It’s a given phenomenon that Country music, as a genre, would continually evolve. It should not, however, mean replacement by music that’s apparently Pop in element, but stamped with the label ‘country’ as we’ve witnessed happen this past decade. Consequently, it went without saying that lovers of real country music grieved the death of ‘country music.’
There’s a ray of hope, however, to this ruckus. If we’re patient to do a little digging, we’ll find up and coming country musicians who are committed to filling the shoes of country legends from the bygone eras. So here goes our best recommendation for your listening pleasure.
1. Chris Stapleton
The troubadour who became an overnight sensation with his debut album, Traveller, Chris Stapleton‘s success, however, was not instantaneous. For years, he worked behind-the-scenes as a songwriter. His musical style was noted as a blend of country, classic rock, and Southern soul.
2. Mo Pitney
Who would forget Mo Pitney’s performance at the Grand ole Opry in 2014 when he sang “Country” and “Clean Up on Aisle Five?” After hearing Keith Whitley’s songs, Pitney would be drawn to a string of key Country music influencers including Randy Travis, George Strait, and Darylle Singletary. This led to him becoming the next endeared traditional country singer.
From Dripping Spring, Texas, Midland brought back the sound of the ’80s and ’90s. Band members Mark Wystrach, Jess Carson and Cameron Duddy started in 2016 and upon the release of their debut single, “Drinkin’ Problem” in 2017, lovers of George Strait type of music gave it a thumbs up.
In 2018, ACM awarded the band with “New Vocal Duo/Group of the Year.” They were also nominated twice in CMA as “New Artist” and “Vocal Group” in 2018 and 2019. As for their single, “Drinkin’ Problem,” it was nominated for “Best Country Duo/Group Performance” at the Grammys.
4. Tyler Childers
Tyler Childers would definitely follow the steps of fellow Kentucky native, Chris Stapleton. While Stapleton’s vocals a reliving of the ’70s and ’80s particularly that of Jennings, Childers’s raw singing, on the other hand, is beautifully haunting to the ears. His music has this charisma that would make listeners keep listening for more.
In August 2019, Childer’s album,” Country Aquire” peaked at no. 1 on Billboard’s Country chart.
5. Sturgill Simpson
Also from Kentucky, Sturgill Simpson aims to revive country outlaw in the 21st century. Unlike Childers whose musical style was heavily influenced by bluegrass, Simpson is determined to be this day’s Waylon Jennings which is evidently seen in his singing concepts and artist representation. In fact, Sturgill’s fans agree that he does sound like Jennings. He, however, has his own unique artistry and won’t just settle for mimicry.
In 2014, Sturgill’s album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, entered the top 10 of Billboard’s country chart and secured the 8th spot.
6. Cody Jinks
Before we start thinking that only Kentucky had outlaw musicians, here’s Cody Jinks from Haltom, Texas. Jinks may have had a slow rise to stardom since his beginning in 2008, but his steady commitment to the beauty of his own music gained much admiration in the following years. Eventually, his albums and singles sold and transcendently peaked on various charts like Billboard 200, Country, and Indie charts.
7. Dillon Carmichael
Also influenced by legends Waylon Jennings and Vern Gosdin, Dillon Carmichael’s arrival in Nashville just after finishing high school was a blessing. Unsure of where and how to start his singing career, he jokingly asked himself the question turned song, “what would Hank do?” That led to Carmichael collaborating with producer Dave Cobb. The line “what would Hank do?” became Carmichael’s guide to what kind of songs and albums to release.
His conviction to play only honest songs listed him on “Artist To Watch” on Billboard and Rolling Stone. Also, because of his rich baritone voice and deep holler, Carmichael was often compared to Randy Travis.
8. Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen
Speaking of “What Would Hank Do?” listening to singing duo, Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen would be worth your every time. True to the spirit of their song, “Standards,” you could count on Rogers and Bowen to never become a sell-out even after reaching fame. The two Texan native friends and singers could well be like the Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard of today’s country. In 2015, their album, Hold My Beer Vol. 1 peaked at no 4 on the Top Country album and was at no. 37 on Billboard 200.
