Country music is currently dominated by vapid “bro country” bands and pop-infused megastars like Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. If mainstream country isn’t you thing, we can’t blame you (although we do encourage you to check out Luke Bryan’s butt, which transcends all genres). However, if you’ve been writing country off completely, you’re seriously missing out. Look beyond the top 40 countdowns, and there are some truly amazing bands making music in the country/folk/Americana category right now. Thoughtful lyrics? Check. Lovely harmonies? Check. Banjos? Double check. Whether they’ve been recording under the radar for years or are just making their debut, here are 11 emerging folk/country artists we can’t get enough of.
Home Base: Nashville via Knoxville, Tennessee
Described In 5 Words: Classic country for modern women.
Similar To: Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Miranda Lambert
Perfect For Listening To While … Making an apple pie (and smoking a joint).
Home Base: Nashville via Philadelphia & Atlanta
Described In 5 Words: Guitar prodigies combine; make magic.
Similar To: The Civil Wars, The Swell Season
Perfect For Listening To While … Getting ready in the morning.
Note from Winona: If you ever get a chance to see this band live, TAKE IT. They are absolutely electric on stage.
Home Base: Green Hill, Alabama
Described In 5 Words: Singer-songwriter speaks the truth.
Similar To: Willie Nelson, The Shins
Perfect For Listening To While … Pondering your recent breakup or any of life’s myriad injustices.
Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Described In 5 Words: Dreamy folk music from Seattle.
Similar To: First Aid Kit, Neko Case, Band of Horses
Perfect For Listening To While … Taking a summer road trip on winding back roads.
Home Base: Nashville via Morton, Washington
Described In 5 Words: Clever lyrics tackle heavy topics.
Similar To: Patsy Cline, Kacey Musgraves
Perfect For Listening To While … On the plane back to your small town high school reunion.
Shovels & Rope
Hometown: Charleston, South Carolina
Described In 5 Words: Married couple makes spirited folk.
Similar To: Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn, The Avett Brothers
Perfect For Listening To While … Hosting a backyard BBQ.
Hurray For The Riff Raff
Hometown: New Orleans, Louisiana
Described In 5 Words: Rail-riding, banjo-playing southern gothic Americana.
Similar To: Lucinda Williams, Waylon Jennings
Perfect For Listening To While … Plotting a BFF road trip a la “Thelma & Louise”
Spirit Family Reunion
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
Described In 5 Words: Open-door gospel revival via Brooklyn.
Similar To: Town Mountain, joy kills sorrow, The Osborne Brothers
Perfect For Listening To While … Dancing with friends and family in the backyard on a warm summer night.
Hometown: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Described In 5 Words: Fiddle-loving couple picks sweet melodies.
Similar To: Gillian Welch, The Civil Wars
Perfect For Listening To While … Baking a pie for someone you love.
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York via Langhorne, Pennsylvania
Described In 5 Words: Joyful yet sardonic alt-country rock.
Similar To: Deer Tick, The Cave Singers, early Beck
Perfect For Listening To While … Ushering in the first warm spring weekend.
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee, via Lubbock, Texas
Described In 5 Words: Singer-songwriter makes fiddle-infused love songs.
Similar To: Emmylou Harris, Jason Isbell (her husband!)
Perfect For Listening To While … Reading the Sunday paper on the front porch.