Photo: Timothy Norris/Stringer/Getty Images
Yola performs at 2020 GRAMMY Premiere Ceremony
Moon River 2020 Lineup: Sheryl Crow, Yola, Indigo Girls, Nickel Creek, Billy Strings & More
The folk and Americana music festival returns to Chattanooga, Tenn. Sept. 12–13, with a stacked lineup curated by Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors, who will also perform
Tennessee's Moon River Music Festival has announced the lineup for its September 2020 fest, featuring GRAMMY winners Sheryl Crow and Nickel Creek as headliners. 2020 Best New Artist GRAMMY nominee Yola, GRAMMY-winning legends Indigo Girls and the Rebirth Brass Band, as well as longtime gospel powerhouses The McCrary Sisters, will also perform.
The festival, which is in its seventh year, will also feature a set from founder/curator Drew Holcomb, with his band Drew Holcomb & The Neighbors. Billy Strings, Dawes, Shovels & Rope, Molly Tuttle and Natalie Hemby also join this year's lineup.
The two-day festival returns to Chattanooga, Tenn. for the third time, after relocating from its original, smaller venue in Memphis in 2018. The fest will be taking place Sept. 12–13, along with a special kick off concert on Sept. 11—a live taping of NPR's "Live From Here with Chris Thile" at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Auditorium. Participating artists for this show will be announced at a later date, with Moon River ticketholder getting pre-sale access on Feb. 19.
Moon River prides itself in giving back to the local community, and has donated over $20,000 in annual ticket donations non-profit partners including Friends of Outdoor Chattanooga and St. Jude Children's Hospital of Tennessee.
"In just a few short years, Moon River Festival has become one of the most eagerly anticipated annual events in our community," said Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke.
Event founder Holcomb is also excited: "Absolutely thrilled to invite folks back to Coolidge Park in beautiful Chattanooga, Tenn. this September. I could not be more proud of this year's lineup and cannot wait to share the stage with them!"
Remaining tickets (the pre-sale happened last week) go on sale Feb. 13 at 10 a.m. EST. For more info on the lineup and tickets, visit their website.
Photo: Terry Wyatt / Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
How Bluegrass Trailblazer Molly Tuttle Embraced Her Quirks & Vulnerabilities On The Highly Collaborative 'Crooked Tree'
The guitarist and songwriter didn't want to be pigeonholed as a bluegrass artist. But in creating the GRAMMY-nominated 'Crooked Tree,' Molly Tuttle faced her fears and found herself.
Molly Tuttle has bluegrass music running through her veins. The California-born artist first picked up a guitar when she was 8 years old, and was a regular fixture with The Tuttles & AJ Lee, the family band fronted by her father, prior to breaking away to pursue a solo career.
Today, Tuttle is a revered bluegrass guitarist; and the first woman to win the International Bluegrass Music Award for Guitar Player Of The Year in 2017 — an honor she won the following year as well. A string of other awards have followed come as the 30-year-old continues to break new ground and build upon her already impressive musical legacy. At the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, Tuttle is nominated for Best New Artist and her Crooked Tree for Best Bluegrass Album.
While first three projects included country, folk, pop and punk sounds, Tuttle returned to the sweet string music of her youth on Crooked Tree. Over its 13 tracks, Tuttle oscillates between Hazel Dickens-esque bluegrass and Lynn Anderson-inspired California country to tell stories of pride, paving your own path, and making room in your "Big Backyard" for everyone.
The sonic move resulted from longing for the communal nature of bluegrass music during the dog days of the pandemic, leading her to — as she often has — include as many friends on the project as possible. Crooked Tree, Tuttle's third album, features everyone from Old Crow Medicine Show’s Ketch Secor to Billy Strings, Gillian Welch, Sierra Hull, Dan Tyminski and Margo Price.
With plans to return to the studio again in 2023, there’s no telling who she’ll bring in to join her next. GRAMMY.com sat down with Tuttle to discuss how music makes her feel more comfortable in her own skin, and what she thinks of being labeled a trailblazing woman in bluegrass.
Where do these GRAMMY nominations stack up with your other awards and career accomplishments to date?
It’s a highlight of my career to be recognized by the GRAMMYs. The bluegrass GRAMMY is something I was really hoping I’d be nominated for; I grew up in the bluegrass world and felt like it was finally time to make my first real bluegrass album. I’ve always loved the bluegrass community, so that recognition really does mean a lot to me.
