“Go Ready” Bands in Country Music Right Now

April 23, 2012 - By Trigger  //  Reviews  //  59 Comments

Hellbound Glory

Hollywood seems obsessed with finding talent among the masses with their silly reality show contests like American Idol and The Voice, when in reality there’s a boatload of talent just sitting there waiting to be discovered right under their surgically-crafted, cosmetically-sculptured noses. But of course they don’t want to actually find any talent, because then what would they have to sell commercials for boner pills and high fructose corn syrup in the next season?

So here’s a list of some bands that are go ready, right now, no excuses. These are not fey, artsy acts, goat worshipers, or punk gone country screamo shows. These are performers that even using Music Row’s shallow approach to music, are marketable, young, hip, with hit-caliber songs ready for country radio, excellent live shows, and would immediately improve the quality and appeal of the genre.

This is just my list, admittedly short, so if you have another artist in mind, please use the comments section to share. And no, this is not about selling out stadiums, it is about creating financial sustainability for talented artists that deserve it.

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Sunday Valley

If music was roulette and Sunday Valley were a square, I’d push my pile of chips and bet on them all in. Sturgill Simpson and the boys are in the studio as we speak making the “Album of their dreams” as Sturg puts it, that will include a guest appearance by Hargus “Pig” Robbins among others, just announced as a 2012 inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame. But what puts this band over the top is their live performance that harkens back to how one must have felt when Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughn took the stage before their break: an unbelievable, dynamic, jaw-dropping experience that leaves you awe-stricken from the combination of originality and sheer talent. Buy your Sunday Valley stock now and watch it rise.

“2012 will be the year of Sunday Valley”. –that’s my quote.

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Hellbound Glory

Hellbound Glory stock has been slowly rising over the last few years, but is still nowhere near where it needs to be. Leroy Virgil is like the Chris LeDoux and Keith Whitley of our time all wrapped up into one. The sideways smile, the legendary-caliber songwriting, there’s no excuses why Hellbound Glory shouldn’t be selling out mid-sized venues and making a fair living playing the type of country music that country music needs. At the least Music Row is a fool for not poaching the Hellbound Glory discography and Leroy Virgil’s brain for his songwriting gold to slot with their already established artists. Every day that goes by that Hellbound Glory remains mired in the underground is another day that country music isn’t putting its best foot forward, and is not making the best case of why it is an important, relevant genre.

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Turnpike Troubadours

One of the best bands to see live, and Red Dirt DJ’s will tell you songs like “Every Girl” are great for radio. They have a new album coming out on May 8th called Goodbye Normal Street, and let’s hope this is the one that puts them over the top, and past the boundaries of the Texoma corridor. Unlike some of the other artists on this list who find themselves in their mid 30’s, where it feels like the window could be closing for them in the coming years, the Troubadour’s window feels like it is just opening. Potential has always been one of their best assets. Now it’s time for that potential to be cashed in for solid growth and success.

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Whitey Morgan & The 78’s

When the question is posed of who is gonna fill the shoes of the true Outlaws and honky-tonkers, from the ones passed on like Waylon and Paycheck, to the ones going gray like Dale Watson and Marty Stuart, trust me, the answer is not going to be Justin Moore. Whitey Morgan & Co. are the true connection, the current torch bearers of the ballsy, twang-heavy true country sound that would expose all the pop country laundry list fluff from the first listen if only given a chance. Similar to how Bloodshot Records label mate Justin Townes Earle has popped in the last few years, now it is Whitey’s turn. Dues have been been paid. Now it’s time to cash in.

Young Up-And-Comers to Keep an Eye On

Paige Anderson

Paige Anderson’s ceiling is limitless. Amazing voice with natural pitch and control, and a highly skilled flat-picking guitar player, there’s nothing naturally holding Paige back. And as one of the young leaders in West Coast bluegrass circuits, and the leader of her family’s band “Anderson Family Bluegrass”, she’s shown the ambition and drive an artist needs in this competitive music environment.  Young, beautiful, talented, there’s no excuses here, Paige Anderson is ripe to capture America’s heart.

Wyatt Maxwell

Another heartthrob and superpicker bound for great heights and who started out in a family band, Mad Max & The Wild Ones. A natural leader, he’s been out before paying dues by playing lead guitar for the legendary Wayne “The Train” Hancock and can slide into just about any band or vintage style of music and make it shine. The look and technique are all there, but what puts Wyatt into elite company is his sense of style and taste. As a guitar player or as a band leader, the sky is the limit for young Maxwell.

