At only twenty years-old, Mason Lively is one of Texas' most talented up-and-coming songwriters to be hitting the circuit these past few years. This past April, he released Stronger Ties, a promising full-length debut filled with introspective heartbreak, strong melodies and a smooth calming manner. In many respects, he's ahead of the curve with clever lyricism, a charmed delivery and a solid grasp at understanding what makes people tick. As one would probably expect, Stronger Ties finds Lively experimenting with style and sound. He dives into bluesy rockers, countrified breakup ballads and late night laments. With veteran producer Pat Manske at the helm, Stronger Ties pops in all the right ways.
Much like a young Parker McCollum or Dalton Domino, Lively's best moments are when it's as though you've walked into his empty living room unbeknownst to him. Songs like "Worth The Fall" offer that kind of vulnerable intimacy. Still, songs like "Lonely Comes Back Around" and "Worry About Nothing" show Lively's more than capable of delivering sharp singles worth radio play. -- Thomas Mooney
Matthew Paul Revere
D.I.Y. punk minimalism meets Memphis-style rockabilly on Matthew Paul Revere's 3 Chords and the Uncomfortable Truth. The Dalton, Ga.-based performer shares laughs and raises Hell with "I Get My Pills," "Outlaw Mother in Law," "Beer and Taco" and other songs that, with a different voice or personality behind them, might be way too silly. It's like impeccably combining the calculated nonsense of Roger Miller and the self-depreciating persona of Mel Tillis into song form--then successfully pitching those songs to the mysterious fifth member of the Million Dollar Quartet. He's an artist to watch less for his recorded output and more because he's a proper studio session away from being discovered by country fans, throwback rock 'n' rollers and others who'll understand North Georgia humor and wisdom. -- Bobby Moore
Doing the laundry is not the most memorable experience, but I've been thinking about a certain laundry session in Berlin for the last 5 years. It's not my laundry; it's Kendl Winter's. Her song "Centrifugal Forces" from her 2013 album It Can Be Done! proved that Appalachia and brilliant songwriting can share space with indie pop. On her upcoming album, Stumbler's Business, the Olympia, Wash.-based picker takes a more sober approach to her music. "Solitude" showcases Winter's observant lyrics, stark voice, and strong sense of melody. -- Rachel Cholst
We've talked with Josh Ward before; the reliable Texas troubadour's track record among the Lone Star faithful just keeps getting longer and longer. Ward just scored his tenth consecutive No. 1 single on Texas radio with "All About Lovin'," a plucky song that fits in perfectly with the Randy Rogers and Cody Johnsons of the world. Despite appearing on the artists to watch list, Ward has been working on his craft for more than 15 years. In the past 6 or 7 in particular, the songwriter has really come into his stride. His new album More Than I Deserve is a bit of a love letter to the various blessings in his life, an homage that fits in perfectly with his polite cowboy visage. Though Ward doesn't always roll of the lips when listing the litany of Texas songwriters who have reached the top of the red dirt heap, it won't be long until his name makes the conversation circles around Texas' best country acts. -- Jeremy Burchard