5 Worthy Artists Finding Success in 2013

July 1, 2013 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  22 Comments

You know how you may root for a hometown sports team for years even though they’re terrible, and then out of the blue when they start to get good you don’t know how to behave because you’ve identified with losing for so long? Well that is what is happening in 2013 with many of the artists Saving Country Music and so many loyal fans have been following for years. Acts that we got in a habit of using as evidence of how the industry was woefully neglecting legitimate talent are now finally starting to find success, reshaping our theories on music’s downward spiral.

There is still much to do, but in 2013 we can find signs hope in the success of these artists.

hellbound-gloryHellbound Glory

When Saving Country Music named Hellbound Glory’s Old Highs & New Lows its 2010 Album of the Year, we were hoping someday the Reno, NV-based band might find the bigger audience they deserved, but who knew that only a few years later they would be playing to sold out arenas as an opening act on a Kid Rock tour. Hellbound Glory’s road was winding, and with the strength of front man Leroy Virgil’s songs they could still grow from here, but 2013 is the year we will point back on as the time they finally got their boot in the door.

caitlin-roseCaitlin Rose

With all the talk of 2013 being the “Year of the Woman” in country music, Caitlin Rose’s name has been appearing right beside names like Ashley Monroe and Kacey Musgraves as evidence that country’s new crop of women are the ones restoring substance to the genre. Once thought of as the UK’s best kept independent country secret, Caitlin’s scope is now coast to coast here across the pond as the songs from her critic’s favorite The Stand-In speak to a wide audience with both accessibility and smarts. Working with the Dave Matthews-backed ATO Records, Caitlin’s voice is finally starting to find an audience, and with a voice like hers, the sky is the limit.

austin-lucasAustin Lucas

There is nobody in roots music who has worked harder, toured more, come so close to finally getting his break so many times, and deserves the sweet rewards of success more than Austin Lucas. Though Austin had received some fortunate breaks in the past touring on Chuck Ragan’s Revival Tour and the Country Throwdown Tour, a year ago after seeing Austin Lucas deliver an inspiring show at Austin, TX’s Mowhawk club, he confided in me he was concerned if his music would ever stick, and how he was growing older by the day. The very next show Austin played resulted in him eventually being signed to New West Records, who is scheduled to release his latest album Stay Reckless on August 27th. Austin Lucas is a positive example of why you never give up, and how the power of the song can still override the concerns of the traditionally shallow music industry.

sturgill-simpsonSturgill Simpson

If there is one artist symbolizing hope for real country music in 2013, it is Sturgill Simpson. Like all of these artists, he’s put the hard work in as well, but the biggest lesson to take away from Sturgill’s success is to never settle for second best, and to believe in yourself. By allowing his music and personality to remain more of an enigma than a known quantity, Sturgill was able to make sure he wasn’t boxed in to any scene or subtext so when the time was right he could present his music to the world on his terms. Working with Thirty Tigers, and having been out on tour with folks like Dwight Yoakam and Junior Brown, Strugill is building a formidable career in country music.

valerie-juneValerie June

Valerie June received the mother of all opportunities in 2013 when she was asked to appear in front of a national audience as part of an intimate duet with Eric Church at this years ACM Awards. But that might just be the beginning for Valerie, whose highly-anticipated album Pushing Against A Stone set to be released on August 13th is already receiving buzz from big media outlets like Billboard and NPR. Like Ashley Monroe and Caitlin Rose, Valerie June is primed to join the class of inspiring up-and-coming country women taking shape in 2013.


22 Comments to “5 Worthy Artists Finding Success in 2013”

  • I’m happy for all artists on this list, but in particulars.. Hellbound Glory. It feels as though I’ve grown with them throughout their career. They make timeless music.

    I don’t know if it would be 2013, but Turnpike Troubadours sure are getting bigger. I’ve heard people jamming them that I would’ve never expected to.


    • 2012 was probably the year the Turnpike Troubadours success story was written, and probably the same for Kacey Musgraves. With the Troubadours it always felt like it was just a matter of time. With some of these other artists, you wondered if it was ever going to happen. For whatever reason, labels and booking agents are beginning to reach out to these folks, and they are finally able to make a living in music.


