Any list that is created is always capable of being expanded upon and this one is no different since there is such a large number of talented musicians out there and it seems that new ones are arriving on the scene all the time.
However, there are some country artists that have been bending the line between country and rock and even folk in some cases, and possibly as a result of that, do not get much airplay on the mainstream radio when having to compete with their more mainstream country counterparts.
Some of these are up and coming artists with just an album or two to their name. However, no matter what they do, some country artists may go decades without becoming as known as they should among country fans due to having their own unique sound that doesn’t seem to go well with the rest of the genre, in its current state at least.
Here is a list of 10 country artists who deserve a lot more recognition than they get credit for. They are each excellent songwriters and tend to put more into their work than some of what gets played on the radio.
10. Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors
Drew Holcomb has actually been getting a bit more mainstream attention from places like TV shows and commercials, but he has yet to reach the mainstream country audience or receive any award nominations. He recently released his 9th album, and from that, you would think he has been around for several decades, but his first was just released in 2005. It was not until his recent album Medicine that he started receiving some much-deserved attention and it is likely that there will be plenty more to come.
9. Holly Williams
Holly is the granddaughter of Hank Williams Sr. and if that doesn’t guarantee her instant success, then it’s hard to know what will. Just like her grandfather, great songwriting is in her blood and she is a masterful songwriter. She has released 3 studio albums, but her latest effort, The Highway, truly shows off her skills, and she was joined on the album by stars such as Dierks Bentley, Jakob Dylan, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jackson Browne to provide vocal harmonies. She continues to sing Hank’s songs in concert such as “I Saw The Light” and is currently working on her next album.
8. Sturgill Simpson
Sturgill Simpson is becoming more popular all the time, but for some reason, he still doesn’t seem to be a part of the regular country music charts. This is due, in part, because of his unique style and brand of what has been called outlaw country, originally made popular by people like Waylon Jennings. He has released two albums so far, but his latest effort Metamodern Sounds In Country Music, a great play on the type of music that he plays, is what has truly gained the attention of many fans.
7. Jason Isbell
Jason Isbell is quickly rising in popularity as a solo artist, but again, he does not the play the kind of music that country radio has been known to give attention to. His 2013 album Southeastern escalated him to a new level among fans and he is promising that the upcoming 2015 album Something Almost Free will be even better somehow. The Southeastern record helped him pick up multiple Americana Music Awards, but he has yet to receive a nomination for a Grammy or ACM. Since leaving Drive By Truckers, he has released four albums as a solo artist and is often backed by his band The 400 Unit.
6. Amanda Shires
Amanda Shires is the wife of Jason Isbell and the fiddle player in his band at times, but she is much more than that as well. She has 4 albums that she has released on her own and one that she did with Rod Picott. She is an incredibly talented violin player who has a lot of talent as a songwriter and has been known to write some haunting ballads. Despite several releases, she is still fairly unknown to most country fans, but her last couple of albums especially show why that should not be the case.
5. Ashley Monroe
Ashley Monroe is a bit of a mystery in her lack of mainstream popularity given that her BFF Miranda Lambert is the driving force behind the female presence in mainstream country music and recently picked up multiple ACM Awards. She has even recorded a couple of duets with Blake Shelton, but perhaps it is her controversial lyrics in songs such as “Weed Instead Of Roses” and “Two Weeks Late” that have prevented her from having more mainstream popularity. She has two studio albums with another one on the way and definitely needs more attention as a singer and songwriter.
4. Angalaeena Presley
Angaleena Presley certainly needs mentioning after Monroe since they are the two lesser known faces behind the feminist trio Pistol Annies, led by their pal Miranda Lambert and Monroe was the one who introduced Presley to the country All-Star. Presley was the newcomer to the scene when the group launched with their first single “Hell On Heels” and just released her first solo album in the fall of 2014. She is no relation to Elvis as her name might suggest, but she is a native of Kentucky and the first song that she learned on guitar was “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard.
3. Michaela Anne
Michaela Anne may easily be the least known in this list, but she is quickly rising in popularity since her move to Nashville, further pursuing her career as a country artist. She is still young and just recently released her second album titled Ease My Mind, the follow-up to To Know Where, both inciting a classic country sound that unfortunately seems to be lost with some performers in recent years. She has been featured by both Rolling Stone and the New York Times and will certainly be one of the artists to look out for in the coming years as she continues to develop in the Nashville scene.
2. Justin Townes Earle
Like his father Steve, Justin Townes Earle is not going to be appearing on any mainstream country charts, although he certainly deserves to be. He writes some haunting ballads and blends country with a bit of blues and folk in a great way that needs to be heard by more people. He also receives his middle name from the late Townes Van Zandt, another name in country music who wrote some of the greatest songs including “Pancho And Lefty,” but was never at the top of the charts. He just released his 7th studio album titled Absent Fathers, the follow-up to his 2014 record Single Mothers.
1. Ryan Bingham
Ryan Bingham is a great performer who blends multiple genres, but at the heart of his music, he is an incredibly talented country songwriter that is filled with tons of emotion. Over the course of his career, he has written some incredibly personal songs that deal with his difficult childhood growing up in Texas and New Mexico. He has been recording music since 2006 and just released his 5th album Fear And Saturday Night, his most personal album yet, featuring songs that were written for his wife, his unborn baby, and his grandfather. He received multiple film awards for his song “The Weary Kind” written for Crazy Heart, but has yet to receive recognition for his other work.