9. Aaron Watson
Still from Texas, Aaron Watson champions the preservation of honky-tonk music. He learned much from the examples of George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Willie Nelson.
His 2015 album, “The Underdog” was at no. 1 on its 1st week on the Billboard Country Albums charts.
10. Cody Johnson
Known also as “CoJo,” Cody Johnson gave up his childhood dream as a professional bull rider, and seize the opportunity of reining hearts back to traditional Country. His album “Cowboy Like Me” released in 2014 was a best seller in its 1st week and reached no. 25 on the Top Country Albums chart.
11. Jon Pardi
Representing California, Jon Pardi’s a neotraditional country musician who had a steady rise to fame since 2014. His 2016 album, “California Sunrise” was at no. 1 and certified Platinum in the US and Gold in Canada.
12. Randy Houser
First making an impression with his songwriting, Randy Houser’s records shouldn’t be overlooked. In 2013, he released his 1st commercial album, “How Country Feels” and it went straight up to no. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay.
13. Jason Isbell
If you’re opting for someone who’s clean-cut and in coat and ties, Jason Isbell would fit the bill. A true son of Alabama, Isbell credits the soul music, influenced by both rock ‘n roll and country of the ’60s and ’70s that were produced in his homeland as his biggest influencers.
14. Angaleena Presley
Long-time fans of Loretta Lynn would love Angaleena Presley. Her performance below would explain it all.
15. William Michael Morgan
Signed to Warner Bros. Nashville, William Michael Morgan has a lot of potentials to look forward to. His debut single, “I Met a Girl,” peaked at no. 2 on Country Airplay and no. 8 on the Hot Country Songs chart in 2016.
More True Country Artists
So far, those are our Top 15. It’s understandable when we hear people say they hate today’s country. But let’s rephrase that a bit by saying, “today’s true country is still cool.” We just need to learn where to listen. With that said, here’s another list of Country singers as our special mentions who are equally talented as those on the 1st set.
16. Cale Tyson
If you’re among the lonely-hearts who’s into nursing your lovesick blues, Cale Tyson’s songs are a recommended go-to.
17. Tony Jackson
Another versatile singer who can channel his original musicianship both with his own songs and covers.
18. Holly Williams
Granddaughter of the late Hank Williams, Holly has independently shone with her music touching on universal themes of love and losses.
19. Margo Price and the Price Tags
Just as music helped her cope with depression in her younger years, Margo Price is on the mission to use her songs to help alleviate the pain of those going through hardships.
20. Turnpike Troubadours
This band is blessed with multifaceted musicians as members. Listening to a handful of their records would prove their resiliency.
21. Sunny Sweeney
Watch out! Sunny Sweeney’s brazen authenticity in her songs will get you hooked!
22. Ashley McBryde
Rolling Stone portrayed her as “an Arkansas red-clay badass, with the swagger of Hank Jr. and the songwriting of Miranda Lambert.” Guess they’re right.
23. Ashley Monroe
As a Tennessee-born singer, Ashley Monroe values tradition and substance when it comes to music. She was once quoted saying that it scares her to hear a song, but don’t feel anything. That thought is her compass for the kind of material she’ll be using for her albums.
24. Brandy Clark
Brandy Clark’s a natural storyteller who’s able to reconcile modernity with timeless traditions.
25. Son Volt
More known among the alt-country followers, Son Volt and his band could definitely revive the Bakersfield sound with their albums, Honky Tonk and Notes of Blues.
aaron watson, Ashley McBryde, chris stapleton, Cody Jinks, cody johnson, Dillon Carmichael, Jason Isbell, Jon Pardi, midland, Mo Pitney, Randy Houser, Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen, Sturgill Simpson, tyler childers