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Another name I must mention is Ruby Jane, who will unmistakably be huge in music someday, so unmistakably in fact it doesn’t even seem germane to put her on this list. She has moved more into the jazz and singer/songwriter world in recent months and years after her time touring with Willie Nelson and Asleep At The Wheel, but is still a name all lovers of great music should keep up with.

Also the beautiful and talented Rachel Brooke may be a little fey for the wide masses, but her voice and talent is nonetheless undeniable. Just like how Emmylou Harris was the hottest commodity in female harmony singers to put on your album for so many years, Rachel could fulfill this role with the pain in her voice and such mastery of taste and control, while exposing her great original songs to the greater world.

59 Comments to ““Go Ready” Bands in Country Music Right Now”

  • All these acts are good, but the Troubadours have the most realistic chance of getting major exposure. You quoted the DJ that said the songs like “Every girl” are good for radio. I couldn’t agree more. Looking at the success of the Eli Young Band this past year makes me feel even better about their chances.

    • yeah thats true most songs are themed around love , maybe that wouldn’t be a bad way to get an audience then change direction

  • Hell yes, man. We’ve been lucky enough to have Whitey Morgan and the 78’s play here in the Quad Cities (Illinois & Iowa on the big muddy Mississippi river) a couple of times a year for the past 2 or 3 years now. Very talented, great and friendly group of guys and gal. Always an amazing show. Those guys stay true to their roots and I wish them nothing but the best.

  • I’ve heard the new Turnpike Troubadours CD. I don’t think it is a “Nashville ready” as Diamonds and Gasoline. They seem to have focused more on their roots sound this time.

    And that’s a good thing. A VERY good thing.

    • Interesting. In my review of “Diamonds & Gasoline” I talked the album up, but said they needed to go in a more distinct direction.


      “If asked my opinion of where they should go, I would tell them to train their eye on a more distinct direction and hold to it. It could be to be more hard country, really work to evoke Waylon with even more steel and thumping bass drum/half time stuff, or they could go in Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “grit & groove” direction. Or even better, they could go in direction all to their own.”

      That has me excited for this album. I think that’s what they need, Nashville friendly or not. Nashville, or Music Row needs to become more “good music friendly” if you ask me. They’re the ones that need to be bending to the trends, not the artists and fans.

  • The troubadours are the shit. Very good tunes. Hellbound Glory, on the other hand, should be played in every fucking household. Every single one of my friends that listen to mainly mainstream ‘country’ LOVE them when I give them a listen.

  • Call me selfish but I’m just fine with these artists where they’re at.

    • Hipster alert. Hipster alert.

      • BigStem comments here frequently, I doubt he is a hipster, or that his opinions are not shared. I understand what he is saying, but there is nothing more sad then going to see one of these bands and the place is half empty. Nobody wants these bands to blow up so big their music becomes impersonal, but at the same time these bands could use more exposure, and country music could use their quality.

        • I absolutely understand where Bigstem is coming from with his comment. There is nothing more disheartening than following a band for years and once they do start get the exposure that they have been after, their music changes. To me, Eli Young Band are one very recent example. I am very happy for the syuccess they are having as a band these days, but not as much a fan of the musc anymore. I saw them years ago in little bars and dancehalls across north Texas and the music is just not the same. They are still a great group of guys and have worked hard to get where they are, and that is alongside the most popular acts in manstream country music.

      • In no way am I a hipster. I just love the underground scene and it’s because of the bands listed. I love the personal relationship that’s involved. I’ve had the pleasure to shake hands with guys like Roger Alan Wade and Leroy Virgil. I’m never gonna get that experience if these artists make it big time. I like being able to hand Leroy a shot of Jim Beam in between songs. I just love that gritty, underground, experience that you just don’t get with big name artists. These guys deserve all the success in the world…I just know that it comes at a cost.

        • Think of it like this. The “biggest” artist in underground country music is Hank3. If Hellbound Glory for example became 10 times bigger than what they are right now, they would still probably only be playing venues 1/2 the size as the ones Hank3 plays. There would be little difference in the “personal” feeling of the show, yet hypothetically they would be getting compensated significantly more.

          We think of Justin Townes Earle as one that’s hit it big, but he still consistently plays venues smaller than Hank3 does, about half of the size, about the size Hellbound Glory would play if they were 10 times bigger. JTE’s on the cover of GQ and playing David Letterman, but he’s not big enough yet to sell out a small theater. Hank3 is, and he stays at the end of every one of his shows to shake everyone’s hands who wants to.

