Every year the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville seats a variety of names from throughout the country and roots world in what they call their American Currents exhibit. This is the opportunity for artists that you may not normally see an exhibit for in the Country Music Hall of Fame to get an opportunity to be featured among all the greats, while also providing a relevant conduit from today’s contributors to yesteryear’s legends.
Filling out the class in 2021 is of course some of the biggest names in mainstream country today, including Luke Combs, Maren Morris, and Eric Church. Putting an emphasis on race, Darius Rucker, Mickey Guyton, Rissi Palmer, Jimmie Allen, and Freddy Fender also make it into the 2021 class. You also have songwriter Casey Beathard who will be featured, as well as Ashley McBryde, Faith Hill and Miranda Lambert.
But it’s always the wild cards that get thrown in that make it the Hall of Fame’s American Currents display interesting, and this year a few worthy ones make the cut. Along with Dierks Bentley’s side project Hot Country Nights getting a display, now-retired Grand Ole Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs is graced with the honor. You also have the highly-regarded bluegrass group Sister Sadie make the list after their big wins at the 2020 IBMA Awards, as well as the recently-passed John Prine, which will hopefully heat up discussions if he should be considered for the Hall of Fame proper in the coming years.
But most notably included are two of the most quickly rising names in independent country and roots at the moment in Charley Crockett and Billy Strings, speaking to their swelling importance and respect to their respective disciplines. Billy Strings holds the promise of helping to make bluegrass cool again, and in both its traditional and more jam-based manifestations. Charley Crockett is doing much of the same, revitalizing past classics in both the country and blues realms, and doing it with a cool factor that keeps the music relevant and moving forward.
Charley Crockett has that magnetic, real world quality that give his songs that lived-in, road-worn feel, and for good reason. From dirty streets to Western peaks and all points in between, Charley Crockett propped open his guitar case in many far flung destinations and played for your ragged dollar, and did so well before anyone had the smarts to place a microphone in front of him and try to capture that magic for permanence and posterity. It doesn’t hurt that he can also write and sing just about anything that resides under the roots music umbrella. As if the most potent strains of American roots music all rose up from the ground and intertwined into a living, breathing entity, Charley Crockett contains an unfair amount of country and blues talent, only rendered forgivable from his incredible ability to share it.
Billy Strings does things on the guitar that from outward appearances aren’t even possible from a physical or theoretical standpoint. This results in his performances acting like a musical psilocybin, taking you places you thought weren’t accessible in the conscious world, and all while making it look so effortless. Billy Strings is arguably best musician you will witness live in our generation, with no hyperbole peppering that proclamation, or any of the others previous. He is an unmistakable savant, but one where the richness and appeal of his talent is palatable to a general audience, instead of being elusive, or only enjoyed from a technical standpoint.
And beyond the music, both of these young men feel like guys who will continue to help lead country and roots music in a more positive and rootsy direction for years and decades to come. Being honored in the Country Music Hall of Fame’s American Currents exhibit for the upcoming year only seems fitting.
The American Currents exhibit will run from March 12th, 2021 until February 22, 2022. The full class can be seen below.
2021 American Currents Class:
Jimmy Allen – Ingrid Andress – Gabby Barrett – Casey Beathard – The Chicks – Eric Church – Luke Combs – Charley Crockett – Freddy Fender – Mickey Guyton – Faith Hill – Hot Country Knights – MIranda Lambert – Ashley McBryde – Lester “Roadhog” Moran – Maren Morris – Rissi Palmer – Dolly Parton – John Prine – Darius Rucker – Sister Sadie – Dan + Shay – Billy Strings – Eddie Stubbs