Diary of a Texan gone north

In 2004 Monica Rizzio left Texas for Cape Cod, Massachusetts, putting her cowgirl background aside for a while and opening herself to the full north eastern experience. A decade later, she reunites with her Texan roots to create Washashore Cowgirl, an intimate collection of love, life, and heartbreak songs.

It all started with a guitar, a 1956 Martin 0-18 that inspired Monica Rizzio to leave her band, the Tripping Lily, and put her own story into songs. This faithful companion followed her on this introspective journey, from writing a mix of playful and poignant lyrics to reviving the musicality of her southern upbringing.

Funded through PledgeMusic, Washashore Cowgirl covers traditional country topics – cheating, finding love, losing love, and leaving home – through the autobiographical lens of a 21st century woman. This lyrical specter appears from the very start of the album, with the failed relationship told in ‘You And Me’, the love declaration of ‘Best I Can’, and the travelling history sung in ‘Texarkana’.

Follows ‘A Little Time’, a ballad about moving on after a heartbreak and not letting the pain linger and settle for too long. “I got to make this life worth living for / even when I’m feeling down” Rizzio sings, before switching to the lighter theme of ‘Willie Nelson’, an ode to her country idol.

Between the classic bluegrass ‘Delta Dawn’, the pure Western Swing title track, and the folk-inspired ‘Buttercups’ and ‘On My Way’, Rizzio manages to elegantly blend tradition and modernity, humor and depth, north and south inspirations – as told by the album title (a “washashore” is a person who moved to Cape Cod but who was not born there).

The album then closes on a deeply emotional note, with ‘Luckier Than You’ – a wedding gift to her husband, and ‘Long Lost Friend’ – a postcard to a former lover revealing regrets and questions about why their relationship failed.

Recorded with the help of fellow country grrrls Sierrra Hull at the mandolin and Laney Jones at banjo and vocals, Washashore Cowgirl is a heartfelt introduction to Monica Rizzio both as a solo musician and as a person. The album is expected to be released on March 4th, but you can already pre-order it on PledgeMusic and stream it on Spotify.

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‘Follow Me Moon’, an introduction to the delicate world of Mia Rose Lynne

Mia Rose Lynne is not your traditional Americana artist. Her music is gritty and poetic at the same time, indie and catchy, northern and southern-inspired. This juxtaposition of contradictions what makes her second album Follow Me Moon so unique and refreshing!

Each of the eleven tracks of Mia’s sophomore LP introduce us to a different facet of her songwriting style – quirky, oneiric, and brutally honest at times. Still, this collection of contrasting stories has a lot in common, from Mia’s ethereal vocals to their incredibly melodious tunes. But above all, it’s the album’s unconventional arrangements – a mix of bluegrass fiddles, jazzy cellos, Miranda Lambert-esque country guitars and indie-pop pianos – that unites these musical pieces into one coherent and captivating record.

We discover Mia’s powerful storytelling skills with ‘January’ and ‘Colorado’, two elegant scenery-based ballads that explore the complexities of relationships. On ‘Follow Me Moon’, childhood memories and oneiric images blend to broach the topics of life and death. This fantastic yet realistic universe, we continue to venture it crescendo with the melancholic ‘Not Just You and Me’ and the uplifting ‘Real Thing’.

The northern California-native then fully embraces the whimsicality of her songwriting with tracks like ‘I Like You a Real Lot’ and ‘Porcelain Doll’ – a playful track where accordion and jazzy piano create an old-Paris troubadour mood.

Quirky metaphors meet roots inspirations on Follow Me Moon as Mia Rose Lynne manages to create a unique aerial sound that blurs the lines between Americana, folk, and indie-pop.

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Country Grrrl to watch: Lisa Wright

Great Britain is without a doubt the new home of emerging country artists, and more specifically great country-pop music – the kind that combines meaningful lyrics and catchy melodies. And Lisa Wright proves this theory right with her first EP Before I Die.

The Essex-native graduated with an acting degree before finding her voice in country music, and we’re glad she did! In her first record we discover a sound that we can only describe as authentic, bringing a lyrical depth and an element of modernity to country-folk – almost grassroots – arrangements.

But after listening to this collection of love, growth and self-acceptance songs over and over again, the pop-inspiration finally appears as you find yourself singing along to every track and having them stuck in your head for days.

The EP opens with the title track, a bucket list illustrated by a video that follows Wright crossing “going to Nashville” off of hers. Follows ‘Here We Go Again’, a melancholic break-up ballad and the only love-theme song of the record – a rarity nowadays and proof that Lisa Wright can write beautiful songs that reach beyond the love/heartbreak cliché.

In ‘Girl Like Me’ we are introduced to who Wright truly is with such an honest and no-BS style that it will inspired you to accept all about your complex and complicated self. “The only way to love yourself is to let go” she sings, as a transition to that last track, ‘You Grow but You Don’t Change’, where she tackles the harsh truths of growing up. The up-tempo song is packed with powerful messages about facing life’s obstacles and remembering that “life makes lessons / it makes damn sure you learn them”, all while maintaining a pragmatic nuanced optimism.

With Before I Die, Lisa Wright delivers an inspiring and oh-so-catchy record that blends a level of authenticity and lyrical depth that will remind you of Kacey Musgraves’ songwriting and a northern country-pop style similar to Canadian trio Bella Starr. And while she is making a name for herself in the UK country scene, we hope she will reach beyond its frontiers very soon!

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Lily Meola, an island in the country music stream

The Hawaii-based Willie Nelson’s protégée has just released her first album They Say, a collection of original songs and classics’ covers filled with country-folk and blues inspirations.

