About a year ago, we took a look ahead into the immediate future of local country music and pointed you in the direction of a few fine North Texas talents we thought would be worth keeping an eye on in 2015. Those artists indeed made their fair share of noise, in their own individual ways, whether they released new music or not. The most notable development among those we highlighted was the ascent of Troy Cartwright, who went from local kid opening shows to being the main attraction across the state, both on stage and on the radio dial.
For 2016, we’re pretty pumped for what a few of our most promising and seasoned honky-tonk heroes have in store for us. Here are just a few of the North Texas Country Artists we’re paying close attention to as this year rolls forward.
It’s been way too long since we’ve had new music from Mo Robson jamming our ears. It’ll be excellent to have one of this area’s best outlaw-style country-rockers offering something fresh. It certainly helps that he’s been busy playing live, with regular gigs at Adair’s and other great country-loving stages such as The Rustic and Double Wide. Since it has been a couple of years since he’s released a record, newer songs have been a staple of his gigs. The wait, however, should come to an end at some point this year. Robson recently told us he’s planning on releasing a record that will combine brand-new material with some re-recorded older tunes thrown in for good measure.
Back in 2012, Jerrod Medulla gave us one of our favorite country albums of the year with Speak Easy. It was a smoky, sexy album, and it featured one of our favorite country songs of that year in the form of “How Bad,” a killer duet with Americana ass-kicker Lindi Ortega. He’s stayed busy on the concert circuit in the years since that album, and the soon-to-be-papa let us know that his new new album, entitled Suits Me, is in the mastering process, and should be hitting us sooner than later, maybe even as soon as February.
Aubrey Lynn England
With one of the flat-out finest voices — country or otherwise — to be heard around these parts, England is a standout in a talent-rich pool. For the uninitiated, look no further than her stunning turn in “Whiskey and You,” the Chris Stapleton-penned duet she recorded with Sean Franks in 2013. She also reps for the country women with her regular “Girls Night Out” gigs at Love and War in Texas in Plano where she’s often joined by other top-notch ladies with twang. Later this year, England will release the second EP in a planned five-part series, Chameleon: Black Hole, which is a more rock-based follow-up to her Chameleon: Dressed in White from 2014. England’s vision for this series is to have each offering represent a different sound and style, which is fine with us, as she’s proven to be excellent at pretty much anything she sets her sights on. For now, she has another killer country love song on Texas radio, “A Pillow, A Blanket, and You.”
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Fort Worth-based Thieving Birds is an alumnus from last year’s list. It’s only fair, as the album which was in the plans for 2015 wasn’t able to see the light of day due to some lineup changes. And we did name “Black Canyon Boom” on the Top 50 Texas Country Songs of All-Time, lest anyone forget. Lead singer Ace Crayton recently caught us up on some tentative details for the album, letting us know that a 2016 release is likely; now the group has had time to gel with a new lead guitarist. While there’s no working title for the record, the songs are completed, and that’s good enough for us at this point in time. Until then, this is one of the tightest live bands you will find, and it will continue to tear up rooms all over the state, new album or not.
As country as country can be, Dallas-based Nate Kipp isn't too worried about releasing an album this year, because he just released a damn fine country record near the end of 2015. Kipp's new album, Shoehorn, is the follow-up to the killer Holding Pattern from 2012. It's packed with songs that, unsurprisingly, are refreshingly country — no slashes, hyphenations or further categorization necessary. Sharp, often witty writing, mixed into players who are as on-point as any band in North Texas, Shoehorn requires your attention if you let last year get away from you without spinning it a time or 20. Kipp will soon be taking his brand of country to Germany for some shows, where hopefully we'll find out just how well dusty boots and an old cowboy hat pair with lederhosen.