A New Generation of Southern Rock Bands On The Rise
The Southern rock side of the country music space is blessed with some serious stalwart bands that have been around for years mixing Southern harmonies with country twang, and bringing the best of both the country and rock worlds together. Blackberry Smoke, Whiskey Myers, and so many more are helping to keep Southern rock alive, even though just like country, it never seems to receive the radio or media support it deserves.
At the same time, just like with every genre of music, the flux of bands breaking up and legends passing means there’s always room for fresh faces and new perspectives on the music to help keep it vital and relevant. The recent passing of Greg Allman and Butch Trucks, the continued aliments of Gary Rossington and other members of Lynyrd Skynard, and the announcement a few weeks ago that Uncle Lucius is breaking up has made the need for new blood in Southern Rock a pressing issue, and luckily, 2017 has supplied that with some promising new projects, while others who’ve been around for years are taking a bigger step into the spotlight.
Most notably has been the emergence of The Steel Woods. Based in Nashville, and playing behind their Thirty Tigers debut album Straw in the Wind, the band has forged and infectious sound that dedicated fans can’t get enough of, and isn’t being fulfilled by anything similar out there. Parts country and Southern rock, and parts soul and heavy metal, it is inferred by varied influences that are banded together under the term “Southern,” with a dark hue coating their music from both the use of minor chords, and the sometimes Gothic tone of their lyrics.
Formed around singer/guitar player Wes Bayliss, and guitar player Jason “Rowdy” Cope—most noted for collaborating with Jamey Johnson for nearly a decade during the height of Johnson’s power—they form the nucleus of a band that can do Black Sabbath covers in a Southern drawl and drive crowds crazy. The two met at a one-off gig in Nashville, and after a fishing retreat together, decided to give something new a shot. “We decided we were pretty much on the same page and wanted to do our own thing,” says Wes Bayliss. “We had an idea and a vision.”
Now a four piece, they’ve been receiving massive touring opportunities, have played the Grand Ole Opry stage, and soon will be opening for Miranda Lambert on her upcoming tour. As Straw in the Wind continues to receive positive reception by Southern rock fans, the most interesting thing to ponder is where this band could be headed. Though there is no a shortage of Southern rock bands, few have the edge and darkness The Steel Woods bring to the table, or are receiving such major opportunities so early in their arc.
A band that’s been around for quite a bit longer, but is finally getting their due thanks to some big opportunities is The Scooter Brown Band. Originally formed in 2005 in the Houston area, they didn’t release a proper album until 2009, but have since become part of the Southern rock side of the Texas music scene. Formed behind former United States Marine Scott Brown, the Southern sounds and classic Southern rock modes are thick with this band, including a chorus of backup singers to give that Gospel tinge to their new record American Son. Having Southern rock legend Charlie Daniels sing on their recent single also gives The Scooter Brown Band some additional credence in the Southern Rock sphere.
After meandering along mostly in the Texas music scene and around Houston for years, The Scooter Brown Band was signed to the big Nashville booking agency APA in 2016. American Son was released in collaboration with Red River, BFD, and Sony Orchard, giving the band a much bigger stage and audience than they’ve had before. “This album sets the tone for what fans can expect from us on the road and on their radios. True country and southern rock music, what we were born and raised on,” says Scooter Brown. The band has recently been on tour opening for Charlie Daniels, Travis Tritt, and Southern rock staples The Marshall Tucker Band.
Ashley McBryde is another artist that is emerging with a decidedly Southern rock sound, and causing quite the conversation in the mainstream. Recently signed to Warner Music Nashville, her hard-edged country rock style and sleeves of tattoos is not exactly what you expect for Music Row to bite on. But it’s a couple of slower acoustic songs in “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” and “A Little Dive Bar in Dahonega” that have won her the industry’s attention. Perhaps it’s Ashley McBryde and a grassroots, Southern rock following that will finally put a female over the top in the mainstream. Perhaps McBryde is just enough for an “outside the box” artist to bust through the moratorium on women.
And along with bands and artists that are making big waves on major tours and on the edges of the mainstream, there are also a host of other up-and-coming Southern rock bands with great songs begging to be heard—bands like The Plott Hounds, who released a new album Lost Summer Day earlier this summer. Front man and singer Noah Alexander is originally from Georgia, but the outfit is actually based out of the small blue collar town of Anoka, Minnesota. It speaks to how the music may be called “Southern,” but the appeal and practice of it spans across the United States, including in the Midwest, which has become a touring haven and hotbed of appeal for Southern rock.
