia’s opener that sets the tone with her smooth quiver and inquisitive strum. “I learned how to fight and drink and pray. And live right through the pain.” M.M.

James Carothers

Courtesy of 117 Entertainment

James Carothers

Sounds Like: A soundtrack for the grand tour that celebrates classic country’s history of rowdy crooners and sentimental outlaws

For Fans of: George Jones, Waylon Jennings, Sturgill Simpson

Why You Should Pay Attention: While it could be said that James Carothers got a bit of a late jump on his music career — he kicked things off at the age of 33 — he’s more than made up for any lost time by logging in over a thousand shows throughout a variety of downtown Nashville haunts. Most nights, Carothers can be found holding court at the George Jones Museum, a gig for which he was personally hired for by the Possum’s widow Nancy. After releasing his debut EP Honky Tonk Land in 2014 and his first full-length album Relapse in 2017, Carothers decided to honor Jones’s legendary catalog this year with a pitch-perfect tribute album called Still Country, Still King. The set of 10 heartfelt covers was released this past September and landed at Number 16 on the iTunes Country Chart. Earlier this year, Carothers won the 2018 WSM Road Show Live Finale, earning him the opportunity to make his Grand Ole Opry debut with Alan Jackson at an upcoming show. Carothers is prepping an album of original material to be released early next year that he describes as being “more akin to George Strait or Alan Jackson.”

He Says: When explaining his reasons for recording a George Jones tribute album, Carothers is unabashed in his admiration for the legend: “When I started picking guitar and singing all the time, I realized that George Jones was the best country singer. His music is inspiring to me because it’s old soul music. Even when he recorded it, it was already traditional country music. The thing that I learned through recording this tribute album is that George Jones’ voice was so good that it attracted the best songwriters, musicians, and producers for an incredible span of 50 years.”

Hear for Yourself: From its opening lyric “There’s hip-hop beats at the Opry, I’d never thought I’d see the day,” Carothers’ honky-tonk testimonial “Back to Hank” pulls no punches as it simultaneously pines for the sound of solid country gold and propels it into the present day. W.H.

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