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Country/Heartland Picks 2016
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Country/Heartland Picks December 7
A little country, Christian, folk and roots rock to whet your whistle.
Listen to/Watch all the songs featured on this pick list on
BRANDY CLARK Love Can Go To Hell
This is the current #4 song on the Beyond Radio Untapped Resources Country chart. This singer-songwriter was nominated for best new artist at last year’s Grammy’s and has written songs for a huge number of artists including Reba, Sheryl Crow and Darius Rucker. Her own music is steeped in a more old time country groove (like “Big Day In A Small Town” and “Soap Opera”) than a lot of the pop/country that is on the airwaves.
WE ARE MESSENGERS Magnify
This Irish worship band reached #10 on the Christian album chart earlier this year with their debut album. ‘Magnify’ is currently in the top 15 in Christian airplay. The album also includes the top 10 “Everything Comes Alive” and the poignant album closer “I Don’t Have The Answers”.
DYLAN MENZIE Kenya
This singer-songwriter from Prince Edawrd Island has put out 2 EP’s, one in 2013 and the current “Adolescent Nature” including “Julia” and “Talk To Me”. He has been compared to the Lumineers (one of their current album tracks “Sleep On The Floor” has spent a number of months on the AAA Untapped Resources chart this year).
TIM HICKS Slow Burn
Canadian Hicks has had 7 top 10 singles since 2012 on the Canadian Country chart including “Stompin’ Ground” and “Here Comes The Thunder”. He specializes in twangy rock, just to the right? of Jason Aldean.
I can not deny that I have soft spot for some bro-country as Aldean’s “My Kinda Party” is one of my all time favorite songs.It’s the type of song that I have never tired of and has grown in stature since it’s chart run in 2011, when it only reached #2 on my weekly chart. Now It is likely in my top 50 of all time and is the epitome of the current country-rock style. He’s had 33 songs on my personal chart including “Sweet Little Something”, one of 3 #1’s. He just released his current single “Any Ol’ Barstool” last week.
GREG GRAFFIN Lincoln’s Funeral Train
Seems a lot of old rockers veer into this territory and Bad Religion’s lead singer is certainly one of them as evidenced by ‘Train’ and 2006’s “Don’t Be Afraid To Run”. His punk band formed in 1979 and remained obscure until the 1994 song “21st Digital Boy” put them on the alt radio map. They had their biggest radio success in the mid 90’s. The band is still together and has kept the punk edge on all 16 of their albums since 1982.
RYAN KINDER Close
TYLER FARR Our Town
Recent singles by 2 artists that were featured on the June 6 pick list. Both have had top 5 songs on my personal chart, including “Kiss Me When I’m Down” and “Withdrawals”.
Country/Heartland Picks November 16
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As this list transcends just country and showcases a variety of genres I will start to indicate the style before each artist
Indie Folk/Adult Alternative
ANGEL OLSEN Give It Up
This indie-folk artist from St. Louis has released 4 albums since 2011. She is finally making some waves on Adult Alternative radio with the song “Shut Up And Kiss Me”. The epic alt-country “Sister” at first has a decidedly sparse sound that brings to mind old school songs from the 50’s/60’s era and then cranks it up towards the end.
BROTHERS OSBORNE Dirt Rich
Maryland siblings John & T.J. Osborne play a true mix of country twang and rock as evidenced on songs like ‘Rich’, “Pawn Shop” and “Down Home” from their debut album. They released their first single “Let’s Go There” and hit #1 on the country airplay chart & my personal chart last year with “Stay A Little Longer”. The video is very progressive for the country audience showing somewhat intimate protrayls of straight and gay couples.
UK Country & Scottish Alt-Rock
RED SKY JULY The Truth And The Lie
There is a burgeoning UK country scene and this husband/wife duo have been a part of it since 2011. They come from 2 former bands, Texas and Alisha’s Attic. One of my favorite parts of researching artists is finding unknown (to me) connections. Texas is a band from Scotland whose debut single in 1989 “I Don’t Want A Lover” was my #4 song of that year. It has a slight country feel behind it’s alt rock sheen. Alisha’s Attic was a UK pop duo in the vein of the Spice Girls that were together from 1996-2001. On songs like “Sway” and “House Of Cards” this duo shows an easy going country vibe.
