So you hate Hoedown. Fine. But that’s no reason to hate country music. A lot of people think artists like Dierks Bentley and Keith Urban — and those you’ll hear in the car lots at Comerica Park this weekend — are all country has to offer, but it’s far from the truth.
Country music is rich with history, and though a lot of today’s most popular country musicians are over-produced pop stars with a Southern accent, there’s still a large pool of artists keeping the spirit of Hank Williams and Johnny Cash alive
Even if you’re the biggest opponent of twangy music, give these five folks a fighting chance.
A tried-and-true Oklahoman, Fullbright went to school in the same town Woody Guthrie called home, so some might say he was destined to country greatness. His debut record, From the Ground Up, was released to much acclaim in 2012 and garnered the young musician his first Grammy nomination for Best Americana Album. A record diverse in its structure, From the Ground Up will have you moving and grooving one minute, quiet and contemplative the next.
from From the Ground Up
It didn’t take long for Jason Isbell to become one of the premier acts in the alt. country world, and 12 years into his career he remains on top. A former member of the beloved Drive-By Truckers, Isbell struck out on his own in 2007. In the years since, whether recording solely under his name or with his band the 400 Unit, Isbell has delivered again and again with his choice storytelling skills and Alabamian croon. His fourth record drops June 11, but until then take a look back at his impressive catalog, including 2011’s Here We Rest.
from Here We Rest
This 32-year-old singer/songwriter is a critic’s darling, and even won an Oscar for Best Original Song in 2010 for “The Weary Kind,” which he co-wrote with acclaimed producer T Bone Burnett for the film Crazy Heart. When he’s not winning Oscars, Bingham is known for his throwback country sound, distinct raspy delivery and anthemic rock tunes. In 2012, he broke ties with his band the Dead Horses to go it solo and released Tomorrowland, his fourth studio album and first solely under his name since 2007’s Mescalito.
Download: “Day is Done”
from 2009’s Roadhouse Sun
Shovels & Rope
A duo of married musicians from South Carolina, Shovels & Rope is driven by unbridled energy. The two met in 2003 while on tour with Jump, Little Children and have been putting together their sound ever since. In 2012, they released their debut record, O’ Be Joyful, which draws from country conventions of kick drums, harmonicas and guitars as well as Chuck Berry-esque rock. In the year since the album’s debut, the duo has amassed an impressive following and distinction as a band to keep and eye on.
from O’ Be Joyful
Carlile is a freight train of energy, power and confidence. She approached her bandmates, brothers Phil and Tim Hanseroth, in the early 2000s and told them if they joined her, they would be signed within a year. They were — and not to just any record label but to Columbia. Eight years and five records later, Carlile and the boys still fly under most people’s radar, and by design. “I would never write commercially or dress commercially, or behave in any way that would inspire mainstream success,” she says. Though Carlile may be avoiding mainstream recognition, if she keeps releasing records like 2012’s Bear Creek, an album built on simplicity and emotion, it won’t be long before most know her name.
Download: “Hard Way Home”
From Bear Creek
Eric Walters is a freelance writer from Metro Detroit and a Metro Times summer intern. You can read more of his musical musings at myfolkingheart.com