From Lil Nas X to Ray Charles, Black artists have dominated the country music charts irrespective of era. And with roots in the heart-wrenching blues of southern life, it only makes sense that the genre makes room for Black voices. Today, young Black country artists continue to influence and reshape the sounds of contemporary country music. Here are six young Black country artists to watch:
1. Lil Nas X
With his seemingly ubiquitous 2019 hit, "Old Town Road," Lil Nas X found a captive audience over America’s radio waves. Indeed, tiny fans too young to pronounce the twangy notes, as well as those too old to attempt them at all, could be heard humming the summer tune. Still, the young artist’s stumble upon the country scene was met with a less than warm embrace, particularly when Billboard made national headlines with their decision to remove the genre-fluid artist’s single from country charts.
2. Mickey Guyton
As her website explains, the Texas native grew up with music at the center of her universe and church an access point for it. Guyton was introduced to the country scene with her 2015 single “Better Than You Left Me,” and self-titled EP released the same year. On the record, the singer’s childhood influences of LeAnn Rimes and Whitney Houston can be heard as she croons out the sweet nothings of a country songbird and belts out others. This year, Guyton took the stage at Tennessee venue, The Ryman, where she performed her latest single “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?”
3. Kane Brown
With a long history of Black artists like Ray Charles breaking ground in the country genre, Kane Brown blazes his own trail. With his smashing single, "Heaven," the Tennessee native croons out romantic lyrics over a buttery, contemporary beat, and listeners can’t help but feel the influence of country-pop star and narrator of teenage love-sickness, Taylor Swift.
4. Brittany Howard and the Alabama Shakes
With their raspy, acoustic sound, southern band Alabama Shakes plays to the folksy heart of a musical melting pot. With the throaty, soulful sounds of Janis Joplin and the heartbreaking twang of acoustic guitar, lead vocalist Brittany Howard carries the band to the sweet, southern place where American rock ‘n roll and country music meet.
5. Milton Patton
Before the 2015 release of his self-titled album, fans and critics discovered Milton Patton along with celebrity judges Mel B, Heidi Klum and Howard Stern. The Arkansas native appeared on season eight of America’s Got Talent. After being eliminated, Patton opted out of signing a record deal, choosing instead to focus on staying true to his authentic country sound. Soon thereafter, the country singer found himself back down south in Joplin, Missouri, where he and songwriter Sean Harrison formed a partnership. The pair’s collaborations were heard by weekly crowds at Legends, a local bar.
6. Jimmie Allen
The platinum-selling artist recently released a single, “This Is Us,” featuring Noah Cyrus, daughter to country star Billy Ray Cyrus. Although the Delaware native was ultimately cut from the 2011 season of American Idol before his performances could air, he found his way onto the country charts with his 2018 debut album, Mercury Lane. The country singer/songwriter’s hit singles “Make Me Want To” and “Best Shot” both solidified his cowboy hat’s position in the ring.
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