To also be nominated for Best New Artist in a general category is something I wasn’t really expecting but am humbled by. It can be a hard, discouraging life on the road touring all year, but things like this make me smile and feel like I’m on the right track.
You’ve mentioned in the past the impact that Hazel Dickens, Alison Krauss and other groundbreaking women in bluegrass have had on you. What are your thoughts on how you fill that role for many in the present?
There’s several songs on [Crooked Tree] that were directly inspired by people like Hazel Dickens and Gillian Welch, who actually ended up singing with me on the song “Side Saddle.” Those were my early songwriting heroes. This record was a big return to my roots and coming back to the music that I grew up listening to.
Even though artists like Hazel Dickens were very outspoken in their work, I feel like most people don’t think that bluegrass tackles progressive subjects like feminism and worker’s rights. She was one of the first women to lead her own bluegrass band and sing about these issues that meant a lot to her and were still very taboo at the time. It was, and still is, very inspiring to me.
I feel the same about Gillian Welch and her knack of creating songs that sound timeless but at the same time are relevant to who she is as a person. I’m always going back and looking for inspiration in both of their music as a way of honoring and carrying on the tradition of their trailblazing ways.
Bluegrass, and music in general, is often a male dominated world. Is that the dynamic that you’re touching on in your song “Side Saddle”?
On that song I’m channeling the feelings of playing the guitar and, more specifically, how the guitar world is so male dominated. The song is about being a cowgirl and feeling like you have to adhere to a standard set by men to prove yourself worthy in a man’s world. That’s how I often felt…like there was always this extra attention on me and people picking apart my playing in ways they never did with male guitarists.
When I was starting out I felt like the guys I played with were always taking these big musical risks that I didn’t feel the same liberty to take because of all the extra attention on me and my playing. If I made a mistake, the stakes were always higher. I don’t feel that constant pressure to have to prove myself anymore. The people I surround myself with now are always very supportive. I feel like I’ve created a world where I’m more free to take risks and make mistakes like anyone else.
What have you done, and what would you like to see done to make bluegrass a more welcoming place for women, people of color and other marginalized groups?
There’s been a big push in recent years to make the space more inclusive. A lot of my friends and I will talk about how queer people, people of color, women, we’ve always been a part of this music, but we haven’t always been recognized and treated equally within its circles.
I’ve done a lot of work with Bluegrass Pride, an organization which started in California that now hosts events nationwide with the mission of making bluegrass music welcoming to everyone. Organizations like that not only change people’s perspectives about what bluegrass is, but they also help everyone already within the world of bluegrass feel more seen, included and uplifted.
I understand Crooked Tree was inspired by your paternal grandfather. How has he influenced you, musically and otherwise?
A lot of my early musical memories, like hearing my grandpa play at my first bluegrass festival, inspired the music on this album. I dedicated the project to him because without him I don’t know that I’d even be playing music.
My grandfather played the banjo and was a rural farmer in Illinois, which is also where my dad grew up. He taught my dad how to play everything from the fiddle to the mandolin, guitar and banjo. They’d regularly play, travel around to bluegrass festivals and listen to the Grand Ole Opry together.
After college, my dad ended up moving out to California where he planned to begin working in finance until he stumbled into a music store in Palo Alto. It led to him teaching banjo and eventually all bluegrass instruments. He was my first guitar teacher, something that likely wouldn’t have happened if my grandfather hadn’t taught him all those years before.
I wanted this album to honor [my grandfather] with music that I know he’d love if he were still around. I actually drove up to Illinois to visit the old farm with my grandmother, which was very nostalgic. Once I got back to Nashville, I ended up writing the song “Flatland Girl” that Margo Price joined me in singing on for the record.
You initially planned for Crooked Tree to have more of a poppy sound before recasting it as a bluegrass record. What circumstances led to that shift in sound?
Early in the pandemic I was experiencing a creative lull due to the shock of no longer being able to tour. It led to me recording a cover album, …but i’d rather be with you. I started to get back into writing, but I was still having a hard time feeling inspired and didn’t know which direction I wanted to go in next.
