Every month, Wide Open Country will spotlight three country or roots music acts with upside that's yet to equal commercial airplay or inclusion on taste-making playlists.
In most cases, Acts to Watch isn't code for new. Most appeared on our radar after years of paying dues on stage and in the studio.
Read on to meet February 2021's three Acts to Watch.
Leah Belle Faser
Leah Belle Faser (born in 2004) started writing songs about 10 years ago, so don't mistake youth for musical inexperience. Nor should anyone equate a lack of the irritants that come with adulthood with a shortage of lived-in, relatable lyrics.
Faser soars as a vocalist, storyteller and guitarist on pop stomper "Second-Hand Store," emotional trip down memory lane "Better Than Mine" and other selections from 2020 EP Crossing Hermi's Bridge.
She also has a better calibrated moral compass than quite a few older and more famous artists, if only because Hermi's Bridge is a Cobb and Fulton County, Ga. landmark named for regional Civil Rights activist Hermione Alexander.
"The plaque on the bridge reads 'She built bridges across gulfs of prejudice and ignorance' and that is something that I hope to do in my life through music or in whatever way I can," Faser told Guitar Girl Magazine.
David Adam Byrnes
Byrnes' journey dates back to at least his 2008 decision to move from his native Arkansas to Nashville, where he chased his songwriting dreams while learning all he could from Paul Overstreet and other all-time greats.
Hearing rodeo rider turned Reba McEntire collaborator Cody Johnson on the radio and heeding sage advice from Aaron Watson led Byrnes from Music City to Fort Worth. Since calling Texas home, Byrne's built a reputation with George Strait lyrical nod "Tequila Salt and Time," honky-tonk dance floor packer "Beer Bucket List" and other reminders that party songs don't have to be paint-by-number.
As a country singer should, Kären McCormick makes listeners feel the longing in "Dancing With Him Tonight," the loss in "Girl in Blue" and the memories behind "If This Bar Could Talk."
That's just three solid examples of why we're not the first or last outlet to laud McCormick's potential. In recent weeks, she's been among the Color Me Country podcast's Class of 2021 and Sounds Like Nashville's Artists to Watch.
McCormick's website teases a spring 2021 follow-up to her 2020 EP Retro, which features "Girl in Blue," "If This Bar Could Talk" and the Swiftian storytelling of "Congratulations."