We had a lot taken from us last year, but there was one huge thing given: Country artists putting out stripped down, raw cuts of songs, both new and old.
We saw tons of artists jump on the deep cuts challenge, a whole bunch that gave us sneak peaks of some songs they had written while at home, tons of live streams, and even more raw music.
Riley Green has been the king of putting out acoustic versions of songs he just wrote. By my count, he posted at least 8 songs, unreleased at the time, and also hosted the Golden Saw Music Series, bringing on other artists to join him in acoustic performances of their songs.
But even some of the more popular Nashville/radio artists were also not afraid to share their unpolished side.
Randy Houser, Thomas Rhett, Ingrid Andress, and many others put out videos of unreleased songs, whether collecting dust in their catalog or newly written. This is a bucking of the close to the vest, overmarketed, “Must Be Polished” Nashville edict, and I am all for it.
Morgan Wallen even released a bunch of stripped down versions of songs off his record breaking latest album in The Dangerous Sessions, which many, myself included, preferred since they drop the snap-track backing and over-production.
Pretty much every artist did a live stream or two (maybe more) as well. From Cody Jinks, to Brad Paisley to Zach Bryan, artists from every segment of the genre we’re playing live to their fans in any way they could.
But the next evolution of the raw music trend is what Kip Moore, Miranda Lambert and Ashley McBryde are doing.
Kip Moore released a series of videos of him playing music of his latest album, Wild World, in what he called the In The Wild Sessions. Whether it was just him and a guitar (like “She’s Mine,” “Janie Blu,”and “Hey Old Lover”), or joined with fiddles and harmonies (like in “Sweet Virginia” and “Wild World”), or straight up a capella (“Payin Hard”), these videos were a showcase for the absolute core of the songs.
Whether sitting on a porch or around a fire, standing in a field or in front of a rock wall, these cuts are the definition of pure music, no bells and whistles, nothing added.
Ashley McBryde is doing things a little bit differently, recording a live EP of songs from her latest album, with her whole band.
NamedNever Will: Live from a Distance, the project is designed to give fans that concert feel, how you hear them from the crowd instead of car speakers. Definitely more polished than Kip, but every bit of authentic to the true nature of how the songs are meant to be heard.
Then there’s Miranda Lambert, who takes what Kip and Ashley did and combines it in a raw album of unreleased songs, written with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall.
Called The Marfa Tapes, the project is named after where the songs were recorded in Marfa, Texas, and this is peak raw music. One take, literally in a field with cows mooing in the background, and then put out on an album… it’s BAD ASS.
Of course, Zach Bryan has been releasing songs recorded in a field since the day he began, but now, we’re recognizing how much that authenticity speaks directly to the fans and builds a loyal following, not just casual listeners. That being recognized by mainstream artists is truly incredible, a grassroots movement in country music that speaks of great things to come. I think we could start to see more artists follow the lead, being more true to themselves and their sound and putting out music that the fans like, not just the labels.
I truly believe we have turned the corner in country music, for the most part, we’re past the bro-country, and I think we’re on the road moving past the boyfriend country as well. A renaissance of sorts, where good writing, real instruments and non-polished artists thrive.
Great job, country music. Now keep it moving in this direction.