Last Year we selected eight artists for our “Ones To Watch: The Class of 2009” feature and while 7 of the artists did hit the charts that year, only Love and Theft managed to break-out. Sure, Joey + Rory managed to maintain a high profile all year but their fellow Can You Duet friends Caitlin & Will parted ways after their single and EP failed to grab attention to folks outside of the industry (or viewers of the Can You Duet program). This year, we’re expanding the list to include 11 artists. Some of these artists are on smaller labels and some are on larger labels.
Each artist featured here will continue to be featured in the friendly confines of Roughstock as the year goes along. They represent some of the best artists that mainstream country music has to offer and here’s hoping more than one or two actually breakthrough in a big way.
Josh Thompson (Sony Nashville)
Who He Is: Singer of “Beer On The Table.”
Where He Is From: Cedarburg, Wisconsin
Why Should We Care: Josh Thompson has crafted a country/rock flavored debut album with producer Michael Knox (Jason Aldean) that should instantly place him in the hearts of fans of artists like Waylon Jennings, Jamey Johnson, Randy Houser, Toby Keith, Eric Church and Jason Michael Carroll (who cut Josh’s “Growing Up Is Getting Old.” The album features the breakout hit “Beer On The Table” along with some solid rockers like “Blame It On Waylon,” “Won’t Be Lonely Long” and ballads like “Sinner,” and “Way Out Here.” Way Out Here is scheduled to be released in February, 2010. Josh has recently joined Eric Church on the Jagermeister Country tour. Look for an interview with Josh Thompson appearing in our pages soon.
Matt Kennon (Bama Jam Records)
Who He Is: Singer of the song “The Call.”
Where He Is From: Georgia
Why We Should Care: This artist, who co-writes most of his material, has a raspy vocal that is instantly identifiable to him. “The Call” is a song that also is slightly about Matt Kennon as his own story is turned into one of the verses of the song (albeit slightly different than what really happened). The rest of his songs (many of which are on his MySpace page) show off a contemporary country singer with a rockin’ edge, falling somewhere closer to Montgomery Gentry and others.
Jerrod Niemann (SeaGayle/Columbia)
Who He Is: The co-writer of the hit Garth Brooks single “Good Ride Cowboy” has a single at radio now in "One More Drinkin' Song."
Where He Is From: Liberal, Kansas
Why We Should Care: In addition to writing the #1 hit for Garth Brooks, Jerrod also co-wrote two more hits for Garth in “Midnight Sun,” and “That Girl Is A Cowboy.” Jerrod’s friend Jamey Johnson, John Anderson, Julie Roberts, Neal McCoy and Zona Jones have all recorded his songs. Jerrod has a traditional country vibe while also being unafraid to record songs that appeal to both traditionalists and mainstream fans. His upcoming album Judge Jerrod and the Hung Jury reminds us of Jamey Johnson’s That Lonesome Song in its inventiveness and cohesiveness as an album.
Tyler Dickerson (Lyric Street)
Who He Is: The singer of the soon to be released single “Tell Your Sister I’m Single.”
Where He Is From: Columbia, Mississippi
Why We Should Care: Only 15 years old, Tyler Dickerson has a voice that sounds years older than he is. He rolls through a horns-laced tune like “Just Like Hank” and into fun-loving tunes like his upcoming single. Tyler has performed at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge twice a week for over a year now and like many others, he’s looking to go from the honkytonks to the big stages. Signed to Lyric Street Records late last year, Dickerson will release his debut album later in 2010.
Coldwater Jane (Mercury Nashville)
Who they Are: Coldwater Jane are sisters Brandon Jane and Leah Crutchfield. Debut single “Bring On The Love.”
Where They’re From: Lucedale, Mississippi
Why We Should Care: The sisters worked in the early part of the last decade trying to get a record deal before spending some time apart. In that time Leah Crutchfield scored cuts on albums by artists like Kristy Lee Cook before the duo got back together and found kindred spirits in producers Kevin Kadish and Wayne Kirkpatrick. The duo’s music recalls the organic country pop of Little Big Town with a bit of Dolly Parton thrown in for good measure. Their debut album will be released later this year.
Danny Gokey (19/RCA)
Who He Is: Most people know Danny from this third place finish on the eighth season of American Idol (2009). Gokey’s first single “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me” is currently at radio.