At first I thought I’d continue pushing outside of the bluegrass and Americana box since the cover album leaned more toward the pop end of things. I started writing songs with a bunch of different people but none of them seemed to fit together into one cohesive group. The longer the shutdown went on, the more I started to miss festivals — especially bluegrass festivals, and the communal nature that had you playing on stage one minute and around a fire in nearby campgrounds the next. It made me realize that it was finally time to make my first real bluegrass album to pay tribute to the music I grew up with.
Once I decided that was okay, I was no longer scared of being pigeon-holed as a bluegrass artist. Immediately the songs started pouring out, leaving me really inspired. From there I found friends who also loved writing that music like Ketch [Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show], Melody Walker, Becky Buller and Mark Simos. Those four people are who I wrote the whole album with.
For nearly a year and a half I struggled to figure out what I’d do next musically. Then, in the span of a few months, I suddenly had a full album of songs.
My favorite song on Crooked Tree is the title track, which focuses on embracing our differences and insecurities rather than letting them weigh us down.
That’s a tune that I wrote with Melody that touches on our mutual feelings of growing up and being different from those around us. For me that inspiration stems partly from losing my hair. At a young age I was diagnosed with alopecia areata and my hair has never grown back. I’ve been completely bald my whole life and have been wearing wigs since I was 15. Even prior to that, though, I always felt like I stood out. I wasn’t able to fully embrace that and not be ashamed about wearing a wig until my early 20s.
It’s a personal message that I’ve always felt was important for me to portray in my music. I feel like everybody has something that makes them feel different, so my goal with the song was to show why it’s worthwhile to embrace those things, because ultimately it’s what makes us the unique individuals we are.
What has music taught you about yourself?
Music has taught me how to be with and express myself. When I was a kid, I was so closed and didn’t feel like I had anyone to talk to about what I was feeling inside. Music for me was a safe place where I could express my feelings, which has led to me being more comfortable with those tough feelings and communicating them to others.
Music is also a way for me to connect with people. For me the best part of music is when I hear a song that someone else wrote but I have the same exact experience as them, which really helps me to connect with that person. It’s a way for all of us to better understand that we’re not alone.
Press Play On GRAMMY U Mixtape: New Year, It’s Poppin'! Monthly Member Playlist
The GRAMMY U Mixtape is a monthly, genre-spanning playlist to quench your thirst for new tunes, all from student members. GRAMMY U celebrates new beginnings with fresh pop tunes that will kickstart 2023.
Did you know that among all of the students in GRAMMY U, songwriting and performance is one of the most sought after fields of study? We want to create a space to hear what these students are creating today!
The GRAMMY U Mixtape, now available for your listening pleasure, highlights the creations and fresh ideas that students are bringing to this industry directly on the Recording Academy's Spotify and Apple Music pages. Our goal is to celebrate GRAMMY U members, as well as the time and effort they put into making original music — from the songwriting process to the final production of the track.
Each month, we accept submissions and feature 20 to 25 songs that match that month’s theme. This month we're ringing in 2023 with our New Year, It's Poppin'! playlist, which features fresh pop songs that bring new year, new you vibes. Showcasing talented members from our various chapters, we felt these songs represented the positivity and hopefulness that GRAMMY U members embody as they tackle this upcoming year of exciting possibilities.
So, what’s stopping you? Press play on GRAMMY U’s Mixtape and listen now on Spotify below and Apple Music.
Want to be featured on the next playlist? Submit your songs today! We are currently accepting submissions for songs of all genres for consideration for our February playlist. Whether you write pop, rock, hip hop, jazz, or classical, we want to hear from you. Music must be written and/or produced by the student member (an original song) and you must be able to submit a Spotify and/or Apple Music link to the song. Students must be a GRAMMY U member to submit.
About GRAMMY U:
GRAMMY U is a program that connects college students with the industry's brightest and most talented minds and provides those aspiring professionals with the tools and opportunities necessary to start a career in music.
Throughout each semester, events and special programs touch on all facets of the industry, including the business, technology, and the creative process.
As part of the Recording Academy's mission to ensure the recorded arts remain a thriving part of our shared cultural heritage, GRAMMY U establishes the necessary foundation for music’s next generation to flourish.
Not a member, but want to submit to our playlist? Apply for GRAMMY U Membership here.