Completely independent, The Plott Hounds have played some 400 shows regionally throughout the Midwest, including sharing the stage with bands such as The Band of Heathens, Jason Boland and the Stragglers, and William Michael Morgan. “Some call us Southern Rock, plenty call us country,” says frontman Noah Alexander. “I’m not so sure we fit into some neat box that defines a genre but I think we write and perform music that connects with people.”
Like so many bands such as Lexington, KY’s Nick Dittmeier & The Sawdusters, or songwriters like Knoxville, TN’s Matt Woods, sometimes “Southern rock” is not the perfect describer of the music, but it is better than anything else to explain mixing the influences of country and rock together, and doing so in a way that is not derivative of the two genres, but respectful of them.
There are many more bands that could be characterized as both Southern rock and up-and-coming, and it speaks to how that sector of the greater country music panorama is on sure footing moving forward for keeping the roots of the music alive, and the ears of Southern rock fans happy for years to come.
October 9, 2017 @ 8:30 am
After being on the Matt Woods bandwagon and supporting his efforts I’d vouch for his singer/songwriter skills anyday, don’t think his efforts go unnoticed.
After seeing the Plott Hounds open for Boland this year I bought their cd and not Bolands.
Am looking forward the seeing Steel Woods open for WM in Dec.
Thanks for recognizing the efforts of the not quite famous yet.
October 9, 2017 @ 6:28 pm
Matt Woods is great, to state the obvious
March 10, 2021 @ 4:22 pm
George Thunderbolts is a band to watch!
October 9, 2017 @ 8:56 am
Saw Ashley McBryde open for Eric Church and Brothers Osbourne this summer. I wasn’t crazy about it but I will say she has a lot of talent.
October 9, 2017 @ 8:59 am
Southern rock faced the same fate as Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, Andy Griffith, etc. during the “rural purge” of television in the 1970’s. Southern rock was and is popular and would have a broad audience, if it had any visibility on radio or television, movies, etc. But, it is an embarrassment to the elitist New York, L.A. jet set. The Steel Woods are too hot. The Scooter Brown Band is too cold. Harvey Weinstein is just right.
October 9, 2017 @ 9:45 am
I beg to differ about The Scooter Brown Band, They’ve played at my barn dance in Colorado for the last 7 years and I am guessing you just don’t know their music. They are a lot of things, bluesy and raw at times, ballads and sentimental at others, but not cold. Hope you get a chance to listen to them in a small venue some day.
October 10, 2017 @ 8:06 am
Pretty sure the comment “The Scooter Brown Band is too cold” was a joke from RD
October 9, 2017 @ 9:29 am
Very cool indeed to see up and comers adopting the southern sound. I’m a huge fan of the sound. Cut my teeth on Allmans, CDB, MTB, Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, Skynyrd and the like. Just recently discovered Randall Bramblett and highly recommend his songwriting. Also can’t neglect Derek Trucks and Warren Haynes!
Thanks for putting Steel Woods and Scooter on my radar.
The Souths gonna rattle again…Hank Jr
October 9, 2017 @ 9:50 am
Whiskey Myers blew my doors off when I saw them live. This was before I became as familiar with them as I am now. But it says something when you go check someone out for the helluva it, not knowing much more than a couple songs, and becoming an instant fan.
Blackberry Smoke is also one of my favorites. I think I am at a half doesn’t times seeing them live. Great players. Really clever songs.
I’ve started considering Eric Church as southern rock, not a country artist. It does fit him better. His shows are outstanding. He covers a ton of southern rock.
I like the Steel Woods quite a bit, although sometimes the songwriting isn’t the strongest for me.
The history of southern rock is so strong, and those classic bands are so good, its hard for a new band to differentiate themselves and be considered fresh I think.
Last Sturgill show was more southern rock type than country, but he was outstanding doing it.
IDK.. Just rambling..
October 9, 2017 @ 9:55 am
half a dozen times for Blackberry Smoke. LOL
October 9, 2017 @ 10:10 am
I’ve gone to several shows by The Plott Hounds, the old line up and the new. They songwriting is strong and the band is really playing well together. They are genuine and humble fellas.
I instantly loved The Steel Woods when they opened for Blackberry Smoke. The lyrics I connect with and the music is great. These fellas a super talented.