You might have discovered Lily Meola during her multiple Farm Aid performances. In 2013 she joined Willie Nelson to perform ‘Will You Remember Mine’, a duet present on the To All The Girls… album. In 2014 she shared the stage with Jamey Johnson to sing their version of ‘Dream A Little Dream of Me’, and the next year they performed her self-penned song ‘Bad Weather’.

You can now find these three tracks on her debut album They Say, along with nine other country-meets-jazz gems. On this record the Maui-native delivers heartfelt lyrics filled with quirky imagery, with powerful bluesy vocals and a style that mixes Lindi Ortega’s classic country and Lucie Silvas’ pop-folk.

Between the modern Americana sound of ‘Bad Weather’ and ‘Sinkin’ Soon’, the romantic elegance of ‘Don’t Change’, and the badass swagger of ‘Bad Boy’, They Say’s original songs demonstrate that Lily Meola could very well be the next phenomenon of both alt- and mainstream country. A prediction backed by country legends Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson who showed their support to Meola by appearing on this must-have album.

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Welcome to the reign of Miss Morgan Myles

Powerful vocals, fearless lyrics and a sound that blends country and alt-pop/rock: that’s what makes Morgan Myles’ music so unique and captivating. In her new EP Miss Morgan Myles, the Pennsylvania native explores all the phases of love – from its danger to its beauty – while creating a modern sound that sticks to its country roots.

Morgan Myles has been riding the music train for a while now, opening for Reba McEntire and Hank Williams Jr, and even producing her own EP in 2013. This long ride helped her find her voice and shaped her unique sound, a blend of traditional country and alt-pop with a touch of RnB.

Myles’ songwriting style makes her stand out and away from the current wave of pop-country singers. “Love is a bullet in a loaded gun / It shoots to kill when your heart is on the line / Love is a dangerous game and we’re all just fools that play” she sings on the blues-inspired ‘Queen of Hearts’. The lyrics are as country as can be – gritty, sassy and heartfelt – and Myles’ soulful voice beautifully conveys their southern roots. Add to this the multi-genre-influenced arrangements of Rio Ville, a Nashville producer who usually travels the hip-pop circles, and you get a refreshing new country sound!

Between ‘Whiskey Dreaming’ that describes the aftermath of a heartbreak, and the playful night-on-the-town anthem ‘We Won’t Go Home’, the EP is a collection of catchy “country songs with a twist”. Just listen to ‘Adeline’, which could have been the typical pop-country cheating hit but instead blends alt-pop/rock with Miranda Lambert-esque lyrics to create a totally addictive song!

The EP closes with ‘What You Do To Me’ and ‘Nobody Better Than You’, two RnB inspired love declarations that will remind you of Tori Kelly and demonstrate that country music can be elegantly modernized.

Morgan Myles isn’t afraid to explore every corner of the country specter and to venture beyond its frontiers. With the refreshing Miss Morgan Myles EP, we get a glimpse of how great modern country can sound!

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Belle Starr and the new Wild West sound

Canada has proven many times to be the home of amazing country music (Whitney Rose, Lindi Ortega), and once again the Great White North hasn’t disappointed! Belle Starr is a three-fiddle band that revives country-folk with grace and sass, and their first album shows how great traditional-meets-modern country can sound.

Named after a southern outlaw, Belle Starr is the union of Miranda Mulholland, Stephanie Cadman, and Kendel Carson, three fiddlers rebelling from the diktat of pop-country as sole form of modernization. On their album of the same name, the trio delivers a unique blend of old time fiddling, step-danced rhythm sections, stunning harmonies, and fresh catchiness.

Between the liveliness of ‘New Girl Now’ and ‘Cry Now’, the ethereal vocals of ‘Same Old Scene’ and the beautiful storytelling of ‘Freedom To Stay’, the album manages to fit in the modern era without denaturing the sonic twanginess of country!

The record adds a layer of uniqueness with its mix of Celtic and Americana influences on ‘Art O’Leary’, its captivating instrumental tracks like the melancholic ‘Arthur’s Air’ and the uplifting ‘Charity Kiss’, and its countrified covers of Springsteen’s ‘Tougher Than The Rest’, Neil Young’s ‘Love Is A Rose’, and Justin Rutledge’s ‘Be A Man’.

The 2013 released album is an impressive collection of alt-country songs about love and identity search, and the lucky ones can discover the Belle Starr sound live next February – in the meantime check out the video above of the awesome performance from their CMT special.

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The otherworldly country of Kailey Swanson

Kailey Swanson may be Vegas-born and California-raised, but she chose to dig deep in her southern roots to build her country-rock sound. With an outlaw style à la Tommy Ash, and classic country-inspired storytelling, Swanson’s first EP Nashville Stickup sounds just like its title: a phenomenal overthrow of the pop-country wave that has flooded Music City!

After starting a career in acting, Kailey Swanson found a new voice with music and her sound at the bottom of her family tree. Inspired by her Kentucky heritage, Swanson penned five haunting tracks where her ethereal vocals add an eerie color to her heartfelt lyrics.

From the gospel-inspired Americana ballad ‘Corner in Heaven’ to the honky-tonk title song, Nashville Stickup encompasses somber moods, up-tempo catchy tunes, deep lyrics, and rock attitude. Special mention for ‘Ghost’ and ‘Backseat’ that confirm her rock inclination and will stay stuck in your head for days.

Joining Elle King on the new country-rock scene, Swanson imposes her vintage outlaw style and successfully eschews the pop trap most newcomers fall into. With the country UFO that is Nashville Stickup, Kailey Swanson is undoubtedly entering Music City with a bang!

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