Who Will Be Country’s Next Savior?

June 29, 2010 - By Trigger  //  Random Notes  //  82 Comments

When it boils right down to it, what is it going to take to Save Country Music? Hard work, education, and grass roots efforts are one way, but the magic bullet would be an artist that could rise above all the arguments dividing country music, and offer widespread appeal through a new approach while also being true to country’s traditions and it’s traditional sound. This is what Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings did back in the mid 70’s, and they helped shine the light on all the other Outlaw artists that previously had been laboring in obscurity.

We need a leader. The mainstream says the music needs to be “accessible” to appeal to the masses, but all great music leaders haven’t come from accessibility, but innovation; an ability to unite people of different backgrounds and tastes behind a common movement through creative leadership and undeniable talent. It could be an underground artist, or someone currently in the mainstream. Remember, Willie and Waylon started in the Music Row machine.

So my question is, in the current stock of country performers, who might be capable of doing this: uniting the country fans under one flag again, or drawing the attention of the mainstream? I know, I know, some underground elements don’t want to kiss and make up with the mainstream or have their favorite artists become mainstream acts. But shouldn’t country want to celebrate the best and brightest, instead of mediocrity?

Here’s my current candidates for country’s next savior. Leave yours or your thoughts below.

Hank Williams IIIAn obvious mention is Hank Williams III simply because his grandfather is the King of country music and his pops is one of the highest-selling country artists ever. Recently Tom Waits called him “Country Royalty, the Strange Prince,” and if you’re anything like me, when you first heard his music, and the anti-Corporate/Nashville message it carries at times, you couldn’t help envisioning Hank III riding into Music Row to sack the interlopers and claim his rightful seat as the heir to country’s throne.

But in the practical world, fights with his label Curb Records and some of his own decisions have kept him firmly in the underground, though in a sort of Grateful Dead way, where creating one of the strongest grass roots networks ever known in country has allowed him to thrive without radio play or marketing campaigns. Now that he is free of Curb, maybe this is the moment when his influence will reach beyond his rabid fan base.

Jamey JohnsonSome will get mad I included his mug here, other will be happy I’m giving him some attention. That’s because Jamey Johnson is a polarizing figure. Yes, I know he wrote the “Bandonka Donk” song, but get over it, that argument is tired. Jamey is nowhere near the filth of the other “New Outlaws” like Eric Church and Josh Thompson. Still, he fits in this awkward middle ground: his songs are just accessible enough to be played on the radio, yet not accessible enough to be big hits. On the other hand his songs are somewhat palatable by underground and REAL country fans, but no so much so that they would name him as one of their favorite artists. So outside of his core fans, he ends up in this gray area.

The game changer for Jamey might be his double album due out 9/24 called The Guitar Song, with the first album about addiction, and the second about redemption. Maybe this is a creative way to play both sides and be all things to all people and unite country fandom. We’ll see.

Justin Townes Earle He may not be the country music savior, but no question Justin Townes Earle’s stock is rising, and rising fast, and not just in the music world. GQ naming him one of the 25 most “Most Stylish Men in the World” means he could cause a ripple in the greater popular culture that could reflect back on the music. However wearing bowties, and baby blue pants two sizes too short, as well as his move to New York City could make him a hard sale to the hardcore country fan.

One of the reasons I named his 2009 album Midnight at the Movies Album of the Year was because of how it bridged fans of the disparate elements of country together under one artist. But lately it seems the JTE camp is actively trying to court the progressive, NPR return music, Old Crow/DriveBy Truckers side of country, leaving some of his fans wondering where the rawness went. There’s also whispers that he’s rising too fast, and its going to his head. JTE also has a new album coming that might answer some questions, and hey, being part of a famous bloodline never hurt in country.

Ruby JaneRuby Jane rocketed to the top of my favorite artists after seeing her live recently, but I was going to include her in this list even before, if only to emphasize that the country music savior might be someone who is still in their formative years, and that it could be a female. Why not?

15 to 25 year-olds might be the most important demographic these days in music, and maybe it will take someone that younger people can relate to, yet someone that holds true to traditions and can hold sway over older people as well simply by their talent. At the Ruby Jane show, there were kids, I mean small kids, as well as many older people, 65+. This proves that Ruby Jane can speak to a wide audience, and do it by being herself, and not trying to pander to a constituency.

What’s you’re opinion? Who are your candidates? For some reason when I think about this, I can’t get Leroy Virgil of Hellbound Glory off my brain.

82 Comments to “Who Will Be Country’s Next Savior?”

  • well fer obveous reasons hank 3 would be yer best bet fer a savior of this music we all love and are trying to save from nashville but im glad you brought some lite to jamey johnson, great singer and song writer. and it makes me a little happy that i wont look like the only asshole on here to bring up his name in a good manner

  • Justin Townes Earle Nothin wrong with a well fitting suit & listen to interviews it’s not going to his head but justin is going to play his music his way thats going to blend country with folk old time & soul but that old crow/drive by truckers is where he belongs and theres nothin wrong with that theres rawness there just listen to him live to me he’s the savior of music country or any other & it may not be harcore country but it respects it traditions like waylon & willie done in the 70’s

  • Hank 3 seems to have the most momentum. He also brings people into country from the metal and punk realm like a rough and rugged county disciple. His only draw back is that he is real hard core and that pushes away the less intense crowd. I think as he ages he will become that savior.

  • III? No way. dude is his own worse enemy and making worse songs by the moment. unless there is a monumental shift in song quality post-curb III is never gonna cross over.

    The Jamey Johnson dude seems to have a lot of Buzz right now. I’ll admit, I’ve not heard note one of his music.

    JTE certainly has the pedigree and the songs. This album in (is it?) Sept. will tell alot.

    One you didn’t mention that stands a real chance of scoring on the radio (crossover) once their new album comes out is Whitey Morgan and the 78’s.

    There’s also folks like Gillian Welch ushering in outsiders.

