Inevitably once a song is released into the world, it may take a different trajectory than an artist intended. Some burn quickly and fade even faster; others linger in our memories like cherished friends. The pressure on young independent artists to make music that will be worth remembering must be immense, yet they continue to tackle the task with the relish, care, and discipline that the act of creation requires.
Of course only time will determine which budding acts will receive long-term acclaim, which tunes stick in our collective consciousness. Fortunately the trio of EPs below reveal distinct young talents who approach country music from different perspectives, yet all display a level of thoughtfulness and maturity that should serve them well in the future.
Artist: The Brothers Roberson
Hometown: Springfield, Missouri
EP: The Cold
Sound: Tender contemporary country with a romantic twist
Other recordings: The Brothers Roberson, A Place You Can Run To
No-so-secret weapon: Everyman appeal mixed with warm sincerity
Personal favorites: “Put It On”, “Back”, “The Cold”
Most importantly: Brothers Rhett and Brendan (who won the 2015 Country Showdown) seem determined to stake out their own space in country music. Neither falling firmly into the traditional nor mainstream camp, they engage their audience without pandering, offering a more adult, somewhat nostalgic alternative to some current Top 40 sounds.
Artist: Riah Butler
Is Riah short for something?: Mariah
Hometown: Galway, Ireland
EP: On Sundays
Sound: Powerhouse country-pop
Personal favorites: “On Sundays”, “Lonely Anywhere”, “The River in Me”
Most importantly: Much like the pop diva who shares her name, listeners will first notice Butler’s formidable voice. Once they’re hooked, they’ll gain even more appreciation for her interpretative abilities as she ably voices an array of plucky heroines with humor and heart.
Artist: Kody West
Hometown: Denton, Texas
EP: Higher Ground
Sound: Fiery Texas country that also branches into bluegrass and folk
Other recordings: acoustic EP
Not-so-secret weapon(s): Explosive arrangements married to frank lyrics, grit
Personal favorites: “Playing Cards”, “Horses”, “Fatal Love”
Most importantly: While he’s yet to reach the lofty heights of his songwriting heroes, West’s new EP captures both the scope of his influences (country, rock, and bluegrass) and his own fierce ambitions. Not afraid to experiment, he proves to be equally adept at propulsive rockers and reflective ballads. He’s one to watch.