Which state do you think produces the best country music artists?
I don’t know if the state of Alabama comes to your mind, but if you have kept up with new music at all this year, then it definitely should.
Over the last several years, I think there have really been three states that have set themselves apart in this debate: Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Texas. I mean, just think of all of the great artists right now who either call these states home, or more importantly, spent their formative years in these states.
Texas is always a powerhouse, the Appalachian scene out of Kentucky (and West Virginia as well), have come on STRONG in the past decade or so, but recently it occurred to me that there is a fourth state that is more than deserving of being in this conversation.
And while great music has been coming out of the area for nearly a century at this point, we may be in the midst of its breakout year in 2023.
If you’ve been keeping up with new music lately, then you’ll know that artists from Alabama have been absolutely crushing it so far this year, and they show no signs of letting up. If they keep it up at this rate, they will put the state of Alabama into the mix in this debate for sure.
In fact, my three favorite albums of the year thus far have coincidentally come from Alabama artists, but it doesn’t stop there. Here are ten Alabama artists who either currently call the state home or at least spent their formative years there, and are making their state proud right now.
With six of them having released spectacular albums already this year, and four more who seem to have all of the momentum on their side, these are ten artists of varying experience and fame that are keeping Alabama in the mix.
Hailing from Opelika, Hood has long been revered as one of the most underrated songwriters in country music. A guy that has been involved in the music scene longer than anyone else on this list, and even been a major influence on some of these names, Hood released his debut album in 2002, and has grown a strong, grassroots following over the past couple of decades on his powerful catalog of original music. With a national following that is particularly strong throughout the Southeast, and perhaps even bigger in Texas, Hood’s songs have been recorded by artists such as Josh Abbott Band, Whiskey Myers, Cody Jinks, Travis Tritt, Miranda Lambert, and many more.
His fingerprints are everywhere across country music, and especially the stuff that is coming out of Alabama, where he has collaborated frequently with other artists from the state that include Muscadine Bloodline, Drake White, and Riley Green, to name a few.
Over two decades into his career, Adam Hood only continues to improve his craft, as evident in his latest single below.
“Cars, Trucks, & Me” (2023)
Drayton Farley is about as raw and authentic as it comes in a music scene that puts authenticity at its forefront to make up for the lack thereof in mainstream country music. With his hands calloused, and maybe even his mind a bit jaded, from years of blue collar work, Farley’s music is honest, relatable, and sonically spectacular.
Produced by Sadler Vaden, who despite not being an Alabama native has influenced plenty of artists from the state as the guitarist in Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Farley’s third full length album Twenty on High dropped earlier this year and features some of his best work yet.
“Stop the Clock” – Twenty on High (2023)
In addition to his latest album this year, Farley’s OurVinyl Sessions EP dropped back in April featuring intimate live recordings of three songs off of the new record, as well as another recording of his most streamed song to date below.
“Pitchin’ Fits” – Drayton Farley | OurVinyl Sessions EP (2023)
Originally from Birmingham, but now calling Nashville home, Drew White released his debut album Headspace back in January. With songwriting perhaps reminiscent of early 2000s Ryan Adams and blues-rock guitar licks you may expect to hear in a Marcus King tune, White brings a soulful approach to his unique brand of country infused rock and roll.
“Dreaming in the City” – Headspace (2023)
Undoubtedly the biggest name on this list, Jason Isbell’s storied career has earned him, in my opinion, a place on the figurative Mount Rushmore of 21st century country artists. Isbell played an integral part in some of the Drive-By Truckers’ most fruitful years before forming his own band, The 400 Unit, and embarking on a career that has made him one of the most well known independent country acts ever.
His quintessential 2013 record Southeastern is one of the greatest ever released, and while everything he touches seems to turn to gold, his recent release Weathervanes with the 400 Unit joins Southeastern in a class of their own. The best album of the year thus far, Weathervanes is Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit at their finest
“Strawberry Woman” – Weathervanes (2023)
The duo of Charlie Muncaster and Gary Stanton formed in Mobile after the two, who grew up just a few miles from each other and had never met, were introduced by mutual friends. Nearly a decade later, Muscadine Bloodline is going stronger than ever, and together they have climbed the ranks as one of the biggest independent country bands out there today. Prolific songwriters and recorders, the band followed up 2022’s Dispatch to 16th Ave. with their best record yet, a 16-track masterpiece titled Teenage Dixie.