          Fans of The Avett Brothers on the other hand are stuck in that impersonal situation at this point. They’ve just blown up too big, where they’re selling out big theaters and small arenas.

          What I’m getting at is there is the potential for tremendous growth with all of these artists before they get even close to the level that Hank3 is, which is still one that can involve personal interaction if a fan desires.

          And this argument can work both ways. For example I hate going to see a band and I’m one of only a few people there. There isn’t a worse feeling for me personally. And hypothetically, if these bands can’t draw, they can’t tour, which means there’s no seeing them at all. Yes, seeing a cool band in a small to mid-sized bar that’s packed with cool people is ideal. But going bigger in my opinion is always better than going smaller, because going smaller may mean not going at all. Ask the .357 String Band.

    • Honestly, how many of these bands do you think would ‘sellout’? None of these great bands would ever think about playing their shit the way Nashville would want them to, IMHO.

  • nice group of ready to go folks that i would add ‘some velvet evening’ to as well. that old mainstream 50’s sound.

  • Great list. The fact that the members of hellbound glory aren’t all rich and famous just shows what a sad state music is in. I also think that fifth on the floor and Ugly valley boys would be really popular if people had heard their music. And no one that I’ve ever played Scott H. Biram for didn’t totally dig it.

  • I agree that Hellbound is bound to make it big. One of the things that makes Leroy so lovable as a musician and person is his genuine contentment with where he is at the moment, mainly, performing in front of people.To quote some of his lyrics from memory (so forgive me if they’re not exact) “Gettin rich would be the last thing I’ll ever need cause drugs is all I’d spend it on.” and “All I’ll ever be worth is all I’ll ever need”. The latter not necessarily excluding the possibility of getting rich. I think for Leroy Virgil the money will come when he is ready and decides to go after that. He has told me about various courtships from record companies and he genuinely seemed to feel the same as the lyrics he writes. One day I’m sure he’ll be playing in much bigger rooms. In the meantime I feel lucky to be listening in a dive bar or around a campfire.

  • Not as familiar with the rest of them, but it will be a damn shame if more people don’t hear the Troubadours and HBG. It’s stupefying that they aren’t on the radio while Justin Moore, Rodney Atkins, and all of these other pop country clones are. I can’t wait for the new Troubadours album though, I guess we’ll have to see if there’s anything with the radio appeal of “Every Girl” or “7&7.”

  • I have never heard of Sunday Valley…. this song is great man… i am gonna look into these guys a little deeper.
    i just bought Damaged Goods by HG a few weeks ago. I had to listen to it a couple times before I could get into it… by a couple, I mean 2. after the second listen, i was hooked. this guys lyrics are what is missing in todays music. real. I know Triggerman speaks highly of them but i sampled some of their stuff but i couldnt get into them. they sounded like a honky tonk version of nickleback. but i gave in and listened to and they are a great band.. i cant wait to see if they put on a good live show..

    SIDE NOTE: i saw rachel brooke last night and i am even more in love with her than i have ever been. she has become such a great entertainer. she gets up their and demands the crowds attention. the way she owns that mic and rocks her guitar… the only thing missing was the little red bow in her hair…

    • Im still not over seeing her last month too Waymore (sigh). lol I got one of Sunday Valley’s cd. They were awesome to party with but I unfortunately only could get into few of their songs. :( Hellbound Glory is the best and should be played every where, but it might give all these sissy kids these days a heart attack cause they actually listened to real music. For some reason it took me a few listens too to like the new album (I sure love the last song on the album). I think cause Leroy told me they are trying to get out of the outlaw routine, cause they cant go anywhere with it. I was sad cause no more songs like Hard Livin man and Slow suicide will ever be made again. O well, I wish them best regardless.

  • Sunday Valley (though just turned on to them recently), Hellbound, and the Troubadours are among my FAVORITE out there right now.

    If “Life Aint Fair” is any indication of the new album, it will probably become among my favorites of all time. Those opening lines and delivery is what country needs today, heartfelt emotion, the return of the classic tele twang, and a nod to the past, while still looking forward and progressing. THAT is my MODERN country sound. And MAN is that group of guys talented!

    What can I say about Hellbound and Leroy that hasn’t already been said countless times here and among true country music fans?

    And I agree the Turnpike Troubadours have the biggest chance of the bunch of going “mainstream” while still staying true to themselves, “Gasoline and Diamonds” is incredible song writing, while “Long Hot Summer Days” is just a great feel good and party song.