Country & 2000’s era Post grunge
DALLAS SMITH Autograph
Discovery #2. In putting Smith as the next artist on the list (‘Autograph’ is the current #1 song on Canadian country radio) I had no idea he was also the lead singer of Canadian rock band Default. They’ve had 9 songs on my personal chart and 2 in my top 10 of 2011. “Yesterday’s Song” (#2) and “Hold Onto You” (#6). They were discovered by Chad Kroeger of Nickelback in 1999. Many of my friends know that I have always said I like bands that sound like Nickelback more than Nickelback itself (although to be clear they have had 27 songs on my personal chart). Their current cover of Don Henley’s “Dirty Laundry” is a faithful yet harder edged remake.
Smith started his solo country career in 2012 and has had 14 Canadian top 10 country hits since then. It’s hard to hear the same voice between his rock and country persona’s but you can sort of hear it in “Side Effects”, “Cheap Seats” and “One Little Kiss”.
BLUE WATER HIGHWAY BAND Speaking Of The Devil
This rousing current single is the perfect introduction to this Americana roots band from the Texas gulf coast. The band is named for the highway that runs up the coast from Galveston. The sound is a mix of country, New Orleans and gospel. They released an EP in 2013 and a full length album “Things We Carry” last year featuring “Medicine Man” and “City Love, City Lose”.
DAVID FANNING Where Are You Now
Fanning’s first break as a singer was his cover of Justin Timberlake’s “Drink You Away” (the song Timberlake dueted with Chris Stapleton live and shot that artist into the country stratosphere). Fanning had previous success as a songwriter and producer of a few #1 country hits and part of Jason Aldean’s road band. “Doin’ Country Right” and “What’s Next” are 2 singles from 2015 but he as of yet has failed to reach the country top 50.
Country/Heartland Picks October 21
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SHANE GAMBLE Lost In A Mystery
Hailing from Maryland, Gamble glides between country, rock and Americana effortlessly. On this song he plays on the the radio friendly country-rock side of the street.
Rollin’ And Tumblin’/Turn My Way
This independent artist released his second album, “American Heart” in June. ‘Turn’, from his 1st record made impact on Sirius/XM channel The Highway in 2013.
AUTUMN HILL Return Policy
Canadian duo Tareya Green and Mike Robins, who have had 7 top 25 country singles in Canada since 2012. This was a #22 from 2015.
2 others from their latest album “Anchor”. Like duo Thompson Square they trade male/female lead vocals. “Blame” is their only top 10, reaching #4.
BLIND PILOT Packed Powder
This indie folk band from Portland, Oregon is currently #21 on the AAA radio chart. This sounds like something America would have put out 40 years ago.
Umpqua Rushing/The Story I Heard
The band has released 3 albums and have an easy going style that is so very west coast. ‘Rushing’, another single from this year, is actually in sound, the antithesis of that. ‘Story’ is from their 2009 debut, “3 Rounds And A Sound”.
SARAH DUNN BAND Dirty
Born in Missouri, Dunn handles the fiddle and mandolin as well as lead vocals for her band. She is not afraid to get down and dirty on this song. Crunchy guitars and intricate fiddle swirls highlight the song
You Or The Whiskey/Anywhere You Go
2 songs from her 2014 debut album “You Or The Whiskey”. ‘Go’ slows the pace down to showcase her songwriting and vocal.
CHRIS LANE Drinkin’ Games
Lane is just coming off his first country #1 single “Fix”, which was also a top 10 on my chart. The twin from North Carolina just released this new single on Oct. 7. It definitely fits into that bro country, Florida Georgia Line realm.
For Her/Stolen Car
He released 7 singles before the debut album “Girl Problems” came out earlier this year. ‘Her’ is a straightforward country ballad while ‘Car’ employs the R&B vibe that current stars Thomas Rhett and Brett Eldredge employ.
DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS Surrender Under Protest
This southern alternative country-rock band put out their first record in 1998. On this song they sound like Neil Young fronting the Replacements.
