Country Music Almanac 2022: 12 artists to watch in 2022 | Cover stories

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There is a veritable deluge of emerging country talent that deserves your attention. To help you keep up, we’ve picked out a dozen artists who are coming in 2022 with superlative songs, exceptional vocals, and powerful insights to share.







Ron Pope




Ron Pope

The first phase of the pandemic forced many of us to put our lives on hold and take stock of what we had. For a lucky few, we even found a kind of contentment. Ron Pope is one of those people. Cherishing his role as a stay-at-home dad, Pope confronts fatherhood on his recent album bone structure. Despite the pandemic, Pope’s worn voice – clearly suited to punk – is a way for all of us to wonder in amazement what happens when the struggles of our 20s turn into the stability of our 30s. With his next EP It’s gonna be a long night, Pope continues to explore how raising a good human turned him into a better one. RACHEL CHOLST






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Roberta Lea


Roberta Lea

At the very end of 2021, Virginia resident singer Roberta Lea (read an interview with her here) posted Just a taste, his first EP of country material. The common threads that run through his early R&B-oriented tracks — subtly sophisticated lyrics rendered in rich vocals — are a perfect fit for new songs. Clever turns of phrase (see the very catchy “Sweet Baby Ray”) mark songs that ring true as she seeks to maintain healthy relationships in a world with all sorts of stressors to manage. It would be a standout release for an established artist, and it’s a hell of a start. STEPHEN TRAGESER






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Aaron Vance




Aaron Vance

Of all the new 2021 country albums I’m hearing right now, Aaron Vance’s cabin fever is the one that excites me the most. Vance (who you can also read an interview with here) has a great voice that he can use in many different ways and a knack for writing songs that are often as fun as they are insightful and heartfelt – listen to ‘Livin’ Above My Means’ for an excellent Some records lean more one way than the other; “Most Beautiful Boots” might make Roger Miller a little jealous, while “Five Bucks Says” offers an honest and sobering perspective on trying to stay in America’s declining middle class. But Vance still sounds like him, no matter what, and that’s a beautiful thing. STEPHEN TRAGESER






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Veronique Medrano


Veronique Medrano

The Latinx community has a long, proud and sorely underrated heritage in country music – just ask Freddy Fender. Véronique Medrano is there to correct this whitewashing of history. Medrano’s music is rooted in the Tejano and conjunto traditions of Mexico and South Texas. Whether she sings on the mic or helps preserve these genres and push them forward behind her keyboard, Medrano’s passion for her art and her reverence for the pioneers who came before her are evident. Medrano EP 2021 Tears, featuring four renditions of the titular Roy Orbison classic, weaves weeping pedal steel into a heart-pounding, girl-group-style beat. Four songs aren’t enough – hopefully 2022 will see more of the fruits of Medrano’s labor. RACHEL CHOLST






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sad dad




sad dad

Over the past year, bassist, vocalist and songwriter Melissa Carper has established herself as a slightly biased representative of mainstream country. The former Nashvillian, who now lives in Texas, released one of the best albums of 2021, Daddy’s Country Gold, which combines jazzy string band arrangements with songs about Chevy pickups, farming and the lure of the Arkansas hills. Along with guitarist Brian Martin, banjo player Joe Sundell and violinist Rebecca Patek, she is a member of Sad Daddy, which plows a similar part of the alt-country field. Sad Daddy has been around for over a decade. On their 2018 collection Live at White Water Tavern, Carper delivers material like “Christian Girlfriend” with sangfroid. Sad Daddy has a whole new studio, Way up in the hills, which is slated for release on January 28. EDD HURT






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Margo Cilker


Margo Cilker

On his 2021 record Pohoryl, Pacific Northwesterner Margo Cilker showcases her superb storytelling skills and a nimble country-folk band following her along the twisting contours of her stories. Each song comes across as a chapter in a story that I want to hear more of, even though it’s about circumstances no one should have to go through – something that can’t be said about every author’s debut album- songwriter. STEPHEN TRAGESER






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Mya Byrne




Mya Byrne

A seasoned multi-talented musician, Mya Byrne has spent years recording, performing, and creating space for herself and other trans women to be represented in the country and folk music communities. His list of accomplishments is already long and includes an appearance on Lafemmebear’s remix of Reba McEntire’s “I’m a Survivor,” featured on the country star‘s 2021 show. Revivified Remixed Revisited triple album. Byrne has been hard at work on a new record produced here in Nashville by Aaron Lee Tasjan, which should position her as one of the genre’s most unique rising voices. LORIE LIEBIG






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Jett Holden




Jett Holden

Jett Holden hails from Elizabethton, Tennessee, but the singer-songwriter has such a powerful message, it’s not hard to imagine he’ll soon make an impact on the Nashville country scene, hopefully transforming it into a less stereotypical white space. Songs like “Taxidermy,” which Holden performed live during a Country Queer showcase at last year’s AmericanaFest, are exactly what country music needs: a kick in the pants to give up. tired tropes and elevate singers with something to say. “I believe that my life matters, and you? Holden sings in a gritty southern accent over soft guitar, followed by the refrain that he doesn’t want to end “taxidermy for your Facebook wall.” If country music doesn’t support this, it can’t continue to claim to represent ordinary Americans. ABBY LEE HOOD






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Lilli Lewis


Lilli Lewis

Also known by her nickname “Folk Rock Diva”, New Orleans-based singer-songwriter Lilli Lewis brings an engaging and necessary voice and perspective to the narrative roots of the genre. His superb album 2021 American offers timeless autobiographical compositions that delve into the realities of everyday life for marginalized groups in America by looking at our society as a whole. In addition to her skills as an engaging and honest lyricist, Lewis has actively worked to create safe spaces and push for the diversification and inclusion of Black, Indigenous, and artists of color, as well as LGBTQ and disabled artists in the community of country music and beyond. LORIE LIEBIG






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Morgan Wade




Morgan Wade

Morgan Wade exploded into the spotlight in 2021 with his second feature film Reckless. Released via indie rock solid Thirty Tigers, the LP was co-produced by Paul Ebersold and singer-songwriter-guitarist Sadler Vaden (who also plays guitar for Jason Isbell). It’s packed with incisive songs shaped by struggles with mental health and addiction, and it rocks like no other. Wade, who Scene crowned Best Country Newcomer in our Best of Nashville issue, signed to Sony Music subsidiary Arista, and set to release a deluxe edition of Reckless January 28, and the sky should be the limit. STEPHEN TRAGESER






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Lizzie No




Lizzie No

Lizzie No’s debut album hard earned immediately caught the attention of Billboard when it was released in 2017. The magazine called No’s work “both understated and fervent”. It’s an apt description of the energy the Brooklyn-based musician creates as she easily navigates between delicate harp plucking and soft vocals to full-throated indie-pop arrangements on her 2019 LP. Vanity. “The Killing Season,” a standout in No’s extensive catalog, illustrates the toll of perpetual and systemic violence against black people in America. She brings a remarkably lively and varied palette to the country world. ABBY LEE HOOD






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paisley fields


paisley fields

Paisley Fields is the name of both a country band and its piano-rock frontman, and both lean heavily on the theatrical aspects of the country styles they work in. Among these influences, country-rock and honky-tonk come to the fore in their songs, which proudly feature gay romances. Think a heavy dose of Lavender Country (which Patrick Haggerty makes an appearance on Paisley Fields’ 2020 album Electric Park Ballroom) with a few touches of Low Cut Connie’s stage presence and you have a rough idea of ​​what makes Paisley Fields so exciting. STEPHEN TRAGESER






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