Yes, They Still Make Actual Country Music
Chris Stapleton - Perhaps the best known and most “accepted” by Nashville, Chris Stapleton spent years there, churning out hits for other artists before he finally put out his first LP in 2015. That album, Traveller, became an instant hit and launched him into Country stardom. Considered somewhat of an outlaw in the genre, Stapleton has still found a way to be accepted and to even win multiple CMA and Grammy awards. Each of his four albums are worth checking out and are readily available.
Jason Isbell - Jason Isbell spent six years as a guitarist and songwriter in Drive-By Truckers before kicking off his solo career in 2007. After churning out 3 records and struggling with alcoholism, Isbell finally broke through with 2013’s Southeastern and has been on an amazing run ever since. His 4 more recent albums have all won multiple awards and have ended up on almost every year end Best Of lists. His sounds run the gamut of heavy rockers to delicate ballads, Isbell is a master songwriter who has also contributed tracks to numerous other artists and the soundtrack to A Star Is Born.
Margo Price - Margo Price’s first LP, 2016’s self financed, Midwest Farmer’s Daughter was turned down by numerous labels before being picked up by Jack White’s Third Man Records. That album channeled the sounds of a country purist, called out the hypocrisy of Nashville itself and turned Price into an up and coming star. Her two albums that have followed have moved into a more almost Fleetwood Mac sound, but her talents as a vocalist and songwriter continue to shine through. She’s also a really good drummer!
Sturgill Simpson - One of my favorites on this list, Sturgill Simpson is a bluegrass musician in the body of a rock and roll guitar player.His first two LP’s, including his breakthrough, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, are classic honky tonk country music. Pure and unapologetic, Simpson sounded fresh out of the late 1950’s on both LP’s, so the rock guitar, horns and his reworked cover of Nirvana’s In Bloom may have caught a few fans off guard. Not to rest on his laurels, his next LP, Sound & Fury, would sound like a late 80’s ZZ Top album and then he would use the covid pandemic quarantine of 2020 to turn his back catalog into straight bluegrass tracks with his Cuttin’ Grass series.
Colter Wall - Four albums in and Canada’s Colter Wall has already made a solid career out of channeling the tougher side of country music. Somewhere between Johnny Cash and Steve Earle, Wall is another artist that sounds more at home in the late 50’s than they do in 2021. His latest LP, Western Swing & Waltzes and Other Punch Songs is perhaps his most “cowboy” sounding work and still sounds 1,000 times more country than the rest of Nashville combined.