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10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: Spring 2015

From the next (early) Taylor Swift to a hard-rocking, guitar-shredding duo

Clare Dunn and Chase Bryant

Guitar shredders Clare Dunn and Chase Bryant are new country artists to watch in 2015.

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The guitar resonates loudly in Rolling Stone Country's spring installment of Artists You Need to Know. There's a farm-girl-turned-country-rocker who would give Keith Urban a run for his money; a high-haired young gun on tour with Tim McGraw; a shredding Americana duo with a T Bone Burnett-produced debut; and a mother-and-son group — yes, mother and son — who blend howling blues with acoustic picking. The artists who don't play make up for it by having monster voices. Here are the 10 new country artists you absolutely have to hear right now. 

Cam

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Cam

Sounds Like: A Nineties-influenced country songwriter with a sweet voice and a sunny disposition, supported by high-profile pop producers Jeff Bhasker and Tyler Johnson

For Fans of: Lady Antebellum, David Nail, the Band Perry

Why You Should Pay Attention: The Lafayette, California, native used Kickstarter to finance her debut album, which attracted the attention of Arista Nashville. Although she grew up in the Bay Area, Cam's favorite memories come from her beloved grandparents' ranch in Southern California. She sang the subdued "Burning House" at the request of Emmylou Harris at the All for the Hall benefit concert in Los Angeles last year.

She Says: "I grew up singing in a lot of different languages and a lot of world music choirs, so I have a lot of musical influences. But the songwriting structure of country music is the standard in my mind," insists Cam, who shortened her given name of Camaron Marvel Ochs to reflect her friendly, approachable personality. "That structure seems to feel the most homey to me."

Hear for Yourself: Cam's exuberant debut single "My Mistake" isn't as sweet as it sounds — it's actually a damn-the-consequences night-out anthem, pushed along by a healthy dose of devilish sass. By Craig Shelburne

John Moreland

INDIO, CA - APRIL 25: Singer John Moreland performs in the Toyota tent during day 2 of the Stagecoach Music Festival at The Empire Polo Club on April 25, 2015 in Indio, California. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/FilmMagic)

Scott Dudelson/FilmMagic

John Moreland

Sounds Like: Rainy day tributes to life, loss and loneliness in Middle America, sung by a road dog who's all too familiar with heartbreak

For Fans of: Steve Earle, Ryan Culwell, John Fullbright

Why You Should Pay Attention: Recorded in his parents' garage outside of Tulsa, High on Tulsa Heat — Moreland's third record — finds the strange beauty in down-in-the-dumps proclamations like "I'm so damn good at sorrow." He is good at it, particularly during his live shows, where he foregoes the group of folk-rock Okies who appear on the album and, instead, takes the stage alone. Country stars have always made beer-drinking music, but Moreland's sad-eyed songs push you to drain your glass in commiseration, not celebration. 

He Says: Moreland wrote his new album during gaps in a busy tour schedule. "It's about having this love/hate thing with your hometown, then leaving and going on tour," he explains. "You come back home and realize you don't really have a home to go back to."

Hear for Yourself: A live favorite for years, "Cherokee" makes its studio debut on Tulsa Heat, mixing melody and melancholy into the sort of ballad that can silence a bar. By Andrew Leahey

Caroline Spence

Marge Curtis

Caroline Spence

Sounds Like: A feather-light voice that evokes the best singers of the Lilith Fair era 

For Fans of: Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, Ashley Monroe

Why You Should Pay Attention: The Virginia native's wistful, often heartbreaking, tunes about relationships have already garnered several prizes, including the esteemed Kerrville Folk Festival songwriting contest and American Songwriter magazine's 2013 lyric competition. And for good reason: The songs on Spence's debut release, the stripped-down, beautiful Somehow, delivered in her haunting, gossamer-winged voice, capture life's fragility, while celebrating our humanity.

She Says: "When I moved to Nashville, I focused on songwriting and only started performing because that was a way to put my songs out there," she recalls. "The artist thing grew out of that. I realized there was a chemistry there and that I could quiet a room with my tiny, little voice."

Hear for Yourself: On the elegiac "Trains Cry," Spence puts words to the lonesome feeling of being in a constant state of just passing through. "The beauty of what I get to do is I get to meet people and see all these new places," she says, "but the hard part is you only get to be there 24 hours." By Melinda Newman

Clare Dunn

INDIO, CA - APRIL 25: Singer Clare Dunn performs onstage during day 2 of the Stagecoach Music Festival at The Empire Polo Club on April 25, 2015 in Indio, California. (Photo by Scott Dudelson/FilmMagic)

Scott Dudelson/FilmMagic

Clare Dunn

Sounds Like: Keith Urban, if Keith were a woman and played guitar in the Rolling Stones

For Fans of: Urban, Frankie Ballard, Bonnie Raitt

Why You Should Pay Attention: If 2015 truly turns out to be country's Year of the Woman, then Clare Dunn will supply the girl power. A ferocious guitar player more in line with Page than Paisley, the Colorado ranch worker and one-time big-rig driver is absolutely magnetic onstage. Whether she's opening for Bob Seger in an arena full of classic-rock fans or entertaining the bros on the Florida Georgia Line cruise, Dunn knows how to work any crowd.

She Says: "It's important to know whom you are playing for. If I feel I need to tailor my set, I do it, and if I don't, I just rock on," explains Dunn, who was shaped by her mother's love of George Strait, Waylon Jennings and the Eagles, and her dad's R&B record collection. "I was very much into all that, and the Rolling Stones were a huge influence for me. But if it was music and I thought it was good, I listened to it. There was no picking and choosing, especially driving a tractor — you just listen to whatever radio station you can tune in."

Hear for Yourself: The end-of-the-work-week release "Get Out" showcases both Dunn's husky vocals and sizzling guitar playing. By Joseph Hudak

Chase Bryant

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Chase Bryant

Sounds Like: The easy-going swagger of Eighties pop rock tossed with the melodicism and storytelling of country, filtered through a Millennial's mindset of a world still full of possibility

For Fans of: Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Hunter Hayes

Why You Should Pay Attention: Music is in Bryant's blood: His grandpa played piano for Waylon Jennings, Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly, and his uncles were in Nineties hitmakers Ricochet. But Bryant's his own man, musically. The 22-year old Texan learned quickly to "always make your own stamp. I wanted to create a shadow of my own instead of living in someone else's." With his sense of melody and fiery guitar playing, he's blazing his own path — right into the opening slot on Tim McGraw's summer tour.

He Says: "Records that were around me growing up were Fleetwood Mac, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ray Charles. Music from the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies," Bryant says, which may explain his music's expansive appeal. "But country music was where I found lyrically that I fit in. No one said you have to wear a cowboy hat to play country; you just have to tell the truth."

Hear for Yourself: The nostalgia-laden "Take It on Back" from Bryant's self-titled debut EP is a prime example of pop-country done right, all high harmonies and repetitive choruses. By Melinda Newman