“Inconvenience Store” – Teenage Dixie (2023)
And they didn’t stop there, either. In the spirit of the nostalgia the band tapped into through Teenage Dixie, Muscadine Bloodline recently released a surprise Teenage Angst EP, featuring country tinged covers of four iconic pop-punk songs that take them back to their teenage years.
“Adam’s Song” by Blink-182 – Teenage Angst (2023)
A native of Cullman, Alabama, about half way between Birmingham and Huntsville, Henderson is another artist on this list who has been turning some heads with the release of their debut albums this year. Titled Fallacies & Four-Letter Words, Henderson’s 10-track project illuminates his songwriting prowess and soulful vocals, and is further proof of the amazing music that has been coming out of Alabama recently.
“Let Go for Dear Life” – Fallacies & Four-Letter Words (2023)
If you haven’t heard of Taylor Hunnicutt yet, you’re going to want to change that. She and her hard rocking backing band continue to make a name for themselves with their non-stop touring schedule and by putting out music that people all across the country will love and relate to, like her latest single below.
“Trail of a Broken Heart” (2023)
The Mountain Grass Unit
Formed in Birmingham by three childhood friends, who still are just college students, The Mountain Grass Unit is one of the most promising up and coming bluegrass acts out there right now. MGU hasn’t released any new music this year, but as they embark on their biggest tour to date, headlining venues and playing festivals across the country all summer, these guys seem to be gaining some serious momentum. With a short but potent catalog of music waiting to be streamed, these amazing recordings don’t even do their live show justice, so get out there and see them if you can.
“Where I Land” – Where I Land EP (2021)
The Red Clay Strays
The Mobile based outfit released their debut album Moment of Truth back in 2022, and as their music continues to grow, it is becoming more and more evident that The Red Clay Strays are on the verge of becoming something truly special. Drawing influence from a range of genres including country, southern rock, soul, and gospel, The Red Clay Strays’ distinct sound is a unique amalgamation of everything great about Alabama’s rich music history. And they are just getting started.
Spreading the good word of their music and reaching new audiences across the country the old fashioned way, by hitting the road hard and winning over fans with their electric live performances, these road warriors can be seen headlining venues all across the country and blowing away crowds at big time festivals such as Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza.
As if that weren’t enough, you can also find them playing for massive crowds in support of some of country music’s biggest artists, like Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, and Kip Moore, to name a few. No matter how you look at it, The Red Clay Strays are one of the best independent bands in the business, and it’s just a matter of time until everyone begins to take notice.
“Stone’s Throw” – Moment of Truth (2022)
Them Dirty Roses
If you miss the hard driving, southern rock and roll music of yesteryear, Them Dirty Roses is another band that’ll quench your thirst. Formed in Gadsden, Alabama, they erupted onto the scene in 2017 with their self-titled EP that featured the heavily streamed heater “Cocaine & Whiskey.” Six years later, they finally released their debut, full-length album Lost in the Valley of Hate & Love, Vol. 1, and it was well worth the wait.
“Hell of a Note” – Lost in the Valley of Hate & Love, Vol. 1 (2023)
While these are my favorites from Alabama right now, the list of artists hailing from the Yellowhammer State doesn’t end here.
Jamey Johnson is an established legend in the outlaw country realm, and acts like Riley Green, Drake White, and The Vagabonds have all been making strides of late. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the all time greats that came from Alabama as well – Hank Williams, Don Williams, Emmylou Harris, Tammy Wynette, Alabama – the list goes on and on and on.
I am sure there are plenty I am missing too, but the point is, Alabama has produced some pretty amazing musicians throughout its history. And now, in 2023, Jason Isbell, Muscadine Bloodline, Drayton Farley, and the rest of these aforementioned artists are taking it up a notch. I don’t know if there is something in the water down there or what the deal is, but these guys are making it happen.
So with all of that being said, has Alabama established itself as one of the best states to produce country music artists?
It may not be quite up to the level, in my opinion, of the artists that have been produced by states like Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Texas. But with all of these spectacular acts out there today that have called the state home, Alabama sure is on the right track.