Songwriting and production defined country music and its Americana cousin in 2021. Artists like Mickey Guyton, Carly Pearce, and Joshua Ray Walker weren’t afraid to get personal, writing about their respective experiences with discrimination, divorce, and dads. Sturgill Simpson, meanwhile, came up with a revenge narrative for a concept LP set during the Civil War. And James McMurtry made the case for being America’s best living songwriter with a record of detail-rich character studies.
Behind the console, mainstream stars like Dan + Shay and Old Dominion created lush soundscapes. Eric Church challenged his longtime producer and band by asking them to record in a shuttered restaurant in North Carolina. Miranda Lambert pushed the needle too, cutting an entire album with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall outside on the West Texas plains.
Finally, stellar debuts by Guyton, Allison Russell, Elvie Shane, Lainey Wilson, and Morgan Wade introduced new writing voices and studio sonics — providing reassuring proof that country music is evolving and making room for more diverse voices.