Photo by Becky Fluke // Sacks & Co.
The number of days until Bonnaroo is getting smaller and smaller each passing day. To get you prepared for it earlier, we told you what bands you need to see (or not) on The Farm in 2016. Bonnaroo is one of the largest festivals in the nation and people travel from almost every state and several countries to get to it. Luckily, it’s less than an hour down the road from Nashville. Some of our favorite Nashville artists made the lineup this year. Read on to find out more about each of them and hear some of their tunes before you catch them this summer.
After leaving The Drive-By Truckers in 2007 and releasing a solo album in the same year, Jason Isbell became a songwriting sensation. He released his fifth album last year and sold out a weekend at The Ryman which was live-streamed around the world, making him Nashville’s newest heartthrob. His pre-fame songwriting is best showcased in Decoration Day with hits like “Outfit”, which he still performs, sans the other “Truckers,” to this day. He now plays with a backing crew from classic rock landmark Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where the likes of The Rolling Stones, Etta James and The Black Keys have recorded. Isbell is a must-see for any fans of Southern rock or country.
You may know Chris Stapleton from his big win at last year’s CMAs Award, his Nashville New Year’s Eve performance on Broadway, or his home state repping radio hit “Tennessee Whiskey” (among others). Stapleton has paid his dues playing every backing band imaginable in Music City over the years and his fame is more than well-deserved. He’s reclaiming the genre of country and taking it back to its roots, pulling away from the “bro country” sound that took the mainstream over the past decade. His sound appeals to all types; it’s honest, clean country- twangy but not overbearing. His genuine songwriting would be a refresher for your Bonnaroo schedule.
Natalie Prass released a self-titled debut last year that garnered an impressive amount of critical acclaim. After touring as a backing vocalist for Jenny Lewis and dropping out of college, the artist has settled on her feet as a visionary and fantastic vocalist. Her album centers on love and its many complications, and her sultry, floating voice expresses a powerful narrative. Her sound is similar to Sharon Van Etten and Jessica Lee Mayfield. Her house band backs up her silky lyrics with lots of brass and strings. Prass has been raved about everywhere from Rolling Stone to Time, and we can only expect good things from the rest of her career.
Coming fresh on to the music scene in 2012 with little experience, Rayland Baxter stunned the music industry with his quaint and lovely songwriting. Last year he released Imaginary Man and established himself as a true musician. The album is full of concise, psychedelic yet folky pop songs with flowing melodies. It’s physically impossible to listen to it without feeling a surge of happiness. He harnesses a Nashville vibe onto original, sentimental writing. This is the perfect artist to dance around in a field with your friends at a festival with- lucky for you, he’ll be at The Farm.
Last year gifted us with Feels Like, Bully’s first studio album released through Columbia Records. It’s genius. The female-fronted vocals over fuzzy guitar channel the uninhibited spirit of riot grrl punk. The delivery of every line is angry and assertive with instrumentation to back it. Bully has become a figurehead for the East Nashville sound that’s beginning to trend nationwide. If you didn’t know, you would think her music came straight from the early ’90s.Bully is one the come up and you need to see this band at Bonnaroo no matter what music you’re into (see you in the pit).
Judah & the Lion
About two years ago, I saw Judah & the Lion in a stranger’s backyard in East Nashville. Now, they’re on the Bonnaroo lineup next to your favorite bands. Self-defined as “folk hop,” the group embraces Americana and makes it new and relevant. It has all the things that make the genre great: banjos, mandolins and rich harmonies. Their lyrics are about being in your twenties and having no idea what’s happening, being in love and living in the South. They bring in great elements form the Nashville sound and “mountain music.” If you want a laid back, low-key show, head to see this band on the Farm.
To contact Lifestyles editor Tanner Dedmon email firstname.lastname@example.org.