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FarmBorough 2015: 11 Must-See Acts

The hitmakers and budding stars who are sure to do country music proud in the Big Apple this weekend

Kip Moore and Mickey Guyton

Kip Moore and Mickey Guyton

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Dierks Bentley, Luke Bryan and Brad Paisley will headline FarmBorough 2015, drawing up to 50,000 fans to New York's Randall's Island this Friday through Sunday. It's the city's first-ever major country music festival, coming on the heels of a wave of Big Apple success for the genre. In 2013, Nash FM became New York City's first country radio station in more than 17 years, and acts including Bryan, Miranda Lambert and Eric Church have since sold out major venues in the area.

As we get ready for country music to finally dominate the New York, New York soundtrack this weekend, here are the 11 acts worth ferrying (or subwaying) over early to catch before the headliners.

Mickey Guyton

ATLANTA, GA - APRIL 12: Country Recording Artist Mickey Guyton performs at the UNCF An Evening Of Stars Show at Boisfeuillet Jones Atlanta Civic Center on April 12, 2015 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Earl Gibson III/WireImage)

Earl Gibson III/WireImage

Mickey Guyton

Mickey Guyton has been catching ears with her breakout hit "Better Than You Left Me," and getting fans into their seats early on Brad Paisley's Crushin' It World Tour, once they hear that Carrie Underwood–like vocal range blasting from the speakers. She'll look to do the same at FarmBorough with an early set Saturday afternoon on the main stage. With a comfortable presence onstage despite her newcomer status, Guyton looks confident and sounds even better. Paisley seems to know that, too, so he's been having her cover Alison Krauss' part in "Whiskey Lullaby" during his concerts (and hopefully will do the same this weekend).

Randy Houser

DENVER, CO - JUNE 06: Singer/Songwriter Randy Houser performs at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on June 6, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Allison Farden/Getty Images)

Allison Farden/Getty Images

Randy Houser

Randy Houser has proven himself as a country singer capable of cranking out hits — his last four singles have been Top Fives, with three landing at Number One – but his true strengths lie onstage. Whether it's a one-foot-tall riser in a tiny club (like when "Boots On" came out) or a stadium for Luke Bryan's Kick the Dust Up Tour, Houser is a natural performer with a commanding voice. He’s able to place fans inside each song, seeming to turn his soul inside out for weepers such as "Anything Goes," then flip 180-degrees for a bouncy summer anthem like "Runnin' Outta Moonlight." With a new album on the way and the project's fast-talking, Bonnie and Clyde-inspired first single, "We Went" already out, who knows what kind of journey the Mississippi native has in store for the FarmBorough crowd when he hits the main stage Sunday night.

Sturgill Simpson

Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Firefly

Sturgill Simpson

There aren't many acts that can play Bonnaroo and FarmBorough and seem equally at home at both, but Sturgill Simpson manages to straddle the line between country purist and indie sensation, all while singing with one of the most traditional twangs in the game about some of the most atypical subjects (metaphysics, LSD, unapologetically romantic love with no bro in sight). That gives him an enormous amount of room to play when it comes to his live shows, which dabble in psychedelic riffs and trippy jams as much as homegrown hoedowns and Western swing, all centered around a first-class backing band.

Dwight Yoakam

Paul R. Giunta/WireImage

Dwight Yoakam

Like punk-rock icons the Ramones did, country renegade Dwight Yoakam tends to speed through his live shows, churning out so many hits and album tracks you'll swear you just heard him play everything he's ever recorded – and then some. With 30 years worth of exceptional material to choose from, including the outstanding Second Hand Heart LP released in April, that's not really possible, but you can bank on him making the most of his allotted time. Here's hoping his set includes the Kentucky native's barn-burning version of "Man of Constant Sorrow." Bluegrass, it ain't.

Wade Bowen

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 24: L/R: Randy Rogers & Wade Bowen "Hold my Beer" Album Release Party at City Winery Nashville on March 24, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Rick Diamond/Getty Images

Wade Bowen

New York City and Texas might not always see eye to eye, but Wade Bowen will likely convince a few fans at FarmBorough to jump on board the Red Dirt bandwagon. Born in the dance halls of Texas and Oklahoma, Red Dirt country has its own universe of stars totally separate from the mainstream, usually favoring lyrical substance and tradition over the flavor of the moment. Bowen is a standard bearer of the scene with more than a decade of constant touring under his belt. Relying on the tried-and-true sound of husky vocals, electric guitars and a cranked-up bass, getting an unfamiliar crowd grooving is just another day at the office for him. Leaning on lyrics that mix sincerity and real-life experience with humor and smart turns of phrase, listeners will still get songs about good-timing and hell-raising, but they might also hear about why Saturday nights suck or the honest reality of postpartum depression.

Maddie and Tae

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Maddie and Tae

Given their debut album is still forthcoming, most everyone in the audience during Maddie and Tae's set will be there primarily to sing along with every witty word to the duo's breakthrough, bro-shaming debut single, "Girl in a Country Song." Fair enough. But they'll stick around because they're captivated by the 19-year-old singers' exquisite harmonies, heard on songs such as the inspiring "Fly" and "After the Storm Blows Through," which sounds like it very well could be an old Emmylou Harris–Dolly Parton duet. They've already proven wiser than their years in the songwriting sense, and seeing Maddie and Tae live proves their timeless performance style, as well.