In this edition of Rising Artists You Need to Know, we look at some of the brightest up-and-coming acts in Americana music. These artists are evolving classic sounds and styles to greater heights and preserving the spirit of country and roots music.
Since moving from Brooklyn to Nashville two years ago, Michaela Anne has fully immersed herself in the local songwriting community. Those relationships, along with a sense of comfort in her own skin that only comes with maturity and time, came together to help create her new LP, “Bright Lights and the Fame.” Her fearless attitude when it comes to speaking from the heart as a strong female flows through tracks like “Won’t Go Down” and “Everything I Couldn’t Be.” With a sound that’s inspired from both traditional country legends and 90’s hitmakers, Michaela Anne is one artist that is making a name for herself in country completely on her own terms. — Lorie Liebig
Right now there’s a renaissance of neotraditional female country singers, and Kelsey Waldon is at the forefront of it. Hailing from rural Kentucky, Waldon writes songs that are authentically country in tone and subject matter. Her rich, unabashedly Kentucky voice has a quality that instantly reminds us of what we love about classic country music. Her new album, I’ve Got a Way, drops Aug. 12. Expect to see a lot more from Waldon in the back half of 2016 and coming year. –Matt Alpert
You should know upfront that Bonnie Bishop’s country music career spans 14 years, but this year she has reinvented herself. Bishop’s new album, Ain’t Who I Was, produced by Dave Cobb, is a masterful departure from her country roots into classic soul music in the vein of Dusty Springfield and Otis Redding. Bishop’s voice absolutely slays on both the record and during her stunning live shows. If you’re strictly a country music fan, you’ll still enjoy Bishop’s new sound because it’s grounded in roots music. Keep an eye on Bishop: Her new album is getting a ton of critical acclaim, for good reason, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it gets a Grammy nod next year. — Matt Alpert
When you think of Seattle, you don’t normally think of solid country music bands, but Western Centuries is the exception. The songwriting trio at the band’s core, Cahalen Morrison, Ethan Lawton and Jim Miller, have a reverence for the roots music in the way that The Band did. These guys pull from a wide range of styles, from Zydeco to Honky-Tonk. This is solid songwriting that hangs loose. Check out their new album, Weight of the World. –Matt Alpert
To truly pull off the authentic honky-tonk country singer bit, you have to be authentic, and Luke Bell most definitely is. The Wyoming-born singer once worked as a ranch hand and has navigated his way across the country to Nashville, where he’s become one of Music City’s most notable neo-traditionalists. Bell is the type of traveling jack-of-all-trades character that fits right at home in country music. He’s sort of like a cross between Roger Miller and Buck Owens. Bell’s music feels fresh, yet sounds like it could be from an old 45 in a jukebox from a bygone era. — Matt Alpert
As a child of Memphis, Rob Baird has a firm grasp of how to make music sound soulful. As a resident of Texas, and formerly Nashville, he also knows how to write a damn good song. Baird has a knack for crafting narrative-driven songs that have powerful, gratifying hooks. What may instantly catch you ear, though, is his voice, which shows a strength and deep sensitivity. His new album, Wrong Side of the River, is already one of the best Americana albums released of the year. — Matt Alpert
Country music loves a good ol’ boy, and Combs is the genuine article. The 25-year-old singer cut his teeth playing country music while attending Appalachian State Universtiy in Boone, N.C. — a mountain town that’s long been a hotbed for country music. Combs began his musical career in 2011, and since then, word of his talent has come down from the mountain, into Nashville and spread around the country. His self-released single, “Hurricane,” has become a cult favorite and helped him gain a huge following online and around the Southeast. — Matt Alpert