  • Well I mean, III’s latest got up to #20 for all genres on Billboard. I was pretty blown away by that. Really interesting time right now to see how does when he is officially DIY.

    Jamey Johnson….I have a thank-you card my suburbanite, church-going, Starbucks-drinking sister sent me that mentions I should listen to “High Cost of Living” as she felt I might enjoy it. Kinda says something about his popularity I guess.

  • Jason (& Autopsy),

    Hank III’s got a lot of momentum, but he had more back in 2003-2005. When I talked to JD Wilkes of The Shack Shakers a while back, he said THAT was the time period when he thought everything might explode with III, and push everyone else with him. That’s what got me thinking about all of this. But Hank III wanted to do it HIS way, which JD said he respected and I do too.

    2005 is when it became clear to III nothing was ever going to be hashed out with him and CURB. Autopsy IV is saying the shift has to be “monumental” post-Curb. I think there is a real possibility that Hank III has been sandbagging for five years, and we might see that shift. I believe that now more than ever after reading between the lines of his recent interviews.

    Hank III has brought a ton of punks and metalheads into this scene, but people have to appreciate that in some ways he did this at the expense of the hippies and the alt-country crowd. If Hank III is going to bust out, he’s going to have to figure out a way to be himself, but also appeal to a wider audience.

  • oldcrow,

    I included JTE here because I really do think he’s got a chance, but all of these folks have drawbacks, and I’m trying to play Devil’s Advocate. What happens with the next album is huge for him, and its also huge for Bloodshot Records.

  • Whitey Morgan has a chance, but they’ve got a LOT of work to do, esp. trying to grow their base out side of the Great Lakes region.

  • I have followed country music most of my life(72 yrs) and Hank Sr. and Bob Wills were my favorites. I’ve been to lots of shows and concerts but never been to one artists show more than twice. That is until recently(last September) and I saw Ruby Jane live in Gruene and was enthralled. Since then I have been to 7 more of her shows and I don’t know how she does it but she just keeps getting better and better. She sings, writes her own songs and plays several different instrument. The fiddle is obviously her forte but she holds her own on several others. She can assemble a group of very talented musicians and then lead them in whatever path she is on at the moment. Appeal to young and old?? Just look around at the audience at one of her shows–wee ones dancing their legs off to old timers like me tapping my feet and applauding like crazy. Gruene Hall has here booked for 5 more free shows this year. I haven’t looked but I doubt that any other artist can claim the same. World wide appeal? She’s been asked(and accepted) to play in France this summer. If I haven’t convinced you yet look her up on YouTube(100s of videos) or better yet atend one of her shows in Gruene. The next is August 29th 12:30-4:30. I can promise you a hot time :o)

  • It’s funny Triggerman, I was thinking of Leroy Virgil as I was reading your article, before you even mentioned him. Hellbound Glory have a great sound, and Leroy’s a fantastic songwriter. His lyrics aren’t terribly accessible though (not a criticism, just an observation).
    Whitey Morgan is fucking awesome, and I think as more people hear him and the `78s his popularity can’t help but expand.
    As far as III goes, I think he already started the ball rolling. That’s what initially drew me to country music, his energy, traditional sound, and trashing corporate country. I think he’s more popular with the hardcore crowd, but at least here in Missoula the audience at his shows has been REAL diverse. Also, he attracted at least one “hippy” in myself, although I was more of a classic rock/blues “hippy” than a dreadlocked Phish listening trustfundfarian, so don’t get the wrong impression!

  • I’m pulling for Ruby Jane, I guess because I first saw her when she was 12 and have watched her go from being merely great to being beyond description. And she’s a VERY nice humble young lady. I also second everything Jim Rhyan said in the above posting. People who have never heard Ruby in person might thing Jim, Triggerman, and I are overstating how phenomenal Ruby is, but if you ever see one of her live shows you’ll now (as Dizzy Dean used to say) “It ain’t braggin’, it’s fact!”.

  • Aran,

    My feeling about Leroy is he would shy away from any such spotlight, but it doesn’t mean he couldn’t lead by example, or benefit from an overall swell of interest in underground country music spurned on if someone like Hank III became more widespread.

    Also I have to say the cocept for his last album was to put all of those kinds of songs together. When you listen to it knowing that, it is much less of a turnoff. He doesn’t have to right about drugs and alcohol.

    Hippies are always welcome here….


  • RJ and Jim,

    I know that some of my long-time readers are going to wonder why RJ made it on to this short list. Many are just starting to recognize the name, and others may not yet. She is an unknown quantity, but rising fast.

    The last couple of weeks I’ve really had to work at tempering my enthusiasm for Ruby Jane, and the potential that she has. I tend to get too excited and emotionally wrapped up in these things, but I do believe her potential is great, and honestly, it is probably more and the other three.

    However we have to appreciate this is a 15-year-old girl. It is not fair to lump the weight of country music on her shoulders. She just needs to focus on her music, and the rest will fall into place.

  • DogBite Harris
    Not jammie johnson thats for fucking sure……. i like to think we all do our part. you as well have a huge hand in helping trigger, you are devoted and accurate 90 Percent of news i get comes from you.. 5 percent comes from podcasts, and they usually get their news from you, the other 5 percent comes from the person,band or band member its self, but all in all alot of us do our part to help even if its just spreadin the word..

  • and holey shit i just listened to ruby jane for the first time…… AMAMZING did you say that girl is only 15?????

  • I’m with ya trigger man. Hank 3 gets my vote for sure but I think he’s ruined his ties with Nashville. I’m glad you noted Jamey Johnson. I know he wrote badonkadonk but all of his other music is as traditional as you can get with a little leaning towards pop. If he’s not the one to head this it he will at least get the momentum started. He’s the only one left in Nashville that still has that traditional country sound. Whitey Morgan and the 78’s might be the next to look at.