October 9, 2017 @ 10:24 am
Was surprised at the lack of blackberry smoke mention. With Isbell, sturgill, drive by truckers, a lot of my favorites are actually in this space. The country rock thing worked pretty well for Miranda, hoping it will for Ashley too. Country radio definitely needs so more tempo:
The Musical Divide
October 9, 2017 @ 11:34 am
Blackberry Smoke are mentioned in the first paragraph. Besides, it’s meant to highlight newer Southern Rock acts.
Anyway, totally agree on the Steel Woods. Their new album will likely be in my top 5 by the end of the year. Thanks for the other recommendations too. Looks like I have some listening to do!
October 9, 2017 @ 4:38 pm
Read it on my phone and missed it
October 9, 2017 @ 10:41 am
Love Whiskey Myers. I was raised on Southern Rock and I still love it.
October 9, 2017 @ 10:56 am
“Black Sabbath covers in a southern drawl…” That’s great, I love it.
October 16, 2017 @ 9:10 am
I seen a Bob Wayne cover of Ozzy’s “Crazy Train” on YouTube the other day. Talk about a song that was written to be a country song.
October 9, 2017 @ 10:58 am
The Steel Woods are real deal. Great bunch of guys with a great sound and Wes’s vocals are great. Glad Blackberry Smoke introduced me to their sound.
October 9, 2017 @ 11:04 am
The Matt Poss Band is based in the Midwest and has shared the stage with every group in this article, including the tags at the end. In fact, they toured with Blackberry Smoke before BBS signed with CAA. Decidedly country-rock, they get lumped into the red dirt scene all the time. They are completely independent and I’ve seen them open for Eric Church and Jamey Johnson, Wade Bowen and Cody Canada, Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard and Kid Rock and REO Speedwagon. If you get a minute, look them up.
October 9, 2017 @ 11:17 am
A few years ago, I took a flyer on an album called Land of the Free by Powder Mill. Trigger’s old XXX nemesis Adam Sheets (who I used to read regularly and converse with sometimes on the old No Depression site even before the whole XXX episode) had named it his “Album of the Year” on MoonRunners. It was a pretty bold statement and after reading his write-up on the album, it sounded like something I’d be into. So I bought it.
Land of the Free is a killer Southern Rock album. Great songs and very gritty singing and playing. I like Blackberry Smoke just fine and have a few of their albums, but I’ll take this one over any of them.
October 9, 2017 @ 11:20 am
I’ve been a big fan of Powder Mill for a long time. If you haven’t seen it, check out the Billy the Baptist video. The lead singer also has a solo album that is good.
October 9, 2017 @ 11:54 am
Thanks. I’ll check them out.
October 9, 2017 @ 11:57 am
I meant the comment below for you. Its a link to Powder Mill’s Billy the Baptist video.
October 9, 2017 @ 11:21 am
Pretty fucking awesome.
October 9, 2017 @ 11:42 am
Really digging the Steel Woods. Their sound reminds you a lot of what Blackfoot did in the 70s by incorporating some harder rock and metal elements into their music. Too bad Lexingtons Fifth on the Floor didnt stick it out but Justin Wells is the man. Check out the Dark and Bloody Ground album if youve never heard it.
October 9, 2017 @ 12:27 pm
Blackfoot delivered the goods! The Strikes album is one of my favs. Can’t beat Wishing Well and Highway Song. Just got a used vinyl copy of Tomcattin and noticed it ventured into harder rocking territory, just what you were saying. Ricky Medlocke is a gun and in his later years played with Skynyrd.
October 9, 2017 @ 8:47 pm
Agreed! “Highway Song” is always my go to song on the road. I could listen to that and “Green Grass and High Tides Forever” (outlaws) on repeat for an entire road trip.
October 15, 2017 @ 6:46 pm
Completely agree about Fifth on the Floor. As much as I like/love the Justin Wells album I miss the edge and thunder of FOTF.
October 9, 2017 @ 12:28 pm
The Plott Hounds are incredible! Frontman Noah Bodner has this gravel throaty southern cadence which blows the mind & when put in harmony with the other talent & guitar solos is a sight & sound to behold!!!! Like the single, leaves us ‘Thirsty for More’!
October 9, 2017 @ 12:50 pm
Don’t forget Kendell Marvel. He’s Badass!
October 9, 2017 @ 5:26 pm
Listened to some Marshall Tucker last night. 40 years later This Ol Cowboy is still a great song.