Where He Is From: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Why We Should Care: While Danny may be a pop-leaning artist, his voice recalls Kenny Rogers at times with a soulful rasp that is working well in Nashville these days. Gokey, who is passionate about singing songs with good messages of hope and redemption, will release his debut album My Best Days this coming spring.
Easton Corbin (Mercury Nashville)
Who He Is: Easton Corbin is the singer of the Top 20 hit “A Little More Country Than That.”
Where He Is From: Gilchrist County, Florida
Why We Should Care: His debut single showcases that Corbin has the goods to be the man to ‘fill’ George Strait’s considerable boots on country radio (so much so that fans think the single is Strait). His upcoming self-titled debut album (releasing March 2, 2010), features solid contemporary country that will not end the Strait comparisons but for many fans, they’ll be happy to have a guy like Easton around instead of another ‘pop’ artist.
The Band Perry (Republic Nashville)
Who They Are: This trio is lead vocalist Kimberly Perry with her brothers Neil and Reid Perry.
Where They Are From: Mobile, Alabama
Why We Should Care: This family trio mixes in strong harmonies with strong instrumental skills which are showcased in their debut single “Hip To My Heart.” The fun single instantly showcases Kimberly Perry as a powerhouse of a vocalist that rivals Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles at times. While they do lean towards pop, the bands considerable bluegrass-leaning background never is too far from the surface. Look for their debut album to arrive sometime in the summer.
Chris Janson (Sony)
Who He Is: He performed a duet on Holly Williams’ Here With Me (“Love I Think Will Last”)
Where Is He From: Perryville, Missouri
Why We Should Care: This is an artist with a heavily traditional background but he’s also a fan of ‘punk’ music. It makes for an interesting combination of two different traditional elements. His upcoming alum with Sony Nashville can be previewed at his MySpace (most of the songs are demos) and with talent displayed there, Janson could excite fans who may just think that the country genre has gone stale.
Houston County (Stroudavarious)
Who They Are: The Group behind the single “I Can’t Make It Rain.” They are Zach Hooper (Lead Vocals), Adam Hooper (Bass Guitar/BGVs), and John Milldrum (Lead Guitar).
Where They Are From: The Hooper brothers are from Cleveland, Georgia while Milldrum is from the Enterprise, Alabama area.
Why We Should Care: The trio has an organic sound that recalls classic family vocal groups of the past while also retaining a contemporary edge. They write most of their material and are making their way up the charts with their debut single. Their album, produced by James Stroud, will feature a mixture of that familial harmony along with strong country-rock sensibilities a la Keith Urban.
Laura Bell Bundy (Mercury Nashville)
Who She Is: She’s a Tony Award-nominated singer/actress with originating roles as Amber in Hairspray and Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. Debut single will be “Giddy On Up.”
Where She’s From: Lexington, Kentucky
Why We Should Care: Laura Bell Bundy may have Broadway experience but that doesn’t mean she’s not a country girl at heart. With a voice that -at times- recalls Dolly Parton, the 28 year-old Bundy has an effervescent energy that comes through in her single. Her debut album, Achin’ & Shakin’ will be released later in 2010.
Bridgette Tatum (Root 49 Music)
Who She Is: She’s the big voiced songwriter of Jason Aldean’s “She’s Country.”
Where She’s From: South Carolina.
Why We Should Care: Bridgette Tatum’s debut single “(I Like My) Cowboy’s Dirty” is about to be released to radio (it’s been on our radar since last summer) and while it recalls Gretchen Wilson, the rest of Bridgette’s debut album Sex, Church & Chicken can recall Wanda Jackson’s classic rockabilly as much as any other grooves and styles she hints at over the course of the record. One track to look out for on the record is the stunning “Johnny Cash’s Ashes.” Bridgette co-produced the album with singer songwriter Danny Myrick. Look for a late spring/early summer release for the record.
Jordyn Shellhart (Sony)
Who She Is: She is the 15 year-old singer/songwriter who released an impressive CD exclusively at Best Buy this past holiday season.
Where She’s From: Santa Rosa, California
Why We Should Care: Remember when you first heard Taylor Swift? Well, that’s the feeling that we got when hearing Jordyn’s music for the first time. The singer/songwriter not only writes with sharpness like the current top music star but Jordyn also sings a bit better than her too . Add a smartly acoustic edge to her music and what you have here is the makings of somebody ready to take the teen songstress mantle from Taylor herself.
Well, here they are, ten newcomers to look out for this coming year. The artists range from duos to bands to solo artists and all have something unique about themselves to give hope to country music fans that the genre is ending up in good hands.