    “can you sing a little more about outlaws and the way things used to be, you just worry bout writing them songs, leave everything else to me.”

  • Where’s Chris Knight? He might be pushing 50, but i think he still has the capability to attract a mainstream audience if given the right push

    • Chris Knight is a great name and it would be great if he hits it big and in some respect he already has. But the premise here was to take Music Row’s shallow and skewed standards and show there’s still bands that meet them that are not getting the recognition they deserve.

      • I get what you mean, he’s already been out there. As for the Troubadours, I’ve yet to introduce someone to “Diamonds & Gasoline” who didn’t love it. And these are people who rarely listen to anything outside of radio country.

  • Holy Shinto! That’s the first time I’ve ever listened to Sunday Valley… I’m hooked!

  • I wonder why I haven’t heard Whitey Morgan and the 78 on sirus xm outlaw country yet. They are better than most of the bands they play on that station. Jayke Orvis is definitely worthy of this list. That’s a smash hit. I even show it to my rocker friends and they dug it. Scott H Biram is easily a winner here. And Bob Wayne’s fresh redone album makes them ready to go on the radio but not sure what kind of music genre radio though.

    • Whitey gets played on XM Outlaw Country. Not as much as they probably should, but they’ve been played.
      Even XM gets in a bit of “same rotation”. They play to much old Rolling Stones passing it off as how influenced they were by Graham. We get it…just play Graham and follow that with Whitey. Forget trying to push the Stones jesus.

      • Darn I listen to lots of Outlaw Country station and Willie’s Roadhouse and I never heard Whitey on the Outlaw station. I should complain they need more Whitey!!. I think why so much rock is played there is because Mojo Nixon hosts a show there. (Not to hate on Mojo cause Elvis is everywhere.)I like to listen to Elvis but not on my country station and Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan is not country too. Its a waste of air time to play them when we want to hear outlaw country music on a country station not old rock music at the time. There is a seperate station for that. So disapointing when you put on the radio and expect to hear Johnny Cash or Waylon and all you get is Buddy Holly.

  • Saw Sunday Valley a month or so ago in Charlotte at a great little REAL honky-tonk bar The Thirsty Beaver Saloon and tho I’d never heard of them, the owners said they were great and he wasn’t kidding a bit.Check their CD they have out now…KILLER!…plus they did a 15 minute Ralph Stanley meets SRV meets Jimi version of Pretty Polly that was absolutely jaw-dropping…PLUS the fact all the guys are extremely cool and friendly and approachable………SEE ‘EM WHEREVER U SEE THEM LISTED TO PLAY!!!!

  • Where’s Shovels & Rope or Cary Ann Hearst on this list? Cary Ann Hearst can break your heart and her fella, Michael Trent, does a helluva job backing her up or partnering on duets. She’s got a voice like a huskier Dolly Parton and he sounds like a dead ringer for Marc Bolan. They’re making some of the most interesting country music out there nowadays.

    • Shovels & Rope deserve more coverage around here. I promise to resolve that.

      • Wow. First time hearing these guys. Loving it!

  • You should totally do a list of “radio ready” songs that would blow up if they ever got a little air time. I know it would be damn near impossible to include all of them but a short list would still be a really interesting read

  • digging Sunday Vally, Life Ain’t Fair, cracking tune… and man can Paige play that geeetur! Really cool to see a girl play that well, not something you see that much of. Bonnie Raitt is my idol, there’s nothing better that seeing her play that slide guitar!
    Ashton Lane Free (5 track EP http://www.ashtonlanemusic.com)

  • I came across a guy named Jason Eady, he may be more well known, but was new to me and listening to samples sounds pretty good.


    • I discovered Jason Eady a few weeks ago, and he’s great. He could definitely do well on the radio.

  • Where the Hell is Lindi Ortega on this list?

    • She’s right here! Thanks for the suggestion, we’ll check her out!

      • Love Miss Ortega. I could definitely see her making it big.

  • Where is Sons of Bill?

  • Not included in this list, is the burgeoning grass scene in the central USA.
    Groups inspired by old school bluegrass, but influenced by rock, punk, and soul.
    Including but not limited to: Split Lip Rayfield, Mountain Sprout, Grass Crack, Carrie Nation and the Speakeasy, Whistle Pigs, Honky Suckle, to name a few.
    Fuck Narrrshville right!?

    • These are all great bands and many have been mentioned on this site before, but this was not meant to be an expansive list of all the great bands, but an illustration of Music Row’s hypocrisy and oversight. Do we really think The Whistle Pigs are ready for mainstream radio? Maybe some day they will be, when some of the bands listed above bust through the mainstream and let folks know there’s an alternative to the slop they’re being fed.

