Many followers of Outlaw Country will scoff at the idea of associating any of today’s musicians along with the likes of Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. When you compare their sounds, songs, backgrounds and styles — you might agree that these up-and-coming musicians match the outlaw way of life.
7 Modern Day Country Outlaws (in no particular order):
1. Whitey Morgan and the 78’s
Whoever says that this Flint, Michigan man shouldn’t be labeled as Outlaw Country obviously doesn’t understand the movement. Hard living, anti-authority, cheating, drinking, and cocaine-use are all thematic cords for this grizzled, longhaired road warrior and his band. Just imagine if Waylon Jennings and Thin Lizzy formed a band, this is what you’d get.
2. Rolling Nowhere
Rolling from Atlanta, Georgia, these guys continue to defy any current genre classification. What accurately describes a band that bends the current alt-country/folk/rock genres and seems to consistently evolve its sound with every show? All of their songs are either about being lost or wandering, hitting the railroad tracks, just a lot of vagabond, beatnik-type stuff. Sounds pretty outlaw to me.
3. Nikki Lane
What does it say about a country artist who toured with punk icons Social Distortion? Her songs come with grit and attitude (in an off-kilter humorist kind of way) with lyrics about cocaine, wrecking cars, and breaking hearts. These, of course, are all a part of an Outlaw’s daily routine.
4. Country Lips
To many country fans, Country Lips sound retro in a Jack White sort of way by borrowing many core elements of classic cuts that build on something loud, funky, and original. But make no mistake — this is country. There is an unmistakable twang to the guitars and the chord progressions that feature filthy guitar that make it palatable for anybody who digs Willie Nelson or Johnny Cash.
The Crooks offer up a distinctive style of country music that falls well away from the formulistic mainstream of today’s Top 40. While they are not big on creating boundaries, it’s clear that their style offers up a wide variety of sounds that is quite enjoyable.
6. Jamey Johnson
What this 10-year music veteran does best should be defined by what he doesn’t do — pander to the clichés of what passes for contemporary country music. Johnson sings in the voice of a drug addict, a depressive, and a sociopath. He drawls his songs with the help of a country-rock band, accented by organ and a pedal steel guitar. It’s a retro sound, which is just the way he likes it.
7. Dale Watson
Dale has been recording music for more than two decades, but it wasn’t until his 2013 album release of El Rancho Azul that country music fans began to take notice. What about him makes him a country outlaw? He has a trio of albums devoted to truckin’ tunes (not “trucking” tunes) known as The Truckin’ Sessions: Vol 1, 2, and 3.
Others to look out for:
James Hand, Wade Bowen and Randy Rogers, Lera Lynn, Sunday Valley, Sam Outlaw