Don’t get me wrong, I love the CMT country countdown. It’s the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning some days. My roommates can attest to my crack of dawn sing-a-longs, our walls are thin. However, some of my absolute favorite artists rarely have a spot in the 20-song loop that generally is mainstream country radio/television. Each of the artists below have a unique sound and their own take on the genre – some have rock influences, others folk or blues. Heck, one of them even likes the occasional rap. So trust my self-proclaimed expert opinion and give them a listen, you won’t be disappointed.
1. Blackberry Smoke
Genre: Southern rock/ Country
Current release: The Whippoorwill (available at shows now, in-store August 14th)
Don’t miss: “Sanctified Woman,” “Up in Smoke,” “Livin’ Hell,” and “Son of a Bourbon”
Favorite lyric: “Come on baby, shake your magnolia/ come on baby, do what mama told you/ come on baby, give us all a shock tonight.”
Why they’re on this list: These guys truly do justice to the godfathers of Southern rock: Skynyrd, CCR, The Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker Band. If you don’t like them, you must be un-American. That’s all I have to say about that.
2. Jason Boland and the Stragglers
Genre: Red Dirt/ Country
Current release: Rancho Alto
Don’t miss: “Drinkin’ Song,” “Tennessee Whiskey,” “Pearl Snaps,” and “Comal County Blue”
Favorite lyric: “Jesus has my heart but whiskey’s got my liver/ floatin’ through life like a raft on a river.”
Why they’re on this list: Jason Boland is reminiscent of a modern day Waylon Jennings, in both voice and style. His lyrics are a brand of their own, blue-collar yet completely original, drenched in plenty of fiddle and steel guitar. It’s real country music, plain and simple.
3. Reckless Kelly
Genre: Red Dirt/ Country rock
Current release: Good Luck and True Love
Don’t miss: “Wicked Twisted Road,” “Motel Cowboy Show,” and “Give It a Try”
Why they’re on this list: I’ve been a fan of theirs since the “Wicked Twisted Road” album. They’ve planted one foot in country and the other in rock, straddling the line and making their own rules as they go.
4. The Turnpike Troubadours
Genre: Folk rock
Current release: Goodbye Normal Street
Don’t miss: “Every Girl,” “Long Hot Summer Day,” “7 & 7,” and “Shreveport”
Favorite lyric: “There’s nothing like a family to make you feel so damned alone/ You should’ve brought flowers, Should’ve got daddy’s gun/ Ain’t nobody waiting on the prodigal son.”
Why they’re on the list: Strangely enough, I learned of this group after spying a shirt of theirs on Jason Boland. At first I just liked the name, but it only took hearing a couple of songs before I loved the band behind it.
5. Corey Smith
Genre: Alternative country/ country rock/ blues/ whatever the heck he wants.
Current release: The Broken Record
Don’t miss: “If I Could Do It Again,” “The Good Life,” “Drinkin’ Again,” “Carolina” (2005 version)…and if you have a sense of humor: “Let Me Love You on a Backroad”
Favorite lyric: “Let’s make a reckless memory.” (or is it wreck-less…?)
Why he’s on the list: I have a great deal of collegiate memories tied up with Corey. I’ve heard him play everywhere from a small venue in Downtown Gainesville to a fraternity band party in Tuscaloosa. The most entertaining of the lot was CMA Festival’s Riverfront Stage, where mothers gawked at several of his questionable lyrics and hastily ear-muffed their young children. He’s extremely talented, his songs hold a great deal of truth and raw feeling, and he’s highly entertaining. If only I could forgive his UGA affiliation…
Like what you heard? Have any suggestions to expand my musical repertoire? Comment below or tweet us @CountryMusicPri, we’d love to hear from you!