In the last few years, the country music industry has fallen into the hamster wheel of a habit of cranking out as many assembly-line songs as they can in order to feed the masses with mainstream fare. Basically, any song that talks about backroads, bonfires and beer is considered a country song these days. There are those who stand out in the crowd though; here’s a list of five who aren’t afraid to keep it real in the realm of what I consider country.
Chris Stapleton is the hot new powerhouse in country music, and he didn’t rise to fame so quickly by doing what everyone else was doing. In the last year the burly singer-songwriter won just about every award in the game, including two Grammys and an American Country Music award. His old-school demeanor and booming vocals are way off the beaten path of what most artists are going for these days. He’s a blast from the past and proof that if it ain’t broke, you don’t need to fix it.
The resident bad girl of country music, Miranda Lambert is not your run-of-the-mill southern belle. She’s got a no non-sense attitude that pops up in virtually all her songs, and it’s garnered her a fantastic following. Nobody would ever dream of talking down to the girl of “Gunpowder and Lead” fame. Check out her duet with Carrie Underwood to get a feel for her.
Sturgill SimpsonYou might might never hear Sturgill Simpson on the radio, but he considers that an achievement. His alternative, often trippy style and obscure lyrics have received great critical reception. Simpson’s latest album “A Sailor’s Guide To Earth” is a phenomenal example of alternative country at it’s most honest (and weirdest). It’s also features a surreal cover of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” that’s worth checking out.
Jamey Johnson is arguably the best outlaws to come out of this generation of country artists. His baritone voice propelled his working man songs like “High Cost of Living” into popular hits. Although Johnson hasn’t released new music in nearly four years, he is still making headlines. He even stepped in for the late Johnny Cash to perform “Highwaymen” with Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson once, which gives him more country cred than most modern-day artists.
If anybody does what they want, it’s Eric Church. He didn’t even announce his last album, he just sent it to members of his fan club with no warning. Church has an impressive blend of deep, thoughtful melodies and down home barn burners. No two songs are identical, and he’s always pushing the envelope. If you’ve never heard of him, no recommendation is needed. Pick a song and enjoy.
What country artist do you think is an outlaw in their own right?