    • Good list, on point I do believe…..I’m curious how more mainstream country fans feel about Turnpike Troubadours, Sturgill, HBG & the rest. I’d love to see some sort of poll / review where folks that are used to 94.7 QDR (Or whatever your local commercial spewing radio station is called) think of these artists, especially those that are the most similar to their (popular / mainstream) favorites.

      I guess I’m curious to see what it is that they DON’T like about the lesser known artists, whether it’s the music itself, or the lack of commercialization / imagery / cross-promotion that the bigger mainstream acts have….I’d bet that it has more to do with the latter 3 options…….

      One good point to take from this is that at least a few bigger artists are tuning in to what “we” are into / want to hear. I feel like that is such a major thing (HBG / Turd Rock, Austin Lucas / Willie Nelson, etc) – at least they’re getting some real publicity apart from the blogosphere….

      What would be the best big name person (that still tours) that would be a good fit for Sturgill??

      ***And does anyone else catch themselves saying / typing Sturgeon whenever you intend to type Sturgill? I keep doing it damnit….too many episodes of River Monsters I guess lol


      • I think most mainstream country doesn’t have any feeling on acts like the Turnpike Troubadours and Hellbound Glory because they have no idea they exist. My long-stading theory has always been that if you take bands like those and give consumers a choice, they wouldn’t listen to most of the mainstream stuff. Luckily some new, substantive artists are beginning to make inroads, and hopefully this will begin to expose the mainstream to more choice.

        The big name fit for Strugill is Dwight Yoakam, and apparently on the dates Sturgill opened for him, they were selling around 100 CD’s a night. If you’re talking about someone bigger than Dwight, then it would have to be someone like George Strait or Alan Jackson.


        • Trigger,
          My younger brother’s girlfriend is a big mainstream country fan. She’s now had her ears opened to the Turnpike Troubadours, and “Good Lord Lorrie” is one of the best songs she’s ever heard. So, I think all it takes is exposure.

          My brother has become a big TPT fan, as well as Hellbound Glory. This is a kid that jams Eric Church (who is decent for mainstream flavor). He absolutely LOVES Hellbound Glory. Again…all it takes is exposure. I jammed those two groups for him and his girlfriend and created instant fans in the process.


  • Just saw on Sturgill’s facebook page that he’s being played on the radio in Japan now.


  • Shovels and Rope just toured with Dawes. I know they don’t have twangiest of country sounds, but touring with Dawes is a pretty big deal.


    • Shovels & Rope is an excellent example of a success story, though it may be rooted a little more in 2012. They also just taped an Austin City Limits episode, and were on Letterman in January. Excellent band that is making it big time and deserve a pat on the back.

      I have been frustrated over the last year trying to cover Shovels & Rope because even though they are more Muddy Roots than Muddy Roots and more Deep Blues than Deep Blues, and more underground country than underground country, because people don’t know them in the “scene,” they don’t give their music a chance. They might be the coolest thing going right now in dirty roots music, and more people should be noticing. Same could be said for Lincoln Durham.


      • I totally agree. The video for their song Gasoline is the perfect compliment to their sound. Anyone not familiar should check that song out. And, They can really make one hell of a party out of a small crowd of people. As soon as I saw them live I said to my girlfriend,”This band is going to blow the fuck up pretty soon”.

        And, if humanity as a whole has any chance of making me believe that good music actually can make it big, this band better hurry up and get famous.


  • Trig, love the list my bet would be on Hellbound Glory as thje most likely ones on this list to break out from the pack. I think Mr. Simpson is amazing and deserves to breakout and become big. I hope it happens for him. My perfect world would include the Turnpike boys hitting the big time but for some reason the haven’t been able to make that next step.


    • Maybe if they got their hair spiked and frosted, wore some affliction shirts and tight jeans, mainstream country might notice them more..lol Seriously it seems if they don’t look good to the younger female crowd they better make music they can dance to.


    • Turnpike Troubadours can make it purely off their music. Very few, if any, bands can make songs that can appeal to both the purist and mainstream fan. I’ve played them for friends that only listen to radio and they immediately bought their albums off iTunes. Gin, Smoke, and Lies, if marketed right could be in the top 20. It’s an amazing song with mass appeal. I genuinely hope that one day they make it big. They deserve.