  • Those who adore the Taylor Swifts and Kenny Chesney’s will never understand any music with TRUE soul. It is far more likely to convert music fans of other genres who have simply never been exposed to some of our beloved underground acts than it is to bring pop-country fans to our side. Pop-country is the absolute bottom-of-the-barrel of all musical genres and therefore the fans there-of will never “get” real music.

    This is why I would say Hank 3 is the most likely to push this movement atleast somewhat near ground level. I have played his music for many, many people and usually half of them have become converts and opened their eyes to some of the other outlaw shit out there. His live shows usually take care of any holdouts… I feel like he does have the song quality for this though apparently that isn’t the consensus here. What he does in the next year or so will tell the tale, I would guess…

    Either way, Hank 3 has led me to learn of a lot of bad-assed music as-well-as this website, so God bless him for that!

    Leroy Virgil has a voice that might appeal more to the mainstream… Hellbound Glory has an awfully long way to go to scratch the surface , however. That’s not to say I wouldn’t consider them worthy, though. They are DAMN good!

    My feeling is that good music will stay underground in all genres. Record labels control what radio stations play and with record sales being so low I can’t see the major labels taking a shot on any “unproven” commodity. So this music will likely remain OUR secret, which isn’t so bad!

  • I didn’t know that dude wrote badonka-donk. That’s fucking sickening.

  • This got me to thinking about something. Everyone I know listens to Wilco, no one I know listens to Kenny Chesney. I don’t like either – but why is only one all over the radio and one not even on the radio? Because it is all a bullshit risk-averse corporate game. My push has always been for diversity in popular country music. Everyone doesn’t have to sound and look the same.

    I realized I don’t want our music to be accepted by the mainstream because it will ruin it. I bet there are now more collective people that listen to country-influenced music (underground country, alt country, country blues, rockabilly, bluegrass) than all the shit on the radio combined. This is made possible by websites like this one, podcasts, blogs, music festivals and the like. I realized – I like things just the way they are.

    Also, if popular country does take on a more traditional sound, odds are it will be because some mainstream artist grows some balls and decides to buck the trend. Picture it now: Keith Urban the savior of traditional country music.

  • I think you hit the nail on the head Big A. Let’s say one of those pop-country shmucks had a change of heart and started making decent music, and while at it brought J.B. Beverly out on tour, and maybe that led to a trend…

  • I think I’ll be the savior as soon as I find a bassist. Ha Yeah I think Hank III as always already is the savior to country, and the term country has nothing any longer to do with radio or Nashville. They are always gonna cater to the bland and monotonous shit cause that is now the industry way. The days of old where good music was exposed is long gone because the new industry will thrive on selling to adult cotemporary minded and young trend followers who think that the only songs with any merit are played on the radio. III will never cater to the mainstream to stay true to his true-country/metal fans. I think. In that context, country savior only exists in the underground because that is the only medium for legit music because the ‘industry’ has simply changed.

  • The inspiration for this article was a talk I had with JD Wilkes of The Legendary Shack Shakers. He’s part of it:


    At some point I’ll post the audio, but what JD said is that a lot of fans want to keep their favorite artists poor because they want them to be “poor and tragic.” He thought that was a selfish approach, and I agree. I don’t want the music to change, or be forced to go to a football stadium to see my favorite bands, but that is not what is being suggested here. As JD put it, he just wants to be able to pay his mortgage, and that is becoming more and more out of reach because of the current music climate.

    These bands deserve to be able to support themselves and their families, and that financial hurdle is why a lot of them can’t do it full time, or give it up completely. A “Savior” would maybe break into the upper class of musicians, but they would elevate a lot of these smaller bands to where they could make a living, and continue to pump out music instead of hanging it up. At some point everyone has to make money, including this website, to reach whatever the full potential is.

    I don’t care if the music is “popular” or not. I just want it to be supported. Sure if some scenster bastards crash your situation it sucks, but if you EDUCATE fans and they come in to your scene from a sincere passion for the music, there’s nothing to worry about.

  • Re the comment about Ruby Jane by “Dog Bites Harris”, Ruby is 15 (born 11-17-1994), played on the Grand Ole Opry when she was 9, won the Mississippi State Fiddle Championship when she was 11 (the ADULT contest), for more incredible info just check her website. I could write all day, they could make a movie about her life right now. They’d have to call it “Part 1″, though, she ain’t through by a long shot. Oh, and she’s played on stage several times with Willie Nelson and Asleep At The Wheel.

  • Hank III has the ability to be our savior but he needs to focus mor eon the country side of things to do so, the assjack stuff wont do.

  • While Hank III has a huge fan base, Jamey is getting played a little on country radio, so the Jamey gets the edge for right now. However, after Hank III gets free from Curb he probably will come out with a lot of killer stuff. So I have to say that Hank III, is our best shot.

  • My pic would be Jamey Johnson. I liked In Color when it came out & became a fan when he did CMT Crossroads with Shooter Jennings. As he said in an interview on the show he & Shooter have similer tast in music but Shooter takes it more to the rock side & he takes it more to the country side. Listen to his version of Waylon’s Dreaming My Dreams With You.

  • Jamey Johnson also wrote “Give It Away” for George Strait which I believe won song of the year a few years back. His next ablum is supposed to have upwards of 24 songs so I’m interested in hearing those. One album is supposed to be traditional country and the other is country with southern rock soul I guess you could say. I saw Jamey in concert at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee and he played for 2.5+ hours. He first played his “That Lonesome Song” cd and then came on for a huge encore playing Merle Haggard (Are The Good Times Really Over), Johnny Paycheck(Take This Job and Shove It), Hank Jr (Dinosaur), David Allan Coe (The Ride), George Jones (She’s My Rock) among many others with some previews of his upcoming album (The Guitar Song, Nothing Is Better Than You). Very good live performer.

    I am a huge Hellbound Glory fan and really hope Leroy puts some new music out fast. Every time I turn on country radio I just don’t understand Hellbound is not playing. “Be My Crutch” is probably one of the best new songs I have heard.

