Billy Strings Disrupts Country Charts with Career Effort “Renewal”

This is one of those moments when it all gets real. All the touring, all the stellar performances, all the live streams, all the great songs and the sowing of grassroots with blood and sweat from a prodigy musician to now a 29-year-old modern musical marvel, it’s all resulted in the shattering of whatever ceiling usually resides over an independent artist, and even critics now must pay attention and tip a hat.

With his third solo album Renewal released on September 24th, Billy Strings has put the country music world on alert that he’s a force to be reckoned with, disrupting the Billboard Country Charts with a strong debut at #1 in physical sales in country, at #9 on the Billboard Country Albums chart that factors in streaming, while also going #1 on the Billboard Bluegrass chart, and #1 on the Emerging Artists chart.

Billy Strings sold 8,135 albums in physical copies and downloads of Renewal, which was good enough for #1 in hard units in country, just edging out Star-Crossed by Kacey Musgraves. Along with songs from Renewal being streamed over 2.5 million times, it was good enough for a grand total of 10,246 total units, which is a strong number for the Rounder Records title in the streaming era.

And let’s not lose focus of what’s happening here. Billy Strings isn’t exactly like a Tyler Childers/Sturgill Simpson/Cody Jinks type. Billy Strings is a bluegrass musician, and specifically, Renewal was somewhat surprisingly traditional, authentic, and straightforward, but was very well-received from an artist who can venture into the more ethereal and jamgrass side of the discipline.

And despite being well-regarded, heretofore the Billy Strings phenomenon was mostly centered around his live performances. Renewal feels like one of those records that will resonate much beyond the conventional borders of bluegrass, or our specific era in music, and help the entirety of bluegrass by proxy.

The last record from Billy Strings—2019’s Home—was only able to manage a #41 debut on the country charts when it was released. It went on to win the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album, and Strings recently won Entertainer of the Year at the International Bluegrass Music Awards off the strength of that record.

But Renewal just feels like it’s on another level—a career effort to go along with his unprecedented live performances, and something that folks who may not even count themselves as bluegrass and country fans will find enjoyment in.

From his early days performing at fiddle and bluegrass camps, to his apprenticeship with Don Julin, to now the Top 10 of mainstream country, Billy Strings has climbed the mountain. But what has us all even more giddy with anticipation is where this once-in-a-lifetime performer could go from here.

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