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Wide Open Country’s Artists to Watch: June 2018

Courtesy of the artist/Marcus Maddox
Are you tired of hearing the same country artists on repeat when you listen to country radio? We are too, and that’s why we’re here to help you find the best and most underrated new artists in country music today. Each month, the Wide Open Country team selects an artist or group that they think will be the next big thing in country music. Here are our picks for the artists you need to know in June 2018.

No Dry County

No Dry County is yet another band from the celebrated Lubbock music scene. Ever the stalwart act, the four-piece No Dry County is many respects, a culmination of Lubbock music — and as their upcoming album Panhandle Music alludes — as a whole. For Panhandle Music, due out June 29, NDC was joined by producer Adam Odor (Mike and The Moonpies, Jason Boland & The Stragglers) at the helm at Yellow Dog Studios. Odor, a West Texas ex-pat of sorts himself, brought out the best in the band’s already seasoned sound.

While certainly more so on the rocking side of Americana, NDC offers some of the most cinematic soundscapes in years. Where most focus solely on the gritty, earthy and rustic textures of characters and circumstances in songs, NDC feels as though you’re watching the act take place from a distance. More times than not, you feel as though you’re hovering above enduring the beating summer sun and the calloused winds of West Texas. This isn’t to say lyricist Trent Langford is a cold storyteller though. He often pulls you in and parachutes you down into the action for a first hand account while the guitarist Bristen Phillips, drummer Matt Newsom and bassist Dub Wood continue creating a sonic palette that floods you with emotion. They take into account the empty void and endless horizon of West Texas. Much like the old Lubbock band Thrift Store Cowboys, Odessa’s post-rock darlings Explosions In The Sky and even West Texas drifters Red Shahan and Ryan Bingham, No Dry County comfortably lies somewhere out on the edges. — Thomas Mooney

Sarah Vista 

UK-based musician Sarah Vista really digs the Old West mythos. Since 2016, she’s made her name known among fellow cowpokes with a trio of 7-inch singles, issued by Gallow Romantic Records. Limited run vinyl, plus curated live showscleverly billed as Sarah Vista Social Club productions, capture a do-it-yourself spirit normally associated with underground rock scenes. Such revenge ballads as “Get Three Coffins Ready”–named for a famous quote from A Fistful of Dollars—and “Killing Fever” solidify a sound and image that are part Patsy Montana, part spaghetti Western gunslinger. — Bobby Moore

Erin Rae

Erin Rae’s got a big voice and she knows how to use it. Rae is known around Nashville for the pearly touch she can add to any song. Following up from collaborations with Margo Price and Andrew Combs, the Tennesee native’s debut album Putting on Airs promises to shake things up around Nashville. Rae is an incisive songwriter whose dreamy, 70s-inspired sound is stealthily devastating. Putting on Airs’ lead single details the experience of many queer youth in the late 90s and early 2000s: struggling with internalized homophobia even though the people around you are liberal and supportive. Rae bottles the conflicting emotions into a gentle lullaby, softening the blows with fondness for her younger self. It’s a small masterpiece of songwriting and suggests great things to come. — Rachel Cholst

Tenille Townes

Grand Prairie, Alberta-native Tenille Townes has been obsessed with lyrics since she was a young girl riding around in the backseat of her parents’ car. Her longtime love of words and understanding of their power shows in her new EP Living Room Worktapes. Songs like the tender “Where You Are” and the emotional gut-punch of “Somebody’s Daughter” place Townes in a camp with fellow lyricists Lori McKenna, Patty Griffin, Brandi Carlile and John Prine. With a distinct, resonant voice and a compassionate eye, Tenille Townes is one to watch.
This summer, Townes will join Miranda Lambert and Little Big Town on The Bandwagon Tour. — Bobbie Jean Sawyer

Katie Pruitt

Katie Pruitt grew up in a small town outside of Atlanta, but since moving to Nashville she’s quickly entrenched herself in the local songwriter scene. She earned a local performance residency and then won a songwriting scholarship for her song “Ordinary” in 2016. Pruitt’s first commercially available music comes in the form of a four-song EP recorded live in Nashville in conjunction with OurVinyl. Her music draws obvious comparisons to Americana contemporaries like Brandi Carlile and Lori McKenna, with a bit of that bitter wit Jason Isbell so effortlessly effuses. But Pruitt also has a real opportunity to capture a younger crowd hungry for an advocate for important and often under-served topics in the music industry, from mental health to queer representation. — Jeremy Burchard

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Wide Open Country’s Artists to Watch: June 2018