October 9, 2017 @ 6:24 pm
Yes,yes,yes!!! Long hard ride, fire on the mountain, Take the Highway! Love MTB. Sadly they are down to one surviving member, Doug Gray. One of the most original Southern Rock Bands ever. They used a flute for crying out loud, who does that!? And while other southern guitarists were all about Les Pauls and Marshalls, Toy Caldwell was picking with his thumb on a hollow body. It was all about his unique style. This Ol Cowboy Is A Perfect Example Of That Unique style.Love it.
October 9, 2017 @ 6:33 pm
I saw the Steel Woods open for Blackberry Smoke. As much as I love BBS, I wanted the Woods to play longer. It was an INSTANT “oh hell yeah” from the moment Wes Bayliss started singing. After the show, I met them, got their EP signed (and framed on the wall), and preordered their record and CD the first day it became preorderable.
If George Carlin were alive today, he’d say “Holy shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, tits, the Steel Woods are a great band”. And I concur.
October 10, 2017 @ 6:15 am
Same here, JWT. Thought the Steel Woods boys chewed up Smoke, and spit them out.
October 9, 2017 @ 9:21 pm
I was introduced to Ashley McBryde at the last Marty Stuart Late Night Jam. She sang Girl Going Nowhere. Saw her again later in the week do a set and liked her a lot. Hope she catches on, I like her authenticity.
October 9, 2017 @ 9:23 pm
Great moment for Southern Music. BBs are the leaders. Whiskey Myers are maybe the best band. The Steel Woods are the next big thing.
October 9, 2017 @ 9:24 pm
Thanks for the heads up on all these artists. There’s been a long time love affair with southern rock here in the northeast. I do an americana radio program on WHUS in Storrs, CT and my shows tend to have a more rock slant to them. Been on the Plott Hounds for a couple years. Will be digging deeper into all these guys and gals.
October 10, 2017 @ 3:31 am
#Missourimudmusic its SOUTHERN Americana roots rock its a diffrent sound an style its SOUTHERN
October 10, 2017 @ 8:23 am
Love ashley mcbryde! Authentic and ballsy, and though I’m biased through meeting her, she really cares about the music she makes. Can’t wait to see her really make some noise!
October 10, 2017 @ 9:14 am
Check out The Kris Youmans Band on YouTube. Georgia’s reigning Traditional Artist of The Year in the GA Country Music Awards which are the CMAs of Georgia.
October 10, 2017 @ 12:24 pm
SBB are just now coming into their own making the transition to Southern Rock from Texas country!! Their best work is ahead of em!! American Son is a solid southern rock album their best work yet!! But one band that belongs in the conversation is the Quaker City NightHawks! QCNH along with WM $ BBS are tru southern rock bands and now SBB as joined in on the fun!! Enjoy
October 10, 2017 @ 6:10 pm
Greg Allman said, “Southern Rock is a bit redundant, like saying Rock Rock”.
October 12, 2017 @ 10:28 am
Still not sold on The Steel Woods. They don’t sound that different to me from 2007-ish hard rock in the vein of Seether or Shinedown. It just doesn’t feel innovative or new at all.
But the southern rock of Whiskey Myers or BBS is music I can get behind.
J F Oakes
October 18, 2017 @ 12:40 pm
Gonna go listen to a lot of the new bands mentioned. Thanks for the article! I’ve been a BBS fan for a lot of years. And because indies need all the help they can get…and I’m an indie… I’ve got a southern rock album called WEST OF CAPRICORN (Deluxe Edition) due out November 4 (iTunes pre-order starts Oct. 20). FYI. Thanks and ya’ll have a good one!
October 30, 2017 @ 4:30 pm
A great Southern Rock band out of Arkansas is HILLBILLY VEGAS. They have been playing over the past few years from Texas to the Carolinas and up into the Midwest! Here are two of their latest videos: *Hillbilly Vegas – High Time for a Good Time – https://vimeo.com/187824761
*Hillbilly Vegas – Shake It Like a Hillbilly – https://vimeo.com/156860463
I hope you enjoy!
January 17, 2018 @ 4:49 pm
Album is out. Harder ROCK-ROCK in spots…any listens are greatly appreciated. Also, STEEL WOODS are playing our music festival (Longest running outdoor festival in MS)…I’ll let you know what I think afterwards…
November 10, 2018 @ 8:36 am
Although I will be checking out the bands listed here, I’m surprised that there isn’t any mention of bands such as The Cadillac Three or The Josephines. If you haven’t heard either of them, you’re missing out on some great Southern Rock.
April 13, 2019 @ 4:48 am
Check out Preacher Stone…a band out of Charlotte. They fit this mold perfectly!