    Finally, I just got done at the Lukas Nelson concert (son of Willie) and it was a pretty good time. Believe it or not I though Lukas was even more high pitched than his old man.

  • *Still Doin’ Time, not She’s My Rock was covered by Jamey Johnson.

  • “Be My Crutch” right now is my #1 Song of the Year.

  • the answer to the question is Leroy Virgil in my opinion. just too fuckin good to be denied. he had a song”rusted up old pickup trucks” on his myspace(not HBG) that was so perfect i cant even describe it. i think there’s a youtube for it now. anyways, i reckon he’s the one.

  • I think comparing artists like J.D. with Hank III doesn’t fly. I think anybody playing music nowadays can’t expect to get rich, they usually do it for the sake of it. I wish I had Hank III or J.D.’s money and be able to do music for a living or for even half of my income like most musicians do. Hank III ain’t hurtin for money, I even doubt J.D. is hurting or betting some huge mortgage on his music career. I live in the real world. I don’t wanna keep anybody poor, that’s just bullshit. I can’t say what III wants to do. I just know he could’ve went mainstream years ago and chose not to. If he wanted to sing I Saw The Light alongside his deddy at every award show I wouldn’t give a fuck, although it would suck. I think the scenemaker that you are lookin for probably wouldn’t be playing “Life of Sin”, etc. … (edited) … I just don’t see Hank III and some others as even part of a scene. Many are diverse and unique. People create ‘scenes’. Same thing happened with Nirvana and it may have culminated in Kurt’s death. Artists like J.D. make a living because people like us push them and form their following. I don’t think that’s holding them back. Any musician who has talent and works hard will get what is coming to them. I was just saying it is a lot harder nowadays. This ‘savior’ stuff is kinda weird.

  • “what JD said is that a lot of fans want to keep their favorite artists poor because they want them to be “poor and tragic.”

    Similar quote from the linear notes of the new John Mellencamp box set:

    “If he has not been properly credited for that groundbreaking role, it is largely because he committed the unforgivable sin of actually having hits while making innovative music. Part of the No Depression mythology requires either a tragic early death or decades of unacknowledged masterpieces created during a life of grueling poverty. Writing and recording great songs that millions of people like and buy is not part of that sentimental picture- regardless of how comfortably the music itself sits within the genre’s parameters. As Neil Young pointed out, sometimes you are made to pay a price for having hit records.”

  • When I said, “I like things just the way they are.” I guess I should have included “…for the listener.” It is a shame that more artists can’t make a decent living playing music as a full-time job. The things we can do to change this:

    A) Support live music whenever possible.
    B) Tell your friends. Spread the word.
    C) Buy merch at the shows.
    D) Bands control their merch. The bar does not get a cut.
    E) DIY motherfucker. Someone needs to pull it off on the national scale. The technology is there to do it. III is probably the best hope for showing people that it can be done at scale.
    F) There needs to be an accurate national database of touring bands and their schedules. I shouldn’t miss shows because I don’t know about them.

    Really, with all of the technology today I’m still amazed that the posters by the bus stop tell me more about live music than the entire internet. There’s money to made if someone can figure out an effective way to pull this off.

  • Big A, In regards to F:


    This is still in its infant stages, but I’ve spent hours and hours inputting dates, and I will spend hours and hours more. Eventually I hope this will be exactly what you’re asking for.

    If you have a Google account you can subscribe to it, customize alerts, and it’s also searchable through Google.

  • Yeah, the Calendar is a great start. At some point the bands, venues, and fans need to be responsible for inputting info and checking its accuracy. It could be the “Wikipedia of touring bands” and wouldn’t have to be limited to country. Tourtracker is close to what I’m envisioning, but it doesn’t seem open source or user friendly enough to me.

  • Big A,

    I’d been looking to put a calendar together like the one you’re thinking of for over a year. Problem is, nothing like that exists at the moment. It would take somebody creating it from the ground up, and that would take either lots of time or money. And the problem is, all the money is flowing OUT of music. If it was lucrative, somebody would’ve already done it. Instead we have to rely on pinheads like me who are willing to waste their lives trying to promote these bands.

    And David,

    I understand what you’re saying with the “savior” talk. I had this article on the shelf for a while. Really it deserved a lot more info at the beginning explaining what I was trying to say. This is really just as much about creating a support structure for these bands as it is a country music superstar. Something needs to change.

  • Red eye gravy will be on that list. No doubt!!

  • I say Red Eye Gravy!! They rock!! I’d love to see them go big!

  • I like Big A’s points. I also think the music industry (not just country music) has consistently been watering down music for decades, and the consumer has been led by the nose along with it. Part of the problem is big labels not signing or promoting quality roots music, but a bigger problem is that the consumer’s taste is so dilutted they think they like synth pop emo shit. That is why I believe good music will probably remain underground. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t support our favorite artists as much as we can, or abandon them if they do happen to “make it”. If someone can get rich playing music, more power to `em, as long as they keep making good music. It’s just all about the music.

  • (racking his knucks)… which can only mean one thing… a blake rant… god help us all… Before we decide/vote/or drink the kool aid of one artist to “savecountrymusic”, let’s talk about the end goal. What do we want this artist to do? At what point will we look up from our facebook pages and hulu tv watching and decide…”well he/she did it. they “savedcountrymusic”. I am more interested in hearing what fans want the end result to be. Is it a million records sold, one of those gold download awards for iTunes sales, or maybe to have one of our own walk up on stage and win “new comer of the year” even though they have been playing music for years. So before we decide who should be our king/queen lets decide what they need to accomplish before we hand them the crown… of thorns.

