In the past two years, I’ve grown to love country music. I’d grown up listening to the likes of Patsy Cline, John Prine, and Garth Brooks with my parents and had developed an appreciation for traditional country and folk during visits to Nashville and Memphis but never enjoyed what I heard on the radio. 2010s country seemed to be the same thing as pop music, only with the occasional fiddle or use of “country” tropes (trucks, girls, beer).
In late 2019, I came across Midland, a then-up-and-coming country trio who sounded closer to Brooks & Dunn than Luke Bryan or Dan + Shay. From there, I fell into the independent country scene and the sounds of artists like Jason Isbell, Tyler Childers, and Gabe Lee filled my playlists. I feel that country radio often gives the wrong impression of today’s country scene. Modern country is diverse, thoughtful, and detail-oriented — and while popular acts like Luke Combs and Jon Pardi are certainly pushing a more neotraditional sound into the mainstream, there are so many talented artists still flying under the radar.
So anyway, here are some of my favorites from the past couple of years. I’ve included a few industry standouts like Miranda Lambert and Midland along with my independent faves. Hope you enjoy the list and maybe find something to add to your own rotation.