Sunday Open Thread: Pick a Topic

UPDATE: Topic picked! From Greg in the comments, seconded by J.R.:

“is is there a not so very known artist (either independent l

abel or mainstream) that I should look out for?”

Good question!  Who are the ones to watch these days?


I got nothin'.



  1. Hey Kevin (or Leeann). I’m still new so I sometimes don’t know who is posting ;)

    Anyway, one of the things I love about this site is that it’s introduced me to other country acts that I would probably never hear about otherwise. I really enjoyed your 100 female artist countdown (Looking forward to the guys) and I really like your single reviews. We have one radio station here that actually does expand beyond the Taylor Swifts and Rascal Flatts of the world and I’ve loved hearing artists like Randy Houser (Who sounds so much like Ronnie Dunn it’s funny), Fisher Stevenson, Luke Bryan, Ashton Shephard (Who is my favorite artist currently) and a lot of other artists that are hitting the scene. However, the other country station here lacks so much variety I consistantly wish I had satillite all the time.

    My question is is there a not so very known artist (Either independent label or mainstream) that I should look out for. Someone like Ashton who sounds really country but is also fun. I feel like I’m in a minority in that I like the country rock type songs, but anything is cool with me. I’m just wondering in a sea of mainstream artists with most of them being mediocure or much to young to be making an impact (Is it bad to say that Taylor Swift is almost like Hannah Montana for the Country music scene?) who should I look out for in the future.

  2. Gregg, I don’t know how traditional you’re willing to go, but I’ve really been enjoying Justin Townes Earle’s album lately. He has a very traditional voice, he’s young and his songs are fun. My favorite song on the album is “Hard Livin'”. I’m not sure if it’s on his myspace page though.

  3. PS. When I say young, I don’t mean Taylor Swift young (not that there’s anything wrong with that.).

  4. Leeann,

    Doesn’t sound too bad. In terms of traditional, I’d say maybe the last 20 to 30 years. I became a fan in the 90s and I think I came on when Shinia was making it big. I’m not sure when it was, but I think the first full exposure to country I had was either in my Boy Scout troop (We had a lot of country fans) or watching that big HBO special Garth Brooks in Central Park. Hopefully that was the mid 90s. I listen to anything though.

  5. greg,
    traditional, overlooked and almost forgotten? = wade hayes
    not as “earthy” as ashton shepherd or luke bryan, but what a voice.
    listen into his 96 album “on a good night” for a start and have fun.

  6. I think Greg M. has a great idea for Sunday’s Open Thread …

    “My question is is there a not so very known artist (Either independent label or mainstream) that I should look out for. ”

    What indie mainstream artist do you think will make it big in the next couple of years? Let’s start picking 2009’s Horizon Award winner, I mean 2009’s CMA New Artist of the Year …

    I think of Eric Church, Jamey Johnson, and Heidi Newfiield (I am loving her first single). Those three are definitely contenders.

  7. Justin Townes Earle’s album is amazing. I saw him at a gig here in London this past week, and he’s a fantastic live performer too, great personality, and a real in-depth knowledge of old traditional country. So I second that recommendation!

  8. I’m not sure about “artists to look out for” since radio won’t play them anyway but if you want artists worth hearing, go to Heart of Texas website and check out some of their artists.

    Or experiment and go to and listen to their array of indy artists of all genres. A lot of the stuff on CD Baby isn’t very good but you can listen to the artist’s recordings and judge for yourself – I’ve found some real gems there such as John England, Clelia Adams, Erin Hay, Penny Gilley, Billy Yates, Anber Digby and the Aussie group the Feral Katz Swing Band

  9. I’m a big fan of Bobby Pinson. He’s an amazing songwriter — he’s written numerous hits for others and has co-writing credits on Sugarland’s latest — but his own albums are just as good.

  10. Man! I’ve got hundreds I listen to. I rarely listen to mainstream radio unless I’m in the truck. And even then I’m more likely to pop in a CD. Anyhoo, here’s just a SMALL sampling of what I listen to. So many artists – so little time! ;-)

    Leah Shafer

    Six Wire

    John Howard
    (“Brave Soul” just rips!)

