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ELOQUENT OUTLIERS: THE ACM BEST NEW FEMALE NOMINEES
3/15/19

By Holly Gleason

We all know the chance of hearing the Academy of Country Music’s Best New Male and New Duo/Group nominees on Country radio is guaranteed, so let’s cut to some artists you need to know about, all but one of whom has yet to climb the airplay charts.

Despite spotty terrestrial-radio exposure, the infinite streaming playlists and girl-power rhetoric make it feel like the age of the double-X chromosome is upon us. Leaving nothing to chance, we need to recognize the four women in the Best New Female category, each of whom deserves special consideration for standing out without the most conventional tool of artist development—consistent airplay.


The tattooed, real-life blue-collar-empowering Ashley McBryde is coming off a Country Album of the Year Grammy nomination for the Jay Joyce-produced Girl Going Nowhere, released on Espo’s Warner Nashville. In addition to a strong international outreach, this songwriter with the husky burgundy alto chronicles trying to find a place in a world where indifference is real and grit is required, and McBryde brings an indomitable spirit to the task. Given that she’s also nominated for ACM Female Vocalist of the Year, the Arkansas native, who’s been hailed by The New York Times in its Best Songs of 2018 list and The Nashville Scene’s Country Critics Poll as Best New Artist, is coming into Vegas on a hot streak.

With women struggling to get onto the Country charts, Big Machine’s Carly Pearce has done the unthinkable—scaling the summit with a painfully stark ballad that started on SiriusXM’s The Highway. “Every Little Thing,” a single as raw and real as anything released last year, hit #1 on Country radio, powered by a hushed vocal, a bittersweet piano and a listener mandate. For the young woman who dropped out of high school to work at Dollywood, where she honed her performing chops and wrote countless songs in a determined effort to find a fit for her powerful second soprano, this is a decisive moment.

Superhero guitarist Lindsey Ell proves girls are players as well as singers. With a Stoney Creek debut produced by Sugarland’s Kristian Bush, the Canadian rocker/country force who fires up BBR/Stoney Creek GM Jon Loba is a two-fisted threat, sharing stages with acclaimed guitarists Buddy Guy, Brad Paisