But beyond the slim pickins of the radio waves, country music keeps dishing out a whole bunch of exciting artists. Some of them push the boundaries of country music, testing new waters and roping in new country music fans for decades to come. And some of them harken back to the golden years of country.
This list is for people who’d like to hear the latter.
Truthfully, most of Lambert’s phenomenal album The Weight Of These Wings could make this list. You’ve probably heard “Tin Man” by now, but have you heard “To Learn Her” yet? If not, you should absolutely give it a listen. Aided by aching slide guitar, Lambert wowed the CMA Awards crowd when she performed it live.
Charley Crockett is going to turn some heads in the next year, that’s for sure. He recently released an album of classic country covers called Lil G.L.’s Honky Tonk Jubilee. This track is the only new song on the whole record, but it fits in perfectly.
Turnpike Troubadours certainly have a strong candidate for best red dirt album of 2017 in A Long Way From Your Heart. This upbeat tune falls perfectly in line with Turnpike’s traditionally tinged ballads, even if they drop a word you rarely hear in classic country.
Sara Evans’ 2017 album Words is a beautiful and unfortunately under-appreciated album, and “Make Room At The Bottom” is a beautifully haunting song with a peculiar melody and light hand percussion that feels both modern and reminiscent of some of Patsy Cline’s emotional wails.
A brand new song from his upcoming album, “Scarecrow In The Garden” is another knockout track from Chris Stapleton. He sets aside the electric guitars and throaty groans for a more Johnny Cash-esque western approach.
Though Cam’s new song “Diane” is still notably poppy, the spiritual sequel to Dolly Parton’s infamous “Jolene” shows Cam isn’t afraid to go way outside the box with her new music. With a strong a cappella intro and lo-fi acoustic guitars and stomping, the song carries more energy than “Jolene” but views the age-old tale of infidelity from a new perspective.
Midland’s debut album is chock full of late 1970s country goodness, and “Lonely For You Only” kicks the album off in an unapologetically classic way.
This gorgeous ballad from Delta Rae is quickly making its way up the popularity chain in the streaming world, and for good reason. It’s a beautifully arranged, painful tune. The symphonic backing over acoustic guitar feels reminiscent of some of the records coming out of the “Nashville Sound” heyday.
The Lonely, The Lonesome & The Gone is a must-listen for country music fans looking to take a deeper dive beyond the surface. “Talking Behind Your Back” is one of a handful of songs Womack co-wrote on the record, and certainly one of the most traditional.
Ok, so you probably have heard this song on the radio, because it just went No. 1. But the breakout single from Pearce is an absolute gem, and despite the clearly modern production, even classic country fans can’t help but appreciate Pearce’s earnest emotion and mature, earthy vocal.