    With that said lets move on…
    1.) Hank III- I owe alot to his music on the first 3 albums, I owe a big thank you to the people on the message board (years ago) who traded music with me and introduced the REAL world of country music to me. He has the largest fan base and name recognition. But the cult following can only take it so far. 90% of III fans dont want anyone else in the “group”. They feel that they have a family and dont want to share. I respect that, but that HUGE fan base wont help III to our “fictitious” end result. III’s fan base made his record debut at #20. Whether it was good or bad their strength is what made that happen. Unfortunately, the 19 other albums that were ahead of his had more than just a devoted fan base. They had $$, power, connections, and the willingness to sell what little talent they have and their souls to the corporate devil/machine. If we are going to follow III to “the promise land”, then he needs to give us what he has promised and ranted about for years… POST CURB FREEDOM. Let your talent (which i know III has) steam roll over mainstream. It’s not about being a rebel… its about making music that people can relate too and not what is out there right now in mainstream. Willie and Waylon did it their own way but didnt even like the “rebel/outlaw” label that much.

    2.) Jamy Johnson- I will admit, when I heard he was the one who wrote that dreaded Trace Atkins song I to stood up and said BOOOOO. But I listened to his album and understood that 70% of the songs were his and the other 30% he had to record per corporate decision. He totally got screwed out of “newcomer” of the year which if he would have won we would all be praising him because its the closest we have come to getting even the smallest bit of “real” country music back in the ears and eyes of mainstream. Jamy will continue to make 70% decent records. He will continue to stand right on that line of mainstream and “real” country music. I am sure he has an ex wife to pay like most of us! HA HA HA.

    3.) JTE- Having met JTE and interviewing him and sing him play live I will say that he is the closest thing “performance wise” to traditional country music that we have. He plays the crowd like they did back in the day, he wears the suits (sometimes) like they did, and he is humble. If it was me who had Steve Earle has my dad my ass would milk it for all I could, but Justin isnt like that. As with many “father/son” situation in music they arnt BFF’s. Not that close like Tiger and his dad were. Justin is magical. He has amazing songwriting talent, a voice that doesnt even need to be mic’d up to sound amazing, and a style that combines so many types of music. He has had his share of tough times. Can he lead us? He is too soft spoken and is just about the music… like it should be. I just want the guy to make great music. tht is good enough for me.

    So lets define what we want our underground music savior to do.. then I will give you a list of who it should be!

  • And Ruby Jane?

    I know she’s an unknown quantity, but I didn’t include her on the list as a mistake. I’d be interested to hear your opinion.

  • I would definitely add Red Eye Gravy to the list! As I read these responses, Red Eye Gravy continued to come to mind as far as what people are looking for in a country band.

    The first time I saw them live, I was hooked! Their music was what I had been waiting for. Country music seemed to no longer be something of the past, Red Eye Gravy had brought it back to life.

    This band has the feel of “old country”, as I call it, but with a modern twist accompaniment. If you haven’t checked Red Eye Gravy out yet, you must!

  • “. What do we want this artist to do?”

    I’m not really in the same spectrum as you guys sonically but we’re close enough we’d could say we’re first cousins who occasionally fuck the same people. But what would I want? I would like to see my friends like Two Cow Garage, Snodgrass, Tim Barry, Scott Biram, Austin Lucas, Mike Damron, etc. be able to pay their bills. Maybe be able to go out on tour w/o taking a loan to cover the bills at home while their gone. If one or two of them broke then the others would gather attention then perhaps this could happen…..Think about when the O’Brother soundtrack broke….a fuckload other artists benefited from that. I’d love to see the fine folks who run the small labels that make this happen for us get a fucking moments breathing room.

    I’d love to see a Scott Biram or Glossary video on CMT but the reality is…it probably ain’t ever happening….but, Nashville hoax or not, there is a slight chance the Jamey Johnson will create a little interest which might lead to Lucero which might lead to Glossary which might lead to Two Cow Garage….

    That said. If III came out with a new record tomorrow and CMT and Clear Channel started pimping it like the new Eric Church the truth is 1/2 his current fan base would write him off as a sellout.

  • Autopsy,

    In that same conversation with JD Wilkes, he mentioned O Brother as something else that could add some “breathing room” as yo put it.

    He also said that if anyone was ever going to bust through that would benefit him specifically, it would probably be Hank III.

    That specific part of our conversation was the inspiration for this. I’ll get to editing that audio and post it at some point.

  • Loved your rant IBWIP, lots of cool insightful stuff there.

    Since I read this blog Triggerman, it has been bothering me to come up with a ‘name’. I agree with IBWIP, JTE is a definite favourite. His music (and the man himself) is cool, innovative and really just quite lovely. I think he has the potential to cross over, although I also agree that he’s maybe too ‘folksy’.

    I have to disagree with you Triggerman regarding “wearing bowties, and baby blue pants two sizes too short, as well as his move to New York City could make him a hard sale to the hardcore country fan”. If we’re talking about crossover appeal and introducing a more mainstream audience, I think this works in his favour. I also don’t think the hardocore country fan can gives a shit how JTE dresses. I personally LOVE the way he dresses, it demonstrates character and personality that compliments that adorable southern charm. Remember not all of us country fans are blue-collar dudes. Some of us are fashion-conscious, pop culture obsessed girlie girls – and that doesn’t make us vacuous and dumb – we still have the ability to discern.

    I don’t think Hank III will be the one to achieve said goal. His music is too polarising and I suspect now he’s free of his Curb restrictions we will see more ‘Assjack’ type stuff. All good though. I reckon it’s awesome he’s doing what makes him happy – I admire that and wish I could take a leaf out of his book.

    I think the person or ‘act’ that will break through will be someone totally unexpected – ie none of those mentioned above – as much as they all deserve it. I’d personally love it to be Wayne Hancock, as I think what he does is pure incandescent beauty. I think it might be someone totally random, like Kitty, Daisy & Lewis. Even though they are definite rockabilly (and not even American), they have mainstream appeal: catchy songs, youth & cuteness and are super marketable. This is a cover but their original stuff is as catchy.