  • You hit the nail on the head with this list. Definately spot on. These are at the top of my favorite bands right now. Everyone I’ve introduced to their music has loved em. I also think Ugly Valley Boys, Fifth on the Floor, and Jayke Orvis could be added to this list in the very near future. I would also like to see Larry and His Flask get more recognition as well.

  • I was having a conversation about this the other night with regards to the nuclear explosion that has been the Alabama Shakes….wondering if some other bands in our scene(s) might get caught in their draft…….kind of like Seattle in the Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden era.

    • It’s always good to think positive. It could happen, though I feel were still waiting for that from The Black Keys. I wonder if the music world is still able to muster a great movement.

      • Not sure. But I will say that (so far at least) the Shakes seem all too willing to throw props back to everyone in interviews and wear their shirts in photoshoots. Seems the Keys never really did any of that…or maybe it’s been so long I’ve just forgotten about it.

    • I have fallen for Alabama Shakes. They are amazing.

      • I love the Alabama Shakes too! They are awesome. I really love the soul feeling…”Hold on” and “Heavy Chevy” is great!

  • Paige Anderson is amazing. Wow what a picker, and she’s only 17.
    Imagine where she will be at 21.
    I used to DJ in a country bar, and would get the what the fuck look from most of the customers because it wasn’t Keith Urban, or wife beater Rodney Atkins etc.
    The ones who got it, loved it. So I would burn them discs of songs with artists such as the turnpike troubadours, Jason Boland and the stragglers, halfway to hazard, eleven hundred springs, etc.
    Which brings me to my question have you ever reviewed Jason Boland, halfway to hazard etc?

  • I’m glad Jason Boland finally got a mention. If he’s not “Go Ready” right now, I dunno who is. Thanks for putting the Troubadors on the list. I agree that they are a band that is building momentum. The world can always use a little more Red Dirt.

    We’ve got a station in my neck of the woods that plays a lot of Red Dirt mixed in with the pop country. It is where I first heard the Turnpike Troubadors. They also play a fair amount of classical county music and throw in a bit of underground now and again. I keeping asking that they give HBG a spin. Maybe some day….

  • […] Saving Country Music mentioned them yesterday, I’d never heard of Nashville’s Sunday […]

  • Alright, cool, some more bands, new to me, to check out. I agree with Aj and Smalley, why JB & the Stragglers are not household names is beyond me. Found them via this site, so I’m excited to listen to these other bands. Thanks for the list!

  • May not be as clear as your vid but here’s a piece of John Sturgill Simpson and Sunday Valley from my show at Douglas Corner last November. Was happy to have them; an overflow crowd loved them: http://youtu.be/eX-lQ68W-xo

  • I had never heard of Hellbound Glory until this past Sunday night and “She Left Me in Modesto” came on Outlaw Country. I looked them up this morning and, wow, they are damn good.

    The great thing nowadays most folks don’t have to rely on FM radio to hear good country music. We’ve had XM for a few years and I can honestly say I can only name one of the FM pop-country stations in the local area an that’s only cause they gave me a free t-shirt a few years back. So the need for these bands/artists to make it to music row isn’t all that necessary. Of course you want to see good bands have success, but that success isn’t just by making it to #1 on the country charts. It’s more upon fans of their music to spread the word, buy albums or merch, and these bands will start becoming headliners. Shit, Pat Greene was selling out venues long before “Wave on Wave” and his base was loyal. Same for most of those Texas/red dirt acts. And with a lot of these bands, I don’t want music executives getting their hands on it so fear of screwing it up.

  • The first time I saw Wyatt Maxwell play with Wayne Hancock I was blown away. I thought to myself,”That kid is gonna be a guitar legend one day.” Then I saw him again and again and he just keeps getting better. His stage presence and ability to improvise is amazing. You just don’t see guys his age blazing through Chet Atkins songs after the rest of the band has gone off-stage for a smoke break.

  • So I just read on Sunday valleys Facebook page that they’re splitting up… very sad news, especially with all the great publicity and new fans they’ve been getting lately.

  • If you are interested in these bands like I am then Cody Jinks is a sure thing.This guy lives on the road and does it the right way! I would start with his last album “Less Wise”.

  • hellbound glory is the best fuckin band in reno,,maybe the world

  • I don’t know if you’ve heard of them or not (you probably have), but Connor Christian and Southern Gothic is a band that I would probably have at the top of this list.

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