2016 was a tremendous year for fans of country music that are eager for the genre to have more substance and get back to a more traditional sound. In 2016 the mainstream saw Jon Pardi and William Michael Morgan grace the top of country music’s charts with Pardi having the most played song in country music with “Head Over Boots.” Outside of the mainstream, artists like Cody Jinks, Margo Price and Sturgill Simpson among many others released terrific albums of substance that not only performed incredibly well but, gained these artists huge followings. In 2017 I believe we will see a lot of what we saw in 2016 meaning that we will continue to see traditional leaning artists of substance have success while the bro’s and pop singers clutter the charts as usual. The list that I have comprised is a list of exciting, young artists who have the potential to break out in 2017. When I say “breakout” I should be clear that I am not necessarily talking about radio success. Plenty of artists have shown in recent years that you can be successful without country radio getting on board (see Chris Stapleton please). I chose artists specifically that have not had a major radio hit or had major independent success to this point. I was tempted to put William Michael Morgan and Jon Pardi on this list because, I believe 2017 will be huge for both of them but, I decided they have had too much success already to be on a list like this. The artists that I chose for this list are artists whose music I can admire and appreciate and believe can have success like they have never seen in 2017. So, without further ado, here are my picks for breakout artists of 2017.
Lee Ann Womacks daughter splashed onto the scene in 2016 releasing her garage country album New City Blues in January and then re-releasing it in September with her new record label Carnival Recording Company. The album was recieved mostly well by critics and established Sellers as an incredible vocalist and an artist who’s music had real substance and a real edge. Her sound is not for everyone and the production on her first album is a bit heavy but, that is her unique garage country style. I am definately excited to see what is to come next for Sellers and whether or not country radio will give her a chance.
I learned of Midlands existence from a random tweet I saw made by Jon Pardi. I decided to check out the Big Machine Label band and I was SHOCKED! This band brings back the sounds of 90’s country in a way that I thought was dead. Not only is Midland’s music unquestionably country but, there isn’t a single bad song on their debut ep. What is so encouraging is that Big Machine is behind them which increases the odds that country radio will give these guys a chance. Regardless of what country radio does with them though it is impossible to believe they won’t be a big success.
Believe it or not but, Runaway June is the first female trio to have a top 30 hit in a decade. Their debut single “Lipstick” is a song about loving someone that will treat you right (someone who will ruin your lipstick, not your mascara). The song has wonderful fiddle play throughout the song and reminds you of a song the Dixie Chicks could have recorded. For such a new group they sound great together and showcase the kind of music women can give us on country radio if the industry would give them a chance.
I truly wish Curb Records would just set this incredible artist free of their mismanagement of his career. It took until October of 2016 to get a debut album from Pitney. And may I add they did a horrible job of promoting the album and are chosing to release the worst song from Behind This Guitar “Everywhere.” Despite all this I believe “Everywhere” has a shot to have success on country radio and with the traditional country resurgence this is the time to push Mo Pitney. The only question is whether or not Curb will screw this up.
Whitney Rose is great for anyone who is a fan of Margo Prices work. Whitney Rose has a throwback country sound that is just so refreshing. Rose is the one artist on this list that is not a mainstream artist so her success in 2017 will not be predicated on radio at all besides maybe Texas country radio. Rose who was born in Canada and currently resides and plays in the Texas scene is set to release a new album in 2017 after releasing the terrific first single “My Boots,” which is a song about being a strong, independent woman who doesn’t change who she is despite the circumstances.