3 Of The Best for August 2019
Written by Big Stu on 22 August, 2019
Big Stu is a radio veteran and music super fan. In this monthly blog, Big Stu names 3 of the best New Country tracks you need to hear right now. Like many, Big Stu does a lot of his listening in the car, so every track will be subjected to the wheel tapping test!
Cover Image: Bryce Sainty
To kick off the first edition of the monthly blog, I have chosen three great examples of the talent coming through the ranks both here and abroad. Interestingly I keep making comparisons to well established artists that I have no doubt are influencing the growth of the artists whose tracks I have chosen this month:
1. Kassie Ashton – ‘Field Party’
Most country fans were unaware of Kassi Ashton until superstar Keith Urban invited her to sing on the track “Drop Top” for his genre busting “Graffiti U” album. However KU didn’t pluck Kassi from obscurity, she’d been making waves as a fearless songwriter with amazing stage presence that led to being named ‘One To Watch’ by The Huffington Post and The Tennessean as well as being listed in influential radio host Bobby Bones’ ‘Class Of 2018’.
In Ashton’s auto-biographical song “California, Missouri,” the singer paints an unconventional portrait of life growing up in her small town, opining she had been ‘born in the wrong place at the wrong time’ which leaves the listener wondering if she has since found her right place and time. Ashton has released several songs that defy true genre classification. There’s the soulful “Pretty Shiny Things” and the RnB groove of “Taxidermy”, reminiscent of early Maren Morris.
And now on new offering “Field Party”, Ashton begs forgiveness from those in her small town who thought she’d abandoned them completely. ‘Did y’all think I forgot just where I was born and raised? Well, I didn’t, And I’m sorry. Just when big city lights get to clouding up my mind, you will find me, at a field party’.
It’s a feel-good party anthem that sees Ashton embrace her pop sound and offer another side, while still maintaining a truth that resonates with her growing fanbase. Add “Field Party” to your playlist and it will get stuck in your head.
Big Stu’s Steering Wheel Tapping Rating: 4 out of 5
2. BRYCE SAINTY – ‘Never Going Back’
For 5 years on the Planet Country Radio Show MJ and I waxed lyrical about the need for a new type of Aussie male artist. We had plenty of the guitar slinging country pub rock guys, an abundance of traditional artists, and some who could perform legible covers of a Luke Bryan or Keith Urban banger, but then when they played their own music it invariably fell short of the current Nashville sound. No disrespect to any artist, they just didn’t offer a local alternative to Kane Brown or Thomas Rhett, which we knew the local industry needed.
Enter Bryce Sainty. After releasing a self-titled EP in 2013 which saw the industry stop for a decent look and the beginning of a developing fan base, Bryce entered Star Maker in 2014, finishing as a finalist and eyeing the bright lights of Nashville. Sainty delivered the single “Status” in 2016 following time in Music City and it became clear he had the chops to be our local New Country hero with clever country pop that went beyond the usual guitar riffs and offered the closest thing to the current Nashville sound an Aussie had got to at that point.
Bryce Sainty continued learning his trade and in early 2018 released the track “Eleven Eleven” which showcased high quality production to go with a catchy tune. Unfortunately U.S artist Tyler Rich also released a song called 11:11 around the same time which led to some confusion. Not daunted, Bryce followed up with “Something I Want”, which became his break-out track as a genuine country pop star. The song remained in high rotation on The Wolf Australia longer than any other Australian male artist’s offering and was regularly requested by fans.
Given his progression, there was much anticipation for Bryce’s next release which dropped recently amid minimal fanfare. “Never Going Back” showcases a softer sound as a mid-tempo ballad with a kind of American West Coast easiness to the flow of verse into chorus. There’s also a mix of male and female backing vocals which lend a thicker texture to the sound compared with previous songs. It’s still a toe tapper with plenty of ‘Woh, Awoh, oh, oh, oh’ sing-along moments, but it presents Bryce as a more sophisticated performer with range beyond ‘click-track’ pop. You’ll love it on first listen and it will whet your appetite for whatever Bryce Sainty does next.
Big Stu’s Steering Wheel Tapping Rating: 4 out of 5
3. CLAUDIA TRIPP – ‘Phantom’
For as many times as MJ and I have lamented the lack of genuine Aussie Male country pop artists, we’ve celebrated the rise and rise of local Females. We called it the ‘Tay Tay’ effect based solely on our assumption that young Aussie girls fell in love with what Taylor Swift was doing to and for country music and wanted to follow suit. Interestingly, many artists we’ve interviewed deny this, but we continue to claim the effect anyway because, well, it surely can’t be a bad thing to claim inspiration from the highest earning female musical artist in the world. As I write this, I figure I ought to check out whether T-Swizzle means anything to Claudia Tripp and to my relief I find several Taylor Swift covers on her YouTube Chanel, which boasts over 1.3 Million views BTW.
Listening to previously released music by Claudia you are immediately struck by how authentic she sounds, despite being only 20 years old. Tracks recorded when she was a teen depict the usual love and heartbreak synonymous with the age, yet they fuse sophisticated lyrics with modern pop beats that on occasion flirt with a country edge. This might be the biggest issue Claudia faces. Is she a country pop artist, or a pop artist. Unfortunately in Australia, the two are pitched as mutually exclusive. In the U.S, artists like Bebe Rhexa and Demi Lovato can collaborate with country artists and gain a whole new fan base. Here, you tend to get labelled and stuck in a box. I hope Claudia Tripp is one of the first Aussies who defy that and gain true cross-over success.
The just released track “Phantom” is a step-up in production and musicality for the young Western Australian. It’s an infectious tune that almost has a jazz feel to it, but don’t tell anyone, because if country fans can’t get their heads around Lil Nas’s hick-hop inspired mega hit “Old Town Road” , I’m not sure we’re ready for ‘Country Jazz’ just yet. “Phantom” is a song I can see being performed in a smoky little club with a few drinkers drowning their sorrows at small tables while Claudia Tripp belts out her tune calling out an ex who left her ‘Banging her head up against the wall’. Stick it in your playlist and you’ll be right there in the smoky club nodding your head along with the rest of us.
Big Stu’s Steering Wheel Tapping Rating: 5 out of 5
There you have it! 3 great tracks that have been stuck in my head from the past month. I’m looking forward to sharing more music with you in this new monthly blog. I’m also open to suggestions so let us know via The Wolf Australia’s social media accounts what songs you’d like me to discuss.
Big Stu can’t sing, dance or play guitar, although he does own a rare Washburn Flying V axe. The radio veteran is a lifelong lover of music who’s fandom exploits include meeting a famous hair band at the airport when they arrived on tour . . . instead of going to school; collecting telegraph pole concert posters (Del Amitri at Parra Leagues Oct 2, 1990 is a prized example) and owning an autographed copy of ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ on vinyl with black album cover and autographs in black texta – you have to look at it on an angle to see the signatures!
As co-host of the award-winning Planet Country Radio Show, Big Stu has turned his attention to country pop, rock and the various sounds of contemporary cross-over country music.