    Andrea Young

  11. I’d second and third several artists already mentioned, especially JT Earle and Bobby Pinson. I’d also add Julie Roberts, who inexplicably isn’t a star yet. A little more off the beaten path, I’d recommend Chris Knight, who sounds like a mix of John Mellencamp, Steve Earle and Bruce Springsteen, but with a sound and angle all his own. He’s not particularly “fun” but he’s a great writer.

  12. I have second several people – I love Julie Roberts, there is something about her, that makes me love her, I love Heidi Newfield and have for a long time and her new single is very good and written by some great people – I am also really starting to live Jamey Johnson and waiting for his new album — I also love Ashton Shepard –

    But my favorite person to watch is Ashley Monroe — I absolutely adore her — I was lucky enough to get a copy of her sony album and it is amazing and I have been watching her myspace and I love her new stuff as well.

    I just heard the song by Randy Houser on XM the other day and had to find out more about him — something about the song caught my attention

  13. I’ve actually heard of some of these artists. When I first heard In Color by Johnson, I downloaded it the first chance I got. It’s really a terrific song and I hope to hear more than him. I also remember Julie Robers as actually being on the scene for a little bit and then she just got pushed off or something. Good to know she is still around. Ashley Monroe is a weird one in that when I had access to Sirius, she was played all the time, either her single without Ronnie Dunn or the one with. She wasn’t bad but she wasn’t all that memorable to me.

    Sixwire was actually my favorite Country Group for a time and then they disappeared. I actually watched the clips they were on for Next Great American Band and was glad they were getting exposure somewhere. I think they started the influx of harmony bands that we’ve seen recently from Little Big Down and another group that caught my attention, Crossin’ Dixon.

  14. I’m a big fan of Josh Gracin. Don’t know what it is about him, but his music is always interesting to me. Hopefully he’ll be one of the ones to watch with his upcoming single “Unbelievable”. And I love “We Weren’t Crazy”.

  15. An artist who I have been a big fan now for six years is Tift Merritt. This young alt-country artist from North Carolina, whose musical style is redolent of the old-school country-rock of Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris and whose songwriting style is all her own, is someone who deserves to be really huge on the basis of her first three albums so far (BRAMBLE ROSE; TAMBOURINE; ANOTHER COUNTRY).

  16. I have to echo the endorsement for Ashley Monroe. I was able to buy her album digitally from Amazon before it suddenly seemed to disappear. Her voice cracks just right and I love the emotion that she naturally infuses into her music. I love Kasey Chambers, but I like Ashley’s version of “Pony” even more than Chambers.

  17. I’ve met a few (and profiled some). I’d say Jason Matthews (“hickotine”) is a good one, also One Flew South, they’re not indie but ARE signed to a NY label. Katie Armiger is pretty dang good too, especially if you like current, non-played artists. Then there’s Jeff Bates too ;)

  18. kevin,
    how is it possible that the pale-blue emoticon of greg’s post has so many different names to it, whereas all other emoticons strictly cling to their respective posters. for example: regular posters like paul w. dennis, jarheaddad, lynn, jim malec, myself always find “their” (not personalized) emoticon in all their posts. the pale blue one, however, appears to have a multitude of different names (identities) – quite intriguing, it’s the only one that has that ability. what’s the secret?

  19. leeann,
    not everything that appears to be mysterious, really is. we’ve been playing cards today and when i saw the same card (emoticon) with different face-values (names) it puzzled me and i checked it out. hence, the question arose.

    speaking of enigmas – what does “.:)” actually mean?

  20. Chris Young is always at the top of my list for this sort of thing, and from what I’ve heard of his second album it’ll have even stronger material than his first (which I know was not perfect, no matter how much I loved it.)

    Also, after seeing them perform at the CMA Music Festival a couple of times this year, I’m a big fan of the Zac Brown Band. They are some of the best musicians I’ve seen in a long time — their recordings don’t really do them justice when compared to their live show.

  21. Ashley, Tift, Kasey, all good recommendations. I don’t keep up with the “bleeding edge” of new artists.. but Ashley & Carter’s Chord do it for me.

    …Take that however you want, it’s probably applicable ;)

  22. I am also beginning to like Charters Chord — that is the nice part of having XM and Sirius — a lot of new artists —

  23. If a topic hadn’t already been narrowed down, I would have proposed:

    “Any guesses on what the W stands for in Paul W. Denis’ name”?:)

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