      I’ve loved watching them progress and am VERY happy to see them so popular among this site. They really are special.



  • Besides Kellie Pickler’s album, Eric Strickland’s is my favorite on this list (can’t beat real country music and instruments)

    This is the reaction when mainstream radio listeners hear great talent and songs. People are so used to the mediocrity played on radio, their jaws drop when they hear better.



    “Seriously….that song was born for her…absolutely beautiful lyrics and voice”

    “I had goosebumps and teary eyed through the whole song, very beautiful”

    “Just listened to her new song on your station…beautiful song~~”

    “My jaw dropped when she sang, that was AWESOME…”

    “Kellie just gave me goosebumps singing Someone Somewhere Tonight.”

    “loved the song she did!!! the story behind it is so sweet too!”

    “She did a great job on the cover, nothing like hearing Walt Wilkins sing it, but still amazing in her own right”


  • I cannot wait to see Sturgill for the first time in a couple weeks. Defiantly picking up the album, it’s amazing. Austin Lucas will surely be a cant-miss at muddy roots this year


  • The only one whose music I’m not all that familiar with is Valerie June, which I aim to remedy in August. August is looking like a stellar month for new releases. On my radar are Amanda Shires (6th), Valerie June (9th), Austin Lucas (27th) and Black Joe Lewis (also 27th).


  • why do you bring up Ashley Monroe like she is some kind of saint? Her songs are sick. Have you listened to her solo album? Pistol Annies too…all they do is insult Christians, sing about raunchy sex. Ashley Monroe has connections and nothing more…no real talent there. Just a girl who gets upteen chances to make it over and over again when there is way more talent out there than her. YUCK!


    • Did I call her a saint? I mentioned her name as part of a resurgence of country women, but that is more of a fact than an opinion. I’m not sure if I would characterize her as “insulting Christians.” I can understand how some would take it that way with songs like “Hush Hush,” but it could also be taken as an exploration into the dichotomy of the American South. Ashley Monroe is making a very traditional sound amongst a very contemporary climate, and from a sonic standpoint this is good. But I too have been frustrated and vocal about the formulaic approach of her lyrics, and the Pistol Annie lyrics, and the somewhat fake suave attitude they portray, along with their appearance with Blake Shelton in his country rap “Boys ‘Round Here.”


      • Why are the Pistol Annies being given a pass to some degree about their presence on “The Boys ‘Round Here” and guys like Kevin Fowler or Hank Jr. are blacklisted because of their association with Colt Ford? Sure, the fact that the Annies are on the track is “frustrating” but that seems mild compared to being blacklisted. Hank Jr. didn’t even record anything (that we know of) with Ford, just included him on a tour, yet that got him on the SCM blacklist. I think a pretty strong argument, given the chart success, the recent statements made by Shelton, and the Annies’ draw, that “The Boys ‘Round Here” is much more dangerous and destructive. Let’s not give Fowler, Hank Jr. and other Ford collaborators a pass but let’s also be realistic in the direction the Annies seem to be going and the trends they are lending their support to.


        • I wrote that blacklist article years ago trying to set up a hard line against country rap that clearly failed, and it was probably a silly concept to begin with. I don’t like the Pistol Annies participation in “Boys ‘Round Here” anymore than anyone else, but in the end, they are not the problem, and neither are Kevin Fowler or Hank Jr. Back then country rap was struggling for acceptance. Now it may be one of the most dominant influences in all of country.


  • I hope this isn’t a foreshadowing of the critical response to my Satanic concept album. Also, Ashley is a peach. With talent. Go shake your finger somewhere else.


  • Agreed with all of these, especially HBG and Caitlin Rose. I’ve been listening to Caitlin for years and have been hoping that she’ll get the break she deserves.


  • I’m hoping for the resurgence of Sunny Sweeney at some point this year. I was really excited when she started to sneak into the radio dial but she dropped off as soon as she started. Her song “Please Be San Antone” remains one of my favorite songs on an album in the 2000’s era of country music. Wishing the best of luck to Sunny Sweeney in 2013.


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