There's a pack of new artists about to break into the country music mainstream, and they're bringing something fans have long demanded: a more traditional sound.
That legion of fans will find solace in new artists like Cody Johnson, a longtime independent Texas artist who's now on a major label. Dillon Carmichael is another rising star traditional fans are already clinging to thanks to his strong debut album, Hell on an Angel. Also find Nora Collins representing the contemporary side of the genre with her youthful sound, while Lauren Jenkins proves herself to be a strong female voice bringing a bit of a rock appeal to country music. A hitmaking songwriter-turned-artist rounds out this list.
Here are five new country acts not to miss in January 2019.
Traditional country enthusiasts will love Cody Johnson. He's spent more than a decade building a sustainable following in the independent music scene, but his talent is so undeniable that he caught the attention of Warner Music Nashville, who signed him in 2018. What makes Johnson a noteworthy artist is how he paints an image with his voice, like with the vivid "Wild as You" and pure debut single "On My Way to You." Drawing well deserved comparisons to George Strait, Johnson will be one of country's top vocalists of 2019.
Since she was a teen, Lauren Jenkins has established herself as an actress, singer and songwriter — now she'll add rising country star to her resume. Jenkins brings a gritty sound to country music, both sonically and lyrically. Her debut single "Give Up the Ghost" eloquently blends rock and country, while the stirring "No Saint" pairs stubbornness with vulnerability. Look for her compelling debut album No Saint to make her one of country music's most important female voices in 2019.
Traditional country is alive and well in Dillon Carmichael. With a voice reminiscent of Jamey Johnson, Carmichael fondly recalls classic country songs that tell the story of his life in "Old Songs Like That" and captures the beauty of life in "It's Simple." Fans have been quick to embrace his current single "Dancing Away With My Heart" — as pure of a love song as you'll find. With producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell) behind him, Carmichael is set up to tell convincing stories to country fans for years to come.
With two of the biggest country hits in 2018 tied to his name (Morgan Wallen's "Up Down" and "Simple" by Florida Georgia Line), songwriter Michael Hardy has already proven that he fits in country music. Now he's ready to show off his own artistic side as 'HARDY.' His debut EP This Ole Boy finds him as an authentic, traditional country enthusiast who identifies with the rural lifestyle — it's bound to draw in fans who celebrate this identity as much as he does. Wallen was so taken by his vision that HARDY will join him on the road for Wallen's If I Know Me Tour, which launches Jan. 4.
She grew up with dreams of being a Broadway star, so it's no surprise that Nora Collins is bringing her theatrics to country music. You can hear it in her EP Strings, on which she displays her free spirit and sweet voice that's refreshing in a genre that often looks for sameness. It's also where the young singer demonstrates her ability to write a song with an important message with the telling "Plain Jane" — Vince Gill lends his vocals here — and displays youthful wisdom on the title track. Collins' bubbly persona will add new energy to country music in 2019.
You've Never Heard a Cover This Good