  • Let’s keep outlaw music for the outlaws. We don’t need someone to step forward and appeal to the masses because the masses are fucking stupid. Just look at hair metal. What makes theses artists great and makes us love them is that they are kicking ass on thier own terms regardless of what mainstream society thinks. Some things thrive in the underground and I think that is where we belong. The last time I saw a Hank III show it was in a sold out 2,000 seat venue. And while it was awesome that so many people were there and into this scene, I couldn’t help but think how much cooler it was for me personally to see him in front of 400 people with Antiseen opening up.

  • I don’t really see anybody ever being a “Savior.”

    I think the underground country scene is destined to stay just that. As much as I would love to see the our people get the credit they deserve, I don’t think Nashville would let it happen.

    I think the “New Outlaws” marketing scheme is proof of just that. If they wanted to to really bring back the outlaw attitude into the mainstream, really show that side of the music, they easily could.

    Instead they dress up these pop country models in pre-torn jeans, and pre-scuffed boots, and have them sing about what rebels they are to huge arena crowds with pop beats that they often flat out stole.

    The “savior” for country music is us. The bands, the fans, this website that keep real country music alive, and gets the message out to those who want to hear it.

    It’s not one person. It’s a collective effort.

  • It can’t be just one it has to be a joint effort between fans musicians artist all those willing to fight for the music they love I love JTE & HANK but there are alot of artist that have a light to shine on this scene that need some more exposure

  • Deserter,

    Sorry man, but that is some selfish bullshit. For the last two years, Hank III has spent the Winters playing shows at Layla’s in Nashville, which is a 100 capacity bar, FOR FREE. I’m sorry that he can’t put his Prevost bus and the dozen people he has to carry up in front of your house and play a show in your living room for a 6 pack of Pabst, but the world doesn’t work that way.

    Hank III will survive, but for a lot of these other bands, if they can’t make money, they can’t make music, and the music will disappear. Simple as that.

  • Carla,

    Was probably a little too harsh on JTE’s wardrobe, but I still think the point is a good one.

    But then again, I don’t have a crush on JTE :)

  • I checked out Red Eye Gravy after reading these posts yesterday and they are indeed an excellent band. There have been only a handful of artists in the entire musical spectrum over the last 25 years who have become massively successful while still putting out music that was comparable (or as good) as their underground counterparts, in my opinion… Truth is most people don’t search out good music like we all do. Most people take what they’re given. Instead of spending hours searching out new music, THEY are searching for new porn. I would love for all musicians who I feel are good, hard working artists to be successful enough to pay their bills and have to do nothing more than
    concentrate on their craft. I have family who would be helped by this dream. But it isn’t ever gonna be a reality. The best we can hope for, I would guess, would be mainstream country shifting enough towards the old-time sound that the underground didn’t sound so foreign. Fact is, most people don’t even pay attention to instrumentation in music. In pop country it is all about sounding like a pussy. Scott H. Biram’s “still, drunk…” would be a huge hit if Rascal Flatts put their gay touch to it… This shit frustrates me in the metal world as-well. Bottom line is that people need to be spoon fed the familiar because in the big picture, music lovers are few and far between. The good thing for fans these days is that we can learn about and listen to cool shit very easily. We need to support the artists in every way possible, just as Big A wrote. Unfortunately that won’t be enough to allow most of them to quit their day jobs.

    Hank 3 already saved country music for me. I saw Scott Biram, The Wayward Drifters, Those Poor Bastards, and Lucky Tubb open for him… He is also the reason i own a couple Wayne Hancock albums, though unfortunately haven’t seen him live. I doubt the underground will ever see another artist rise to his level, and the only one who could possibly go beyond would be himself.

  • Country music just isn’t what it use to be.Good country goes back to Hank Sr.Meryl haggard,Lefty frizzell and so many more but we have a few out there on the right track and I am pleased to say Red Eye Gravy is one of them.I love Hank the Third and Wayne(the train) Hancock and they are all right up there together making a difference.

  • dale watson

  • Heh heh Trigger – wouldn’t kick Lucky Tubb out of bed for dropping cracker crumbs either!
    I think if it were Rachel Brooke squeezed into a baby blue dress two sizes too small I don’t think you’d be complaining too loudly ….

  • If you’d ask me Hank III has saved country music and now all who comes after him, might be great and good, but the reason I got to know a whole lot of artists like (Bob Wayne, .357 String Band, Lucky Tubb, etc. etc.) is wanting to know more about Hank III, so, I have respect for ALL the Real Country Music artists but I have a Love & Respect for Hank III that has changed my whole life, the way I go out, friends I made, so… for me he is the one who has saved, is saving and probably will keep on saving country music from now on. I will always try to support the music the best way I can like Big A mentioned in previous comment, also the related bands and singer songwriters…
    However…It all goes back to Hank III…no other next saviour for me. With all my respect for different opinions of course…

  • Hank III started it for me, and Darren with Section 08 Productions had a hand, but lately it’s you Triggerman who’s saving country music. You’ve introduced me to so many fucking good bands in the last few months that I’m spending all my extra cash on records!
    Seriously though, I like the point that it’s not one individual. It’s all of us. I’ve never heard of Red Eye Gravy, but now I’m gonna go check them out.
    Label someone a saviour and you’re bound to be let down. Let’s ALL go save country music.

  • Label someone a saviour and you’re bound to be let down.

    Good Point.

  • Hank 3 Hand’s down, It’s like you mentioned Trigger that simply because his grandfather is the King of country music and his pops is one of the highest-selling country artists ever. That make’s Hank 3 our saviour, Also that he is the most creative artist in the underground scene right now in my opinion and he has so much momentum and free spirited will and respect for the folks who are just tryin’ to make it out there like he has over the year’s with trying to Save Country Music and let people know that Real Country music isn’t just a thing of the pass. He also infuences alot of diffrent age ranges from 16 Years old to 60 Years Old and maybe older who knows, He’s my saviour when it comes to Country and i think he should be everybody elses to including up and coming Country Artists.

    My 2nd Choice would deff be Ruby Jane because she is at such a young age and could bring attention to the younger crowds like myself and possibly inspire other kid’s with talent and a hankering for Real Country Music.