What It Means/First Air Of Autumn
Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley are the core members of the band but there has been a revolving cast of characters over the course of 11 albums. “What it Means” is a sobering reflection on American values from their just released “American Band” and ‘Autumn’, which vocally elicits Willie Nelson, is from 2014’s album “English Oceans”.
FOY VANCE Upbeat Feelgood
This sounds like mid-70’s classic country-rock, with shades of Van Morrison. Vance was born in Northern Ireland but his family,led by his preacher father, moved to Oklahoma soon after his birth in 1974. So I guess the sound is somewhat predictable.
Indiscriminate Act of Kindness/Bangor Town
‘Kindness’ was featured in an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in 2006. Of interest, for his most recent album, Ed Sheeran approached him to release iton his record imprint Gingerbread Man records and Elton John was the executive producer. Not surprising considering his love for Americana. ‘Bangor’ is his hometown.
ELTON JOHN Where To Now St. Peter?
His love for Americana shone through especially on a trio of early 70’s albums, “Tumbleweed Connection”, “Madman Across The Water” and “Honky Chateau”. This song is one of my favorite’s from that period and I credit Elton for the music journey my life has revolved around.
THE TRAGIC THRILLS Ain’t Scared
We come almost full circle here. This band was born out of pop-rock band Allstar Weekend. They claim influences of country, rock, Motown and gospel. While some other songs definitely lean towards pop-rock, this current single is totally in the Americana/AAA/Country rock arena. The first artist featured claims similar influences, perhaps signaling that your influences can take you in seemingly different directions while keeping you under a wide brim umbrella.
Soft & Sweet/Tears
“Soft’ is another current single while “Tears” is the lead off cut from their debut album in 2013. Both come from a strummy folk center with the latter employing a percussive back beat. These songs are a far cry from the original band’s original affiliation with Radio Disney.
Listen to the current pick list here on
Country/Heartland picks Oct. 5
BILLY CURRINGTON Soundtrack
This 43 year old Savannah, Georgia native has had 10 #1 country singles since his debut in 2003, including country radio’s current #1 “It Don’t Hurt Like It Used To”. 3 of his 6 albums have gone to #2 on the U.S. album chart.
Wake Me Up
In 2013 Currington pleaded no contest to an elder abuse charge and was sentenced to 5 years probation. By doing so he had a terrorist threat charge dropped. Hmmm.
CHORD OVERSTREET Homeland
This is the Glee actor and son of country artist Paul Overstreet’s first post Glee single. His older brother Nash is in a pop band called Hot Chelle Rae.
HOT CHELLE RAE I Like To Dance
The band had 6 pop top 40 songs between 2010 and 2014. This was their first release which did not chart. Their biggest hit was the #5 “Tonight Tonight” in 2011
PAUL OVERSTREET Daddy’s Come Around
During his recording career between 1982 and 2005 Overstreet released 10 albums and 18 singles. He had a string of 8 top 10 singles in a row between 1988-1991 including this #1 song from 1990.
WARD THOMAS Carry You Home
UK twin sister duo Catherine and Lizzy Ward Thomas are credited with being “Britain’s first country stars”. Their just released second album “Cartwheels” hit #1 on the UK album chart last month.
THE SHIRES Beats To Your Rhythm
Another UK country duo, this time a male-female duo. Their first album “Brave” reached #1 in 2015. This single from the just released this past Friday “My Universe” album is currently in top 25 of the UK airplay chart.
My Universe/Nashville Grey Skies
Their most recently single and first release in 2014.
ERIC PASLAY Angels In This Town
Latest single from this singer/songwriter from Abilene, Texas. He’s had 3 top 15 singles from his debut album in 2013.
Never Really Wanted/She Don’t Love You
His first single from 2011 reached #48 on the country chart. The gorgeous “She Don’t Love You” was on my personal chart for 9 months and ended up as my #46 song of 2015.
WILL HOGE Even If It Breaks Your Heart
Paslay has written #1 songs for others including Jake Owen, Love & Theft and the Eli Young Band. On the last country picks list I featured Will Hoge who had recorded the Eli Young #1 back in 2009.
Two songs I think will perform well this fall.
LAUREN ALAINA Road Less Traveled
HUNTER HAYES Yesterday’s Song
Country/Heartland Picks Sept. 10
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