Photo: (L-R) Mickey Bernal/Getty Images, Neil Lupin/Redferns, Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Recording Academy, Scott Kowalchyk/CBS via Getty Images, Jason Kempin/Getty Images
2022 In Review: 6 Trends That Defined Country Music
From Dolly Parton to Zach Bryan, country music's veterans and new generation found room to grow within the genre in 2022.
Country music isn't always heralded as a haven for artists who fall outside the genre's accepted mainstream. But 2022 saw country music claim a bigger piece of the cultural pie than it has in recent years.
Artists are discovering new paths to success, driven by the meme-ification of culture and music and templated by stars like Walker Hayes, whose GRAMMY-nominated song "Fancy Like" broke through in mid-2021 thanks to TikTok and ended 2022 among the top five of Billboard's Hot Country Songs. Breakout stars Zach Bryan and Bailey Zimmerman also rode online acceptance to mainstream success — the former built a career on his YouTube buzz, while the latter turned his TikTok virality into Platinum sales.
The genre expanded in other non-traditional ways in 2022 as well. In particular, indie-rock and LGBTQIA+ artists are no longer hovering in the periphery, but making real impacts on country music listenership, thanks to worthy efforts by Waxahatchee and Adeem the Artist, among others.
As country music continues to expand its horizons into 2023, here are six trends that defined country music in 2022.
New Artists Dominated
If the emergence of new talent is a barometer of a genre's health, country music has nothing to worry about. Not since 2015 has a country artist landed on Billboard's top five Best New Artists, when Sam Hunt broke through big. But this year, country music landed two of the five spots on the year-end chart, thanks to newcomers Zach Bryan and Bailey Zimmerman.
Bryan emerged with an audacious statement, claiming country's biggest first-week sales with his major-label debut, the triple-album American Heartbreak. The album landed at No. 5 on the Billboard Top 200 and topped country streaming tallies on both Spotify and Apple Music.
Like Bryan, who first found success when his music went viral on social media, Bailey Zimmerman parlayed his online following into an impressive run with Platinum singles "Fall in Love" and "Rock and a Hard Place." Both are off of his first EP on Warner Music Nashville, Leave the Light On, which became the most-streamed all-genre debut of the year and the biggest streaming country debut of all time.
Lainey Wilson also had a banner year, proving that her No. 1 hit on country radio with "Things A Man Oughta Know" in 2021 was no fluke. In between winning new artist honors from both the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association this year, she landed her second No. 1 on country radio with the Cole Swindell collab "Never Say Never" in April. Most recently, Wilson became the latest country star to appear on the hit Paramount TV drama "Yellowstone"; she debuted on season five as the character Abby, performing her original songs "Smell Like Smoke" and "Watermelon Moonshine," and has become a recurring character.
After Jelly Roll made waves with his 2021 single "Dead Man Walking" and the 2022 Brantley Gilbert collaboration "Son of the Dirty South," the Nashville country rapper solidified himself as a newcomer to watch with "Son of a Sinner." The slow-burning single scored Jelly Roll his first top 10 hit on Billboard's Hot Country Songs and Country Airplay charts, and it broke the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100. He also proved his hometown pride is strong: On. Dec 9, he headlined a sold-out show at Nashville's 20,000-cap Bridgestone Arena.
Bluegrass Saw A Resurgence
You'd be hard-pressed to find another artist who has broadened the bluegrass horizon in recent years more than Billy Strings; his progressive approach to the foundational country genre pulls in elements of rock and psychedelia. While he titled his 2019 Grammy-winning album Home, on his 2022 set Me/And/Dad, Strings came full-circle to play traditional bluegrass standards with his father, Terry, like they did when he was a kid. Strings (whose birth name is William Lee Apostol) even located the Martin acoustic guitar Terry played in those early days but pawned to support the family, fulfilling Billy's bucket-list bluegrass album in more ways than one.
Representing the more traditional approach to the genre, bluegrass icon Del McCoury issued his 17th album, Almost Proud, in February. A peer and collaborator of the genre's Mt. Rushmore (Ralph Stanley, Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs), McCoury is keeping the flame lit in his ninth decade — and he hasn't lost a lick of his abilities. McCoury and his sons Ronnie and Robbie pick, roll and harmonize like it's a Saturday night at the Grand Ole Opry.
