I’ll admit it. I’m one of those people who think pop country is garbage. I am always talking about being unhappy with the state of the country music industry. Many argue my view by saying that the music sells, so it must be what most people want. I can see that side of the argument, but I’ve decided to make a list of five songs that I hope get popular and change the face of modern pop country.
1. “7&7″ – Turnpike Troubadours
This song is lighthearted and fun, any pop country fan could easily find themselves tapping their foot and singing along to this tune. It’s fueled by the twangy guitar of Ryan Engelman and the gravelly, honest vocals of Evan Felker. It’s a song about rural living and growing up. It’s from the Tahlequah, Okla. based band’s second album, Diamonds & Gasoline.
2. “Life Ain’t Fair” – Sturgill Simpson
I posted earlier on this blog about Sturgill Simpson. The Kentucky native is a bit of a return to the classics, but through honest lyrics and a raw sound, I think he can appeal to even the biggest Luke Bryan fan. His music and style may be more of an acquired taste, but on his new album, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, he spices up the genre and uses some interesting experimental sounds. This song sticks pretty true to his traditional side, but it’s just too good to leave out.
3. “Alabama Pines” – Jason Isbell
Jason Isbell has successfully exploded in the alt country and Americana circles. He’s gathered a fairly large fan base and I think he would fit right in with pop country fans. He writes about real life, longing for home and universal problems that we all face. Accompanied by great acoustic work and the backing of his band, The 400 Unit, Alabama Pines rings true to anyone who has felt homesick before.
4. “So, So Long” – The Damn Quails
The Damn Quails formed in Norman, Okla. and have had a hard time breaking into the country scene because of the hints of folk in their songs. So, So Long is an upbeat spin on the typical breakup song and comes completely with an extremely catchy chorus. It’s easy to relate to and pop country fans could play this on a drive, at a party or while hanging with friends. Frontmen Bryon White and Gabe Marshall produced a great debut album, Down the Hatch, and this tune is just a taste.
5. “Stomp and Holler” – Hayes Carll
This song combines honkytonk with Americana in a beautiful blend. It’s a boot-stomping, roots-rocking tune. Hayes Carll is another that is a little more folk than country, but he doesn’t quite fit into either category and with crossovers and innovation being such a staple of pop country now, he should fit right in.
All of the artists above represent country music’s current underground. The main struggle for them is exposure. Many of the artists don’t get radio play, and if they do it is very local or on Sirius/XM stations. With a little more exposure and being able to get their name out, these artists could be the new face of country music.