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Ten New Acts Ready to Bolt From Country's Starting Gate In Last Half Of 2018

Morgan Evans
Robby Klein/Warner Music Nashville

Morgan Evans

An Australian-born hitmaker, a blues-tinged duo, a former contestant on The Voice and an 11-year-old phenom are all on the docket as country labels look to roll out first-time product for 10 new acts during the last half of the year.         

The sonic makeup is fairly diverse, ranging from old-school vocalist Riley Green to tight-voiced female trio Runaway June as four acts launch their debut albums into the marketplace and an additional half-dozen put out their first EPs -- or, in a case or two, their first EPs with an established label.     

Morgan Evans is already in the upper reaches of Billboard's Country Airplay chart with "Kiss Somebody," while pre-teen Mason Ramsey has scored a top five single on Hot Country Songs, thanks to sales and streaming. New duo Everette and Adam Wakefield, who came within an inch of winning NBC's high-profile music competition The Voice, are in the mix, too.    

While seven in the group are solo male artists, there's also some diversity, given that Evans is foreign-born, Jimmie Allen is African-American, Ramsey is a kid, and two acts -- Runaway June and Abby Anderson -- are female.     

Here's a look at those who are likely to have their first albums or EPs hit the street between July 1-Dec. 31, including a handful whose titles appeared in digital stores on June 29:    

Jimmie Allen (Stoney Creek) -- His song "Underdogs" is practically self-referential, paying homage to "the good guys, the comeback kids and the long shots." He spent part of his early days in Nashville living in a car, but bootstrapped his way out of the hole. "Best Shot" (No. 38, Country Airplay) shows off his sandy vocal quality well. His first album is likely to leave the gate in mid-October.     

Abby Anderson (Black River) -- The Texan-bred keyboard player is as ultra-gregarious in personal conversation as she is sensitive in her recordings. She owns a wide range, a compelling central voice with a smoky character in her lower frequencies. She was an active presence on the CMA Music Festival campus in June behind current single "Make Him Wait," featured on her debut EP, I'm Good, due Sept. 7.

Morgan Evans (Warner Bros.) -- Fourteen months after signing with Warner Music Nashville, the Australian-born singer-songwriter has a bona fide hit with the melodically seductive "Kiss Somebody" (No. 9, Country Airplay). There's an undeniable positivity to his work, including party number "Day Drunk" and breezy love song "I Do." Keith Urban is a big influence, evident in Evans' tone and phrasing. A wide taste of that sound will be heard on his first full U.S. album in the coming months.

Everette (Broken Bow) -- Brent Rupard and Anthony Olympia named their duo after George Clooney's O Brother, Where Art Thou? character; appropriate, given the back-porch sound of their slide-soaked lead single, "Slow Roll." That title -- a contemporary, sonic cousin to Dave Edmunds' "I Hear You Knocking" -- is just one aspect of the blues-based tones in their arsenal. Their first sampler EP arrived June 29.

Riley Green (BMLG) -- The snarling guitars and his Alabama accent carry echoes of Confederate Railroad and John Anderson, a tip of the hat to rough-edged '90s country. Green has spent a good five years touring the Southeast and has a couple previous EPs under his belt, but In a Truck Right Now, released June 29, represents his introduction to the mainstream. His breezy grinder "There Was This Girl" shipped to country radio via PlayMPE on June 15.

Mason Ramsey (Atlantic/Big Loud) -- At last glance, the "Walmart yodeling kid" video that brought the 11-year-old to national attention had racked up 53 million views. His first single, "Famous," went to No. 4 on Hot Country Songs while he made key appearances at the Stagecoach Country Festival and on the Grand Ole Opry. His debut EP, Famous, mixes modern songs with a trio of Hank Williams covers, including a formal version of the song from the Walmart video, "Lovesick Blues."

Tyler Rich (Valory) -- There's a blue-eyed soul sensibility propelling his California-grown country, developed in the same Sacramento region that yielded Cam and Jon Pardi. Rich self-released several projects before finding his way to Big Machine, where his single "The Difference" put him on the Country Airplay chart and brought significant attention on SiriusXM. His first EP for the label is expected this summer.

Runaway June (Wheelhouse) -- The feisty female trio earned attention with its first two singles, "Lipstick" (No. 28, Country Airplay) and "Wild West" (No. 36, Country Airplay), but the forthcoming "Buy My Own Drinks," marked by scratchy rhythms and tight harmonies with a 'tude, may push it to a new level. The group -- Hannah Mulholland, Jennifer Wayne and Naomi Cooke -- expect to have an EP in the marketplace before year's end.

Mitchell Tenpenny (Riser House/Columbia Nashville) -- A co-writer of Granger Smith's "If the Boot Fits," his cigarettes-and-whiskey voice bears a resemblance to Eagle Eye Cherry and Tyler Farr. Whether it's the desperation in "Drunk Me" (No. 39, Country Airplay), the acidic revenge in "Bitches" or the lack of self-control in "Alcohol You Later," he approaches a microphone with a biting ferocity. His first album is expected in the fall or winter, though an exact date is TBD.

Adam Wakefield (Average Joes) -- The runner-up in the spring 2016 edition of NBC's The Voice, Wakefield covered the likes of Vince Gill, Ray Charles and Bonnie Raitt while competing on Blake Shelton's team. He possesses a bluesy, redneck soul akin to The Cadillac Three's Jaren Johnston and seems a good match for the rough-edged, blue-collar roster at Average Joes, where he was expected to sign the last week of June.

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