  • I was thinking about this last night. I know he is not exactly a “featured” artist around here, but what about Ryan Bingham. The O Brother idea got me thinking. Crazy Heart was a well-received movie about country music, selling out, song writing, etc. The guy won an Oscar, he’s with Lost Highway Records. If anyone is poised to “break through” and take some deserving people with him, it’s got to be him. I’d be curious to know what people around these parts think about him.

    Also, I got to say the irony of Crazy Heart was that the tradional “hit” song from the end of the movie would be too traditional to even sniff country radio in real life.

  • Ryan Bingham is an interesting one. I think if he was going to get a real burst from Crazy Heart, it would have already happened. I saw him on Austin City Limits a while back and was really impressed. But when I got the CD’s I was a little disappointed. There’s moments. Then you got that now he’s lost the torn hat, moved to LA, and just did time touring with Eric Church in that dumb “Country Throwdown” tour. Esp. seeing that the tour did poorly, I thought that was a real reduction on his part.

    I don’t know though. He might be laying some really good groundwork.

  • I’ll probably be in the minority here but I do think it took some serious balls to mention Jamey Johnson. Of course, I believe III to be the natural savior of Country (no surprise, the dude got me back IN to Country), but Jamey, through all his whatever, he has something that I can’t put my finger on. Many will argue and bitch, but I think the guy is the real deal. If I’m wrong, I’ll take it on the chin, but how many can say they aren’t moved by “Back to Caroline”? That shit’s real. We’ll see what he does in the future.

  • Let me re-iterate that I’m in no way comparing Jamey Johnson to Hank III. I’m just saying that of all the mainstream artists out there shitting up the airways, Jamey Johnson has a realness to him that will outlast the pretenders.

  • I’m not a fan of Jamey Johnson but if I was on a roadtrip and had nothing to listen to but one new country radio station and was listening to Eric Church, Blake Shelton and The Locash Cowboys. It would be very refreshing to hear Jamey Johnson.

  • I will say this. It has been refreshing to see this blog have so many replys. It show that there are many people and many views out there. That makes me proud to be in “this scene”. In the end it’s all about who YOU think kicks ass and makes great music in your eyes. We all come from different walks of life, have different expectations of how our music should be. We have outlets such as this site to be able to express our thoughts and feelings. It’s because we live in the greatest country in the world…. Well I say listen to what you want, love what ya listen too, and believe in who you want to believe in!

  • I think it’s funny that two of your “saviour’s” are rich kids that had their career handed to them. Most of us can’t walk into Curb records and get a deal, then bitch about it. How outlaw is it to be on the same label as Tim Mcgraw?
    I don’t think anyone will ever be able to unite all the assholes in the world, especially when everybody wants to act like they’re so different.

    Try again..

  • Wow Trashy, you couldn’t be more wrong. I think it is pretty well established that both Hank III and Justin Townes Earle grew up in families that were middle class at best, with almost no involvement from their fathers. Yes they have names and that has no doubt helped them, but to call them “rich Kids” is completely false. And Hank III’s fight against Curb records and why he was forced to sign with them is pretty well established. I would get my facts a little more straight before I started flamethrowing people.

    I don’t think Jamey was much of a rich kid either, he was a Marine before a musician.

    And Ruby Jane lives in a Winnebago in an Austin trailer park.

    This makes me sick to my stomach. Bad try to prove how “hardcore” you are.

  • I think what all this is gonna take is not just one person or band singing original “real” country music to appeal to the mainstream masses. I don’t feel that will ever happen. I truly think it is gonna take a few of these mainstream Nashville bands to promote and help advertise their fellow musicians. Look at what has happened in the “Red Dirt” movement down in Texas/Oklahoma, those guys constantly help out each other promoting, sharing songs, etc. It is more like a family like Waylon, Willie, Shaver, and Coe used to do. I noticed that Dierks Bentley is constantly advertising Cross Canadian Ragweed, Jason Boland, and many others in that country/rock genre. Most people who listen to mainstream country music don’t know of these other real country bands out there (like I was just a few years ago). It took my interest in the Williams family to go to a Hank III concert for the first time and been hooked ever since. Since that concert I began looking and finding other underground bands out there and stopped listening to mainstream radio and tv.

  • Chris- good point

    Trigger- I PROMISE I DIDNT LOG IN AS TRASHY! HA HA HA! Even that was a little more mean than i could have come up with.

  • Thanks for taking up for Ruby about being a “rich kid”, Triggerman. Ruby and her Mom have lived in that trailer park for almost 3 years now, still in that Winnebago. All the money they make comes from what Ruby earns, JoBelle doesn’t have a job because of the “home schooling”, she said if she got a job Ruby would have to go to a regular school and her music would be pretty much out the window until she graduates. Of course, they knew that would be the way it would be when they decided to take this route and move to Austin. But they’re two of the sweetest happiest people I know. Ruby’s day will come, she’s too good for it not to come.

  • Honestly I probably jumped down Trashy’s throat a little too quickly. To clarify he did say two of the artists, meaning Hank III and Justin Townes Earle, the two famous names. He was still wrong, but I don’t know that he was targeting Ruby Jane.

    I hope both Ruby Jane and her mother appreciate what a remarkable life they have. They’re living out their dreams, and they both should feel very fortunate they are able to do that.

  • Shelton is not a III, his name is not Hiram. He went to Franklin High school the 90210 of TN. HE signed a bad record deal because of back child support. What musician isn’t behind on child support? Gets pissed because they don’t want to release what became “Straight to Hell” which probably benefited the album. Then release’s two awful albums in a row, and blames curb for his lack of creativity. Shelton is past his peak, and not it. He had his chance.

