Earlier this year, I posted 5 artists you need to be listening to, even if they are outside of the mainstream and public eye. There are tons of artists that you may not have heard of that are producing great music and keeping country strong. For this list, I'm touching on some artists with a little bit bigger of a following. You very well may have heard of these artists already, but this is an opportunity to dig deeper and see what they have to offer. If you are burned out by the same old same old on the radio, check some of these artists out!
1. Shooter Jennings
Shooter Jennings is keeping outlaw country alive and well. I'm not talking about acting tough and wearing wallet chains, I'm talking about do what I want and everybody else can kiss my ass outlaw country. Shooter mixes old school country with southern rock and even progressive rock to create a unique sound that is all his own. Whether he is tugging at your emotions as he croons a sad weeper or shaking your very soul as he rocks out, Shooter is a force to be reckoned with. His dad was the original outlaw, THE Waylon Jennings, and this son of a rebel saint has made a name all his own in country music.
Songs to check out: "4th of July", "The Real Me", "The Other Life", "The Outsider", "Lonesome Blues", "The Gunslinger"
"The Other Life"
"The Real Me"
2. Hank Williams III
Hank III follows his dad and grandad's footsteps of living every song he sings. Hank III is know for his rowdy live shows and hell-raising music. III touches on the wild side of life and the lonely side effects of living that wild life. Hank III's sound is a perfect blend of modern storytelling with yesterday's structure. He isn't a one trick pony either. He also has metal bands and plays many diffferent instruments. Hank Williams III isn't for everyone, but if you like your country full of hard living and hell raising, Hank III is your man.
Standout songs: "Country Heroes", "Crazed Country Rebel", "Me and My Friends", "Gettin Drunk and Fallin Down"
"Crazed Country Rebel"
3. Old Crow Medicine Show
Old Crow Medicine Show is a bluegrass/folk strings band who can make you get up and dance one minute and break your heart the next. The boys got their start busking in downtown Nashville and now find themselves the newest members of the Grand Ole Opry. They are known for their wild and energetic live shows and breakneck fiddle playing and banjo picking. OCMS's biggest song is "Wagon Wheel", which of course was a huge number one hit for Darius Rucker this year. But there is much more to Old Crow besides "Wagon Wheel" and if you dig deeper, you will find some of the best folk and bluegrass music in the world.
Standout Tracks: "Wagon Wheel", "Carry Me Back To Virginia", "I Hear Them All" "Lonesome Road Blues", "Fall On My Knees", "Caroline"
"I Hear Them All"
"Carry Me Back To Virginia"
4. Blackberry Smoke
Blackberry Smoke is a genre bending band full of down home southern soul and solid songs with guts. These guys are a cross of real country music with real southern rock that welds together to create a sound that is all their own. They can sound like Skynyrd one minute and George Jones the next. You may have seen them on stage with Kid Rock and Zac Brown at the CMA Fest on TV a few weeks ago, even though they weren't name dropped. Country music and southern rock have always gone hand in hand, so the combo that these guys create isn't a new concept, but I'd be hard pressed to find someone who does it better. If you like your country with some rock and roll, Blackberry Smoke is the band for you.
Standout Tracks: "Pretty Little Lie", "Good One Comin On", "Ain't Got The Blues Anymore", "One Horse Town", "Leave A Scar"
"Pretty Little Lie"
"One Horse Town"
"Ain't Got The Blues"
5. Kellie Pickler
No, this isn't a mistake. Kellie Pickler may be a big star already, being an American Idol contestant and winning Dancing With The Stars, but Kellie is much more than a reality star. A lot of people have no idea how much Kellie Pickler is fighting for traditional country music. She left radio stardom and big singles behind to record 100 Proof, Keep It Country Kids' 2012 Album of The Year. The album was the biggest throwback to old school country from a mainstream artist in years. She lost her record deal and was shut out from radio because of it, but she gained the respect of millions of traditional country fans. Kellie has since then resigned to a new deal and began recording a new album much in the vein of 100 Proof. She used Dancing With the Stars to stay in the public eye, and now there is a buzz around Nashville for her new record. Kellie is standing up to the powers that be in Nashville and making country music her way. She is traveling the same road many of her heroes have traveled, and deserves to be looked at as much more than a reality star. She is currently doing more to keep country alive in Nashville than any other artist.
Standout tracks: "Where's Tammy Wynette", "Stop Cheatin on Me", "Mother's Day", "100 Proof", "Little Bit Gypsy" "I Wonder", "Unlock That Honky Tonk"
"Stop Cheatin on Me"
"Unlock That Honky Tonk"