The snarl in his voice sets the tone for Jon Pardi’s California Sunrise. He’s a traditional country singer, bred in the West Coast honky tonks, and he won’t apologize for chasing the dream on his own terms.
It might be considered contemporary cool to inject country songs with programmed drums, rap phrasing and poppy melodies. But Pardi isn’t worried about what’s trendy. He’s more concerned with making country music that will last, and California Sunrise successfully hits that target. It’s stocked with classic Nashville melody, blue-collar lyrical themes and authentic country instrumentation – real drums, loud-and-proud fiddles and tangy steel guitar. The album’s 12 songs draw a direct link to such forbearers as Dwight Yoakam, George Strait and Marty Stuart, and it’s intentional.
“There’s a growing audience for throwback,” Pardi says. “People want to hear somebody who really enjoyed the ‘90s country music era and brings that to 2016 country. A lot of this record is bringing an old-school flare back to a mainstream sound, but that gives me my own lane.”
Pardi established that lane with his 2014 debut, Write You a Song, a rough-and-rowdy project that made him familiar to the suddenly-hip country crowd, thanks to his Top 10 party song “Up All Night.” The music oozed with youthful brashness and longneck longing, and Pardi drew a raucous following, increasingly selling out 1,000-2,000 ticket clubs, sometimes out-performing higher-profile country acts playing across town the same night.
Originally formed in Dripping Springs, Texas, Lead vocalist Mark Wystrach fronts Midland’s rich sound, rounded out by lead guitarist Jess Carson and bass player Cameron Duddy. Rooted in tradition both in sound and style, the band initially garnered attention playing clubs in the Texas region. Their self-titled debut EP features five tracks, boasting songwriting credits from each member. Midland intentionally nods to the wild west with Country music that is reminiscent of the 1970s and 80s with a modern day twist. They’ve opened for idols Dwight Yoakam and Willie Nelson and are currently in the studio with Shane McAnally (Sam Hunt, Reba McEntire, Kacey Musgraves) working on their full length release for Big Machine Records.