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Five Bands From Country Thunder You Should Know (And Will be Hearing More From) 


click to enlarge LANco: "We're not going for shock value." - ADAM GAUB
  • Adam Gaub
  • LANco: "We're not going for shock value."

1. LANco
These five guys have a smooth sound, a pair of well-rounded singles, including their latest – the chart-climbing “Greatest Love Story”—and the kind of live show energy that is going to build their fan base in a hurry.

Headed by frontman Brandon Lancaster, LANco—which is short for Lancaster and Company—has a four-song EP available now for fans but is working with super-producer Jay Joyce to get a full-length album out later this year.

“We want to give a fuller picture of our music,” Lancaster said. “We want to be relatable—we’re not going for shock value. We want to be the anthem of people’s lives.”

They are already seeing that with “Greatest Love Story,” which is getting airplay on satellite radio and elsewhere, and is drawing in fans from across the globe. The song was actually titled “American Love Story,” before its official release, but some fan input convinced the band of the need for a name tweak.

“We’ve had people messaging us internationally—from Ireland and England, all over the place—telling us about how this has become their song,” Lancaster said. “You have these things in your life that are special to you … and you hope other people can relate to.”

Keyboardist Jared Hampton credits Joyce for “drawing our sound out of us.”

The band’s first single, “Long Live Tonight” went Top 40 and sounds like a much more seasoned group, and the first song on their self-titled EP, “Troublemaker,” is a rollicking ball of fun.

It’s a sound that if you haven’t heard it, you’d better.

click to enlarge Naomi Cooke from Runaway Jane. - HOWARD WAGGNER/NEWS OF MARICOPA
  • Howard Waggner/News of Maricopa
  • Naomi Cooke from Runaway Jane.

2. Runaway June
This trio has drawn comparisons to the Dixie Chicks, and while they obviously have a long way to go before they could come close to that level of success, they’ve got the right ingredients.

Lead singer Naomi Cooke is a star waiting to explode. She’s got the correct amount of rock-star sass on stage and pipes to match.

Doesn’t hurt she’s a knockout with a laid-back fashion sense (while Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne carry an elegant beauty often missed these days by female artists who go the route of simply showing as much skin as possible). Even better, all three are genuine, snarky-yet-sweet and the kind of people you’d want to just hang out with.

Wayne (the granddaughter of legendary actor John Wayne) was part of Stealing Angels before partnering up with Cooke and Mulholland, and said the group is enjoying its ride so far.

“We all kind of want to say the same thing,” in our music, she said. “When people started singing our song back to us, that was so cool.”

That song, “Lipstick,” debuted last year and made it into the Top 40 on country music charts. Even more, Cooke said, the trio has been amazed by devoted fans watching YouTube videos of previous performances and learning the words to original songs not yet released (though likely in album form later this year).

“That was a ‘holy shit,’ moment,” she said.

As much as Nashville has gone girl-crazy in recent months with the success of Kelsea Ballerini, Maren Morris and more, expect a quick rise for this supergroup-in-waiting.


click to enlarge Dorado: Acid country! - ADAM GAUB
  • Adam Gaub
  • Dorado: Acid country!

3. Dorado

One of the best thing about country music right now is now only the artists with crossover appeal to pop and Top 40 audiences, but those who draw on rock influences are broadening the genre even more.

Enter Dorado, a five-man band that rotates lead vocals among four of its members in a refreshing way, and isn’t afraid to go more southern rock with some of its songs.

We’re “acid country – it’s a bit out there,” said band member Jimmy James Hunter.

“Pull Your Hair Back,” is a song to watch for on their album—expected for release later this year.
Though the rock edge to their stuff is exciting, it’s their blend of vocals that makes this band a solid listen.

click to enlarge Jared and the Mill frontman Jared Kolesar. - ADAM GAUB
  • Adam Gaub
  • Jared and the Mill frontman Jared Kolesar.

4. Jared and the Mill
Want to have a good time? Watch these guys live.

Their music is exceptional—a folk-rock blend of Americana with plenty of Southwest flavor for the Phoenix-based group that gives much love to its home state in its music but carries the sound of a Mumford and Sons.

Frontman Jared Kolesar is a showman in every sense of the word. Lead guitarist Larry Gast III can play with the best of them, and showed it off with a Black Sabbath interlude during one of their two Country Thunder late night shows.

They are the perfect fit for a festival—passionate, talented folks rockers that ooze passion and musical brilliance while playing at such a high energy that the unwashed sloshed too inebriated to appreciate the lyrics are still going to have a great time.

Their music is good for a road trip, reflection, rocking out with friends, whatever. It’s just good.
There’s a lot of it, too. After their debut full-length album in 2013, Western Expansion, they followed up with three more EPs over the next three years – two new works and a live album.
“Keep Me Going” might be their best song, but “Hold On” and “Ides of Fall” are also worthy challengers.

click to enlarge Adam Gaub: Ladies, one a time. - ADAM GAUB
  • Adam Gaub
  • Adam Gaub: Ladies, one a time.

5. Austin Burke

Ladies, one at a time.

Arizona native Austin Burke has been working behind the scenes in Nashville in the past three-plus year after giving up college baseball in California.

He’s got the hair, the look and the voice to be the next country music heartthrob – a mix of Frankie Ballard and Thomas Rhett.

Even better, his first single, “Sleepin’ Around,” actually tackles the issue of the Bro Country epidemic head-on: For Burke, women aren’t merely conquests to be had.

“I want a woman worth waking up to,” he croons in his song.

His EP is set for a May 19 release, and should give fans a better feel for where he’s going as an artist, but if his live show is any indication, that direction is up.

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