10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: December 2017 - Rolling Stone
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10 New Country Artists You Need to Know: December 2017

From a Dwight Yoakam protégé to an Australian singer-songwriter proficient in outlaw twang-rock

A Dwight Yoakam cowpunk protégé with a Morrissey voice; an Australian singer who mixes outlaw attitude with Americana soul; and a hard rock-country badass with the best song about a watering hole since Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar” make up this month’s 10 new country and Americana artists you need to hear right now.

Country Artist to know for December 2017

Emily Joyce

King Leg

Sounds Like: If the Smiths grew up in the Nineties, had a sense of humor and were fronted by Roy Orbison

For Fans of: Dwight Yoakam, indie alt-country and, yep, Orbison and the Smiths

What You Should Pay Attention: A native of Omaha, Nebraska, Bryan Joyce grew up wanting to be a clown, admiring funnymen like Jerry Lewis and Jim Carrey. Though he played music as a teenager, he arrived in Nashville with a plan to attend med school, with music taking a back seat for several years. A stint working concessions at the Ryman Auditorium helped kindle a love for classic country, which became a noticeable influence on Joyce’s rock & roll roots when he moved to Los Angeles in 2016 and got serious once more about performing. King Leg, named for a cockroach he’d once found under his couch, became a vehicle for channeling his various interests, mixing mod style with a campy, tongue-in-cheek sensibility. The band’s debut LP, Meet King Leg, was co-produced by Dwight Yoakam — whom Joyce had met while waiting tables in Music City — and released in October by Sire Records.

He Says: “I actually grew up avoiding country music. I wasn’t interested in it at all. When I moved to Nashville, I knew country was a big part of the town, but I was planning on looking for other rock players,” Joyce says. “[King Leg] is kind of an amalgamation of everything that’s influenced me since I was a child – starting out with Elvis, getting that bug, then the Beatle bug, and coming up through the new wave stuff I liked from the Eighties. Coming to L.A. made sense in a lot of ways because a lot of the music I grew up listening to was made here. [Yoakam] and the people here in L.A. saw through the jokes or novelty in my music and really found something deeper that maybe I wasn’t even aware of.”

Hear for Yourself: “Great Outdoors,” an ode to the sprawl of the American landscape, highlights Bryan’s Morrissey-esque voice and features a video co-directed by his mentor Yoakam. J.G.

Country Artist to know for December 2017

Cal Quinn

Ruby Boots

Sounds Like: Soulful outlaw twang-rock with an Australian accent

For Fans of: Grace Potter, Nikki Lane, Margo Price

Why You Should Pay Attention: Some of the best Americana music being played these days comes, surprisingly, from outside America. Case in point: Nashville-by-way-of-Australia songwriter Bex Chilcott, who writes and performs under the name Ruby Boots. Chilcott earned a devoted following in her native Australia before moving to Nashville and signing with Chicago’s Bloodshot Records, a deal that precipitated her forthcoming album Don’t Talk About It. A pal of Nikki Lane’s, Chilcott is a welcome addition to the city’s thriving roots scene, bringing a fresh perspective, plenty of soul and a healthy dose of Down Under swagger.

She Says: “Sonically, I was missing a rockier, grungier feeling to my live show, so I set out to straddle the two worlds of rock & roll and Americana. Lyrically, I wanted the album to have a sense of defiance and fierceness whilst still showing that it can be achieved through vulnerability. I had to learn that being exposed and fragile at times can be just as powerful as being fierce and strong and that they, in fact, go hand in hand. It’s okay to feel something deep down to your core and express that in its raw form, or to fall apart when everything around you is falling apart, rather than trying to hold your shit together.”

Hear for Yourself: “It’s So Cruel” is pure rock attitude, with big, crunchy power chords lending a gritty backdrop to Chilcott’s wail. B.M.

Country Artist to know for December 2017

Chris Douglas

Scooter Brown Band

Sounds Like: Red-blooded country-rock, fronted by a Marine and influenced by Lynyrd Skynyrd’s guitar-heavy tributes to Dixieland

For Fans of: Whiskey Myers, the Cadillac Three, Hank Williams Jr.

Why You Should Pay Attention: Scooter Brown Band follow in the footsteps of Bocephus, delivering unapologetic blasts of Southern rock and ideology. Namesake Scott Brown was still an active-duty Marine when he began writing music, and American Son – his band’s debut, shot through with overdriven slide guitar, barroom piano and plenty of Seventies nostalgia – finds him singing about the things he believes are worth fighting for. The music’s patriotic punch has already made a champion out of Charlie Daniels, who tapped the group as an opening act and made a cameo appearance on American Son‘s title track.

They Say: “We’ve built a following the old-school way: by getting in front of as many people as we can,” says Brown. “For me, playing a live show is the best thing in the world. There’s not a lot of time to take a breath up there. Whether it’s 30 minutes or 90 minutes, it’s balls to the wall. The country crowd digs us, and the rock crowd digs us, too. We’re kind of the best of both worlds.”

Hear for Yourself: On the gruff salute to the Stars and Stripes “American Son,” Brown finds a kindred spirit in the hyper-political Daniels. R.C.

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