I’m delighted to be writing my first post for Belles & Gals as we approach the last days of 2016. This means I get to share some of the music that has brought me the most pleasure over the course of the year – following on the theme of Nick’s post earlier this week. To some extent, I owe thanks to Spotify for reminding me exactly how much I listened to the wonderful girls below (although I have also purchased the EP’s as you can’t beat a physical copy – remember that folks)! It’s been tough to cut it down to 5 so to make it easier for myself I’ve had to leave out some lovely Canadian gals – perhaps we’ll get to that in a different post. Without further ado, my favourite five upcoming and underrated southern belle EP’s of 2016:
- Sister C – Demo Sessions Vol. 1 and Demo Session – Vol 2
I wouldn’t say Sister C were hands down my favourite new act this year, but they’re definitely right up there. OK, maybe they were. Not only did they release one EP this year, they released two. How lucky can a country loving girl get? Made up of three real-life sisters from Texas, each blessed with their unique, enchanting voice and distinct beauty that clearly emanates from the inside-out, Sister C is an unmissable trio. They started out with a brief run on X factor in 2012, and it appears that this experience prepared them for bigger and better things when moving to Nashville shortly after. The fruits of their hard work in Nashville since can be found on these flawless EPs. Faint of Heart is a stand-out feminist fight-song that I wish for any young girl to feel inspired by, and for everyone else to simply enjoy. Ladies of the South is an equally feminist, up-beat song – my fifth most listened to this year – exactly the kind of song you want to listen to before you head out to Nashville Nights! Overall, however, the EPs are full of emotional performances, relatable lyrics and compelling harmonies – relatable real-life situations include: beers in the summer sun, heartbreak, taking the long road home, and being happy with who you are. Don’t miss This Bar Ain’t Big Enough, Drinkin Bout You, Cinderella and Take Me Home.
- Morgan Myles – Miss Morgan Myles
Originally from Pennsylvania, after a long and bumpy road, soulful Morgan Myles is finally making a mark on the country mecca, the Nashville scene. And what a mark that is. Lucky for us, her EP came out in January 2016, so we’ve had almost all year to enjoy it. To some degree then, it is not surprising that the song Adeline of Miss Myles’ EP was my most played song of the year. By most I mean I listened to it close to 1000 times, which was hundreds more than my second most-played song – I may have gotten a little obsessed, admittedly. What was surprising to me though, was to find that Adeline is actually the song of the EP that has the fewest listens overall of her EP on Spotify – I’ll take this as a sign of exactly how good the EP actually is. Whisky Dreaming is the single that’s been getting all the rave in the media, but my other not-to-miss recommendation is Queen of Hearts, which is a gut-wrenching, raspy, and melodic temptress of a song. She does sing herself “Pick your poison, or maybe take a hit”. Well you should take a hit of this EP that’s for sure, you will not regret those 20 minutes. And you’ll fall in love just in time for her album which is rumoured out imminently.
- Olivia Lane – Olivia Lane EP (and if you can’t get enough – Heart Unlocked album from 2015)
If you’re ever feeling a little down and need a pick me up, Olivia Lane is your girl. The single Make My Own Sunshine essentially tells you why in the title. Additionally, her voice is infectious and her equally so personality shines through each of her songs. The absolutely best song, for me, on this EP is She Fits. It is a beautiful song of lost love finding new love, and realising why sometimes when you love someone – and yourself – you have to let them go. I’ve heard it plentiful times, and occasionally it still makes me too emotional to do anything but stare into thin air. I’ve also got to make a special mention to the two songs from the preceding album that truly introduced me to this rising star: You Part 2 and Mama Raised Hell. Hear these songs and you’ll see why Olivia Lane is an exciting, honest storyteller we want to see more of!
- Brooke Eden – Welcome to Weekend
Oh C2C 2016. Brooke Eden was the artist who I saw (more than once) that I loved the most relative to how much I knew her. She has vocals and grit that remind me of no less than Christina Aguilera – she is a country powerhouse and a fiery performer you’ll need to see live to truly appreciate. This doesn’t mean you should skip her EP – oh no, take it as a taster – I have high hopes she’ll be back to the UK to bless us with the rasp of her voice. Her new EP only as four songs on it – but thankfully there’s a preceding EP you might want to listen to too (it’s just as good, but I’m trying to stay on topic to 2016). You’ll want to listen to Sunday Morning, a song Brooke calls not a man-hating song but a boy-teaching song. Don’t you love it already? You might already know her “hit”-single Daddy’s Money which showcases the same flaming hot side of her, but for her more emotional side, the other song I’d like to recommend is Act Like You Don’t – it’s emotional, it’s hallowing and beautiful. And if you’re ready to cry watch this performance of If I Would’ve Known from c2c 2016 (below). You can see the top of my head in the video too, thankfully not the ugly tears.
- Post Monroe – EP
I will (almost) finish were I started – with a trio of stunning and talented women. Made up of Ashlee Hewitt, Whitney Duncan and Shelby McLeod, these experienced women been named “Ones To Watch” by a host of media outlets for good reason. On this EP, you find flawless vocals, captivating harmonies, emotional ballads, a seductive single, and a few more reasons to cry, laugh and rejoice in life at the same time. You might think I’ve set too high a bar, but I don’t think so. As you might have gathered from above, the songs that speak to me the loudest (albeit they may not be my most listened to) are the softer, harmonic, and emotional ones. This EP poses no exception. Half-hearted managed to climb in to me top 10 most played songs, coming out half way through they year. It characterised my life over the summer season, and if you go through anything similar I bet it will yours too. That being said Hell on me is a winner any day, and the single Red Hot American Summer will make you very sad we won’t see the warm sun in the UK for another 4, or 5, months.
Bonus 6. Sarah Ross – Calm Before the Storm (2015 release)
I promised I’d stick to 5. And to 2016. But then I looked at my Spotify playlist and realised how much I listened to Sarah Ross – and it has just been Christmas, so we’ll overlook my faults, right? Sarah Ross is one of a kind. Believe me. Not just does she combine the classic country storytelling line with the “modern beat”, she raps. Yep, I’m not kidding. And to be frank, it’s much better than the Florida Georgina Line feat. Nelly kind of rap (although it has its times, it’s not that). If you can accept that county music is evolving, has no boundaries, and is for everyone then Sarah’s stunning vocal and good-timing melodies are for you. My favourites are Calm Before the Storm, All About That, and Shotgun. All three were in my top 25 of the year. She comes in as bonus for being perhaps the most underrated artist on this list. Please, listen.
Bonus song: Beyonce feat. Dixie Chicks – Daddy Issue
This song caused quite the upset at the CMA’s and to this day, I am still struggling to understand why. It was my absolute highlight. After the show, the collaboration between Texan Queen B and the Queens of 90’s country, the Dixie Chicks, has been released in a clear audio version on Spotify and on YouTube. The song has everything I look for in a country song in 2016 – girls with grit, bad-ass harmonies, and beats to make the boots stomp. Here’s the YouTube link – I dare you not to dance in the instrumental country bit from 4.34