Saying we liked Country music used to get the automatic response “like Achy Breaky Heart?”. Now, the response is just as likely to be “oh, I love the TV show Nashville”. The second is far preferable.
This glossy drama – entering its sixth season – has proved a gateway for novices into to the rich variety of country as a genre. Now, instead of writing us off as outdated members of the Billy Ray Cyrus fan club, people have been asking for recommendations of more music like the rapidly selling Nashville soundtrack. Luckily these recommendations are easy to come by; every fictional Nashville artist seems to have a handy selection of real world counterparts.
If only for legal reasons – we’re sure that “any resemblance to actual persons living or dead is purely coincidental”, the resemblance is nonetheless there. Nevertherless, welcome Nashies on the threshold of your fully fledged country fandom. Here are some great artists to get started with…
You like the raw, honesty of DEACON CLAYBOURNE – just a man with a guitar, a voice thinly veiling his poignant backstory and a smile as heartbreaking as his songs.
Try bluesy Tyler Childers, rocky Jason Isbell or storyteller Will Hoge.
You prefer the feisty sing-into-your-hairbrush tunes of JULIETTE BARNS, someone who can do angry anthem but then surprise you with a beautiful, gentle ballad.
Check out former American Idol Carrie Underwood or her fellow Grammy winner Miranda Lambert. Both have an alarming number of inspirational revenge songs and the pair teamed up for Double Juliette-level trouble in Somethin’ Bad, while this Miranda hit is the ultimate shoutalong anthem.
You think Rayna could’ve done a whole lot worse than cowboy superstar LUKE WHEELER and his big hits.
Try the monumental back catalogue of Tim McGraw. He’s married to Faith Hill – remember 90s crossover hit This Kiss? – and you might have seen him playing Sandra Bullock’s hubby in The Blind Side. Other hat-wearing alumni include Mr All-America Toby Keith or stadium filler Jason Aldean.
You’re looking for harmonies and chemistry like THE EXES in all their various incarnations.
Listen to Carolina folksters Mandolin Orange, Austrian – English duo Two Ways Home, or The Striking Matches, a duo who’ve written many of the songs for the TV series. Or for that matter Sam Palladio who plays Gunnar actually has his own music out and a duet with Una Healy of The Saturdays, Stay My Love. Of course we can’t confirm any of these acts are as romantically turbulent.
You hope the next season brings more MADDIE AND DAPHNE duets.
You can download the real-life singing of sisters Lennon and Massie but you may also enjoy older songwriting duo Maddie and Tae.
You’d love to go to a WILL LEXINGTON concert and don’t believe there can ever be too many songs about beer. Or too much beer.
There are LOADS of good time guys topping the country radio charts at the moment. For starters try Dierks Bentley, Luke Combs, Kane Brown, or Luke Bryan. Hear he is with one of his more sensitive songs.
You think LAYLA GRANT was hard done by. There’s nothing wrong with county on the pop side and you loved Taylor Swift’s older stuff.
Try pop-country princesses like Kelsea Ballerini, Jana Kramer (who you might recognise from TV’s One Tree Hill), Cassaddee Pope or Lauren Alaina.
You can’t understand why obvious rockstar AVERY BARKLEY doesn’t get to perform more.
We’re pretty sure Avery would be at home with these bands on the rockier end of the country spectrum. Try The Cadillac Three, Blackberry Smoke or Brothers Osborne.
You loved the latest series dipping into bluegrass and gospel roots music with HALLIE JORDAN and her banjo.
The good news is you can listen to Rhiannon Giddens who plays Hallie in her real-life band Carolina Chocolate Drops. For even more contemporary bluegrass sounds try Cornish band Flats and Sharps or Old Crow Medicine Show, whose much-covered anthem Wagon Wheel is a staple at any country night out.
Or, finally, you want to grow up to be the queen of Nashville RAYNA JAMES – a classy songstress whose earned the respect of fans and the music industry through years of hard graft, integrity, legendary ballads… and serious sequins.
Try these first ladies of country: Martina McBride, Trisha Yearwood (who’s incidentally Mrs Garth Brooks) or Reba McEntire. With a career spanning over 40 years, Reba’s almost as big as Dolly in the States and even has her own sitcom.
So die-hard country fans, d’you agree with the comparisons or have you got some ideas of your own? And newbies, who’s your favourite Nashville singer?
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