    Justin Earle has got more talent, he’s a better songwriter, but isn’t distinctive like his father, III, or any of the legends you can speak of. However he is on Bloodshot which has been putting out some great music. With folks like Scott Biram…

    I have no quams with Ruby Jane, but she’s a little young to be on this list. 10-15 years from now, YES! This girl is an amazing talent, and you may be right. Though Country music is about hard livin’. After she’s had her heart broke a few times, she’ll have the most potential.

    Jamey Johnson. I just heard his album this past weekend. He’s got some good songs, but he’s wrapped up in the mainstream overproduced country sound.

    The true saviour’s of country music are probably the recession, and big record labels ignorance. When they blow all their money manufacturing pop stars, it gives the indie world a chance to show everybody that real country music does exist.

    It is going to take a lot of people! But a true saviour is going to come out of left field, or be under our noses the whole time. More than likely they’re sittin’ on front porch, in the middle of nowhere, with no interest in being it. I hope Ruby is it. If not, it’ll probably be someone from that age range. Growing up on Taylor Swift and Hannah Montana.

    Nowadays with “roots” making a comeback. We need to get people to think outside the box. Don’t be just rockabilly, psycobilly, blues, bluegrass, etc..etc.. Utilize all that has come before to make something that’s truly yours. Truly COUNTRY! That’s the only way you’ll ever reach the masses, and be a saviour.

  • I’m kind of surprised that i did not see Joey Allcorn name mentioned(maybe i missed it). Or even Lucky Tubb. Maybe they aren’t the biggest names out there but i believe that their music is good enough to help in the resurrection of true country music.

  • RP,

    I love Lucky Tubb, Joey Allcorn, Wayne Hancock and all the neo-traditionalists, but honestly, that is a side of REAL country that I just don’t see appealing to the wide masses, unless it was some sort of craze, like swing music was or something, and that would mean it would be like a flash in the pan sugar high that would do no good in the long term.

    Celebrating the past is great, and if there was a big breakout REAL country artist, it would probably help these guys. But it would need to be someone who is celebrating the past, but also innovating in music.

  • I am convinced that those on here that say they are not Jamey Johnson fans simply say that because he made a big mainstream hit with “In Color”.
    Your so wrapped up in the “Real Country” and “anti-Nashville” movement that you can’t see it right in front of you.
    How can you not see that Jamey Johnson is in step with the old school movement? Oh cause he wrote Badonkadonk? Maybe he wrote that as a joke and watched the record execs push it to #1 and they didn’t even know how stupid they looked.

    I won’t pretend to know more than some on this site. I don’t play in a band, don’t even play the guitar, but I know my country music.

    Hank III is great when he signs country. His shows make you stand still and you hear a voice from the grave. No one can touch that voice and his lyrics are generally good. But when he throws in a random devil voice on a chorus or drops a ton of f-bombs or some guy in a halloween costume is on stage,… come on man. Get the chip of your shoulder and hone your skills. Your scary talented, but your so “anti” your not helping your cause.

    Jamey is the only guy in years who’s career at this point has nearly mirrored guys like Waylon, Willie, etc..and that is not made up by record labels, it is fact. Came to Nashville, some songwriting success, put out industry album which got shelved, and then came back with his own songs with his own band. And it worked. And the double album coming will blow this thing apart.
    Have you heard “My Way To You” and “Macon”? Come on…that is serious shit.

    Don’t be so caught up in being “underground” that you don’t give props to Jamey. If you haven’t heard any of his songs, yet you rip him for Badonkadonk and don’t like the mainstream “In Color”, get off your ass and buy his “That Lonesome Song” CD and listen to it. You going to truely tell me that isn’t the savior? All the others mentioned on this blog will come in through the gates Jamey is opening.

  • my Top 3 picks would be Hank III, Lucky Tubb and Jayke Orvis.

  • I’m with ya Waylon4ever. I think we’re so damn caught up in this anti major label bullshit that anyone who has success will be labeled as a sellout. Jamey Johnson has a distinctive old school sound. Better yet hes not a posturing little bitch, he doesnt claim to be an outlaw or a badass or the savior of country music, hes just making the music he likes, and it sounds fantastic.

    Oh and about the Honky Tonk Badonkadonk bullshit, did some research on that clusterfuck and found that the guy wrote the song in a bar, on a napkin about a chicks ass. Im sure they got their hands on it and turned it into another trace adkins rap song but shit, dont get much more country than the way the song was formulated originally

  • […] time I had mentioned that there was some concern about JTE. Back on June 29th, in an article called Who Will Be Country’s Next Savior? (where I named JTE a candidate out of a select group of 4) I said: There’s also whispers that […]

  • And this is the follow-up to your heinous 18 month old article about Jamey Johnson?

    Quit while you’re (not) ahead…

  • Nobody else in Nashville pulls this off, like this, on this stage.


    The Savior? All of those listed in this article should be the saviors. Doing stuff like this out a huge festivals is the battle against the pop-country machine.

  • I never thought the country music savior would come in the form of a female, but I am thinking Miranda Lambert and her new group Pistol Annies may become a righteous music messiah. She has the power to capture the attention of men and women and is currently rocking the scene on her own, while still never getting too caught up in the fame and glory that comes with it. She sticks true to her roots and knows what good music is all about. I think by wrapping the other “Annies” under her wing and showing Americans how good real music can be, she is really on to something. I hope it catches on and starts a Revolution.

  • Leroy Virgil can head this pack, IMO. The guy is an insane songwriter. Check out the song “World Coming To An End” on youtube. It’s a great written song. I’ve heard that he is planning a solo album, so I can’t wait for that. If there is one that can break into the mainstream and serve as a evolutionary leader, it’s him. Miranda Lambert is another one. She has a new group named “Pistol Annie,” and I think there will be a lot of people surprised and happy about what it’s going to sound like.
    I don’t see 3 ever being mainstream. I think that he enjoys calling himself an underground rebel. He seems to like the ‘cool’ factor about it. He’s still a badass though.

  • My pard Leroy hands down.

Leave a comment

Del Maguey
Old Soul Radio Show
Hillgrass Bluebilly
Best Of Lists