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Coming Up: 20 Country Acts Releasing Their First Album or EP by June

In a music paradigm that’s increasingly focused on individual tracks, artists still have a chance to make a bigger statement about the world, and themselves, through larger collections that can explore a variety of styles and emotions. This group of acts includes a dozen solo males, five solo females, one duo and two groups all looking to connect with audiences by revealing their own talents and personalities.

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“Up to now, I’ve just released singles, so I’ve gotten to kind of show people this tiny bit of my heart and this little side of me,” Curb’s Hannah Ellis says of her first album, released Jan. 12. “I feel like this is a fully formed thought. It’s something that people can hit ‘play’ on the first song and they can listen to the songs, and by the end of the record, they’re going to really know who Hannah Ellis is.”

Following is an overview of 20 artists whose first albums or EPs are due during the first six months of 2024:

• Ashley Anne (Ashley Anne): The 19-year-old singer-songwriter from Virginia Beach, Va., released her debut EP, dear dolly, on Dolly Parton’s birthday, Jan. 19. It’s dominated by acoustic ballads and an unabashedly Southern accent.

• Austin (AUSTIN): Handled by Morris Higham Management, the independent vocalist applies an engaging tenor to tuneful songs that bring a touch of sweetness to adult tales. Pulsing first single “Way Too Much” arrived in December.

• Chayce Beckham (Wheelhouse): The American Idol winner’s voice is smoke, but there’s fire underneath, exemplified in his current top 15 single, “23.” His first album is expected in the first quarter.

• The Castellows (Warner Music Nashville): Three Georgia-bred sisters create a harmonic thicket that manages to slip a subtle cheer into songs with a melancholy thread. Their debut EP, A Little Goes a Long Way, arrives Feb. 9.

• Steven Champion (Average Joes): The blue-collar Alabaman is an edgy vocalist focused primarily on barroom stories and small-town tales, but he takes a glassy tone on the sensitive “Always,” hinting at his versatility.

• Naomi Cooke Johnson (Stoney Creek): The former Runaway June lead singer is at work on her first EP. Two tracks in circulation, “Livin’ Ain’t Killed Me Yet” and “Girls of Summer,” suggest a high-energy focus.

• Hannah Ellis (Curb): That Girl balances the bitter and the sweet with a lucky 13 tracks that showcase Ellis’ vocal strengths and sensitivities applied to stories about navigating the hurdles of young womanhood.

• Charles Esten (Charles Esten): Eleven years after he joined the cast of ABC’s Nashville, Esten has assembled a load of husky mini-dramas for first album Love Ain’t Pretty — loose, rough-cut country out Jan. 26.

• Colby T. Helms (Photo Finish): Helms’ debut album, Tales of Misfortune, released Jan. 19, captures a raw mountain vocalist framed by old-timey banjo and fiddle, akin to the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

• Holler Choir (Holler Choir): A seven-piece outfit from Asheville, N.C., Holler Choir slips bluegrass, folk and Americana fundamentals into songs about the grit of daily life on Songs Before They Write Themselves, released Jan. 12.

• David J (Sony Music Nashville): Championed by OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, the upstate New York artist puts a modern pop sheen (think Justin Bieber or Shawn Mendes) on classic relationship themes.

• Ryan Larkins (Red Street): A co-writer of Cody Johnson’s “The Painter,” Larkins has a classic male voice, exemplified by current single “King of Country Music.” His first album is expected in early June.

• Chase McDaniel (Big Machine Records): The title track to his Blame It All on Country Music EP, due Jan. 26, lays out obvious in-genre influences, but the phrasing elsewhere suggests hip-hop also played in his old Kentucky home.

• MacKenzie Porter (Big Loud): Dustin Lynch’s “Thinking ’Bout You” partner stands nicely on her own with a sound that mixes strength and vulnerability. Of particular interest: the crafty relationship-crossroads piece “Pay Me Back in Change.”

• Redferrin (Warner Music Nashville): Blake Redferrin has the same gnarly snarl as Morgan Wallen and has used it to earn over 23 million career Spotify streams thus far, paced by the earworm “Jack and Diet Coke.”

• Matt Schuster (Warner Music Nashville): A Southern Illinois boy, Schuster possesses a tone that hints at Keith Urban, while the songs capture an energetic kid in the midst of a transition to thoughtful adult.

• Conner Smith (Valory): His first album, Smoky Mountains, arrives Jan. 26. His top 15 single, “Creek Will Rise,” exemplifies the youthful swagger that informs his energetic brand of country.

• Brittney Spencer (Elektra): The Baltimore native boasts a pliable voice that allows her to veer between sensitive singer-songwriter material and soulful songs. Her Daniel Tashian-produced album, My Stupid Life, arrived Jan. 19.

• Tigirlily Gold (Monument): Following two EPs, Krista and Kendra Slaubaugh release their debut album in June, when the bittersweet drama in their resilient single “I Tried a Ring On” will likely raise their profile another notch.

• Zach Top (Leo33): Top’s “Sounds Like the Radio” recalls the 1990s tonk of Alan JacksonBrooks & Dunn and Doug Stone and presages the album Cold Beer & Country Music, expected April 5. 

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