Today’s country music is filled with tan legs, short shorts and Fireball whiskey. Somewhere along the way we lost the connection and the storytelling. While sippin’ Fireball in a cornfield is still a story, it’s not necessarily a meaningful one. Also, where have the steel guitars, fiddles and banjo’s disappeared to? Well, they haven’t gone far, in fact, there are plenty of country music artists today who still, well, keep it country.
1. Eric Church
Singer, songwriter and all around badass, Eric Church has consistently kept his country music sound with a tad bit of rock and roll sprinkled on top. He isn’t one to follow trends but more likely is the one who sets them. His strength? Passion. Country music was founded on emotions, feelings and passion. Every single track he has recorded to date has been pure country wholeheartedly. His new single “Record Year” is no exception. From the melody, to the vocals, and on down to the lyrics, it’s a country music masterpiece.
2. Maren Morris
Texas native, songwriter and a touch of diva, Maren Morris might be new to the country music radio world, however, she has kept the majority of her music as country as possible. You’ll find some classic rock influence within her music and a whole lot of sass. She is giving us life and honey we love it.
3. Ward Davis
Arkansas native, singer/songwriter and ol’ worn out cowboy, Ward Davis is uniquely making a name for himself within the industry. Davis has an old-school sound, look and morals. Cut from a different cloth than most, he remains true to his heritage. Davis not only writes and sings but he is also a pianist and a guitarist. He is very well established at his craft and his music is real. If Johnny Cash and Randy Travis had a baby, his name would be Ward Davis. You get the picture!
4. Chris Stapleton
Kentucky native, powerhouse vocalist and phenomenal songwriter, Chris Stapleton entered everyone’s world with a bang. The night Stapleton won all three of his CMA nominations, most didn’t even know who he was. Fast forward a few months later and he is the most talked about country artist today. The things that make Stapleton unique are his raw vocals and magnifying stage presence. He is the magician and we are all under his spell.
5. Randy Houser
Maybe it’s his Mississippi roots or his amazing vocal range, or hell, maybe it’s just his entire demeanor, but Randy Houser always comes to mind when I think real country music. Let’s face it, it’s hard to have a popish song when you have the accent like his. It illuminates “country.” His music is filled with blue collar risque and southern pride. It’s the working man’s perfect gift. Houser’s music is about working hard, having good times, and what it means to be a man. His new album Fired Up is the perfect summary of country music. Houser is making music his way, the country way.
6. Mo Pitney
Young, talented and smooth, Mo Pitney is a fresh face with an old sound. His low baritone voice is rare and authentic and his music takes you back in time. If we could have a second rate version of Merle Haggard (because let’s face it, no one will ever be Merle.) then Pitney would come damn close. Country enough to gain respect but yet mainstream enough to be played on country radio, Pitney is an exceptional artist with a huge road ahead of him. I suspect he will be around a very long time.
7. Kacey Musgraves
She is not the girl you take home to momma, in fact, she’s more like the girl your momma warned you about. If hippie and redneck could join together for a completely different label, then it would be Kacey Musgraves. Her music is widely diverse and ranges from trailer parks to pot. It’s white trash, yet genius enough to be Grammy nominated. One of the most respected women in country music, Musgraves is musically brilliant.
What artists do you find are keepin’ it country in 2016? Tweet me and let me know @brittwv.