Up in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, the Po' Ramblin' Boys have tapped into a similar authenticity by playing bluegrass standards like their forebears. Although they formed around a regular gig at a moonshine distillery, their 2022 album God's Love Is So Divine walks the straight and narrow on 13 gospel bluegrass tunes.
Old Crow Medicine Show have come a long way since O.G. bluegrass musician Doc Watson discovered them busking on the streets of Boone, North Carolina in 2000. While that growth is evident throughout 2022's Paint This Town, they incorporate bluegrass on tracks like "Painkiller," "DeFord Rides Again" and "Hillbilly Boy." The group also invited Americana mainstay Jim Lauderdale to co-write a couple of tunes, and Mississippi fife master Sharde Thomas to guest on "New Mississippi Flag."
Punk Went Country (And Country Went Punk)
Genre-bending is nothing new in Nashville, and even punk rockers have been acknowledging the raw power of country music since the early '80s — when bands like X, Social Distortion and The Gun Club began incorporating elements into their music, and even covering classics like Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." Fast forward to 2022, and the trend has kicked into high gear.
Woody Guthrie, the iconic folk hero of dust-bowl-era America, left behind a large body of unrecorded songs — evidenced by the three volumes of lyrics that have been set to music and recorded as Mermaid Avenue by Billy Bragg and Wilco. Boston pub punks Dropkick Murphys plucked 10 more uncut Guthrie gems for their 2022 set This Machine Still Kills Fascists, a play on the line Guthrie famously scrawled onto the body of his guitar. For their first country album, Dropkick Murphys recruited two of the genre's brightest lights: Nikki Lane, who guests on "Never Git Drunk No More," and Evan Felker of Turnpike Troubadours, who shares the mic on "The Last One."
Foo Fighter Chris Shiflett — who previously played with speedy punks No Use For A Name — got into the act, too. When he isn't cranking guitars alongside Dave Grohl and Pat Smear, he plays his own Bakersfield-inspired country rock, as heard on 2017's West Coast Town and 2019's Hard Lessons. This year, he issued the singles "Born & Raised" and "Long, Long Year," a pair of breezy, pedal steel-assisted cuts that find him leaning more than ever into his sunny SoCal disposition.
Shiflett previously shredded the guitar solo on "Goin' Nowhere," a collaboration with country hitmaker HARDY on his Hixtape Vol. 2, released in the last weeks of 2021. Now, HARDY's back and flipping the script with his own rock record, the mockingbird & THE CROW, set for release in January. Early singles "JACK," "TRUCK BED" and the title track, all released in 2022, show the influence of Nirvana and post-grunge songcraft alongside his distinctive, rhythmic lyrical delivery.
Legends Got Their Due
In 2022, country music proved that age is irrelevant when the music is this good. Newcomers Chapel Hart captured the national spotlight — and a rare Golden Buzzer — on "America's Got Talent" in July with a nod to icon Dolly Parton. The trio's electrifying performance of their original song "You Can Have Him Jolene," an answer to Parton's 1974 smash "Jolene," elevated them to star status, and they spent the latter half of 2022 playing to sold-out audiences across America. Darius Rucker even recruited them to back him on his song "Ol' Church Hymn."
Parton had her own high point this year, earning her first No. 1 on Billboard's Bluegrass Albums chart with her 48th studio album, Run, Rose, Run. She also released a new compilation album, Diamonds & Rhinestones: The Greatest Hits Collection, in November.
After Shania Twain spent the last couple of years featuring on other artist's songs, the best-selling female country artist of all time returned to her throne in 2022. She announced her sixth studio album, Queen of Me (due Feb. 3, 2023), helmed by the dance-floor bop "Waking Up Dreaming." The announcement followed the Netflix documentary Not Just A Girl (and the companion album that featured more than a dozen unreleased songs) and preceded another huge announcement: a 76-date U.S. tour for 2023.
Twain's fellow genre-bending '90s icon, Sheryl Crow, also issued a documentary in 2022. The Showtime special, "Sheryl," was accompanied by a double-album compilation of the same name, which featured two discs of hits plus collaborations with Chris Stapleton, Stevie Nicks, Jason Isbell and more. Crow also featured on 2022 releases from TobyMac and Lucius. The latter track also featured Brandi Carlile, who has played a big role in Tanya Tucker's recent comeback story — as shown in yet another 2022 doc, "The Return of Tanya Tucker," which featured their song "Ready As I'll Never Be."
The CMA Awards paid tribute to icons Jerry Lee Lewis, who passed away in October, and Alan Jackson, who is in the midst of a farewell tour dubbed Last Call: One More For the Road. Firebrand singer Elle King channeled The Killer's wild moves as she performed his signature hit, "Great Balls of Fire," backed by The Black Keys. Meanwhile, Carrie Underwood led a star-studded Jackson tribute featuring Dierks Bentley, Jon Pardi and Lainey Wilson, who performed a melody of his hits including "Chattahoochee" and "Don't Rock the Jukebox."
The legacies continued both on stage and in studio. Brooks & Dunn's Ronnie Dunn, Reba McEntire and Bonnie Raitt all returned with new albums in 2022; meanwhile, Shenandoah, Billy Dean and Wade Hayes appeared on the Country Comeback Tour, and Wynonna led The Judds: The Final Tour in tribute to her mother, Naomi Judd, who passed away in April.
Indie Rockers Infiltrated Country Music
As '90s-style indie rock has a moment thanks to artists like Big Thief, Momma and Alvvays, Katie Crutchfield is leaning deeper into laid-back country vibes. The leader of Waxahatchee, whose blissful 2020 set Saint Cloud landed her on scores of year-end lists, doubled down in 2022.
Waxahatchee collaborated with Wynonna on the single "Other Side," recorded on the Judds singer's farm in Tennessee — an experience both artists ranked among their favorite recording sessions. Crutchfield also collaborated with Jess Williamson on a new project dubbed Plains, releasing the album I Walked With You A Ways in 2022 to critical acclaim. The 10 songs on Plains' debut rival the artists' soothing solo work and combine their strengths with Fleetwood Mac harmonies.
Madison Cunningham, who is best known for weaving mind-bending melodies and harmonies between her voice and guitar, guested on the second edition of Watkins Family Hour — which pairs siblings Sara and Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek with a series of notable collaborators like Fiona Apple and Jackson Browne — contributing her signature spidery guitar playing to "Pitseleh."
Other notables on the indie side of country include Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit, who returned with Palomino, a strummy set of acoustic guitar-driven country pop and their first album in four years. Michaela Anne's gentle LP Oh To Be That Free chronicled a period of personal troubles with compassion, while Sierra Ferrell released the sparse, playful single "Hey Me, Hey Mama" and collaborated with Shakey Graves on "Ready Or Not."
LGBTQIA+ Country Artists Were Celebrated
Acceptance for LGBTQIA+ artists in country music has grown steadily in recent years, thanks to efforts by allies like Kacey Musgraves and Dolly Parton, as well as artists who have publicly discussed their sexuality, including T.J. Osborne, Lil Nas X, Chely Wright, Amythyst Kiah and Shane McAnally. With such star power in their corner, gay and non-binary country artists are now getting a fairer shake.
Non-binary singer-songwriter Adeem the Artist released the acclaimed album White Trash Revelry. Over 11 songs, Adeem chronicles their experiences growing up different in small towns surrounded by smaller minds — from the stomp-along "Going to Hell" to the Heartland rocker "Heritage of Arrogance" and fingerpicked album closer "My America."
Elsewhere, Orville Peck, the masked singer who performs a fever dream of '70s-inspired country music with a deep-throated croon, returned with his second album, Bronco. Peck traded the spare songscapes of his 2019 debut, Pony, for Bronco's more fully realized, cinematic arrangements, broadening his sound and the scope of his persona.
Brandi Carlile, whose pro-LGBTQIA+ activism is tied directly to her music — she founded the Looking Out Foundation early in her music career, and donates a portion of touring proceeds to groups like The Trevor Project — has seen her reputation grow steadily over nearly two decades of releasing music to ever-growing audiences. In 2022, she added to an already storied career by performing with her personal hero, Joni Mitchell, at Newport Folk Festival. Carlile also headlined Tennessee's Pilgrimage Music & Cultural Festival, marking the first time a woman has headlined the fest.
However country music continues to expand and impact culture as a result, 2022's trends certainly set up a promising future for the genre.
Photo: Rachel Kupfer
A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.
It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.
Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.
Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.
In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.
Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.
There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out GRAMMY.com's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.
Say She She
Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.
While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."
Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.
Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.
Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.
Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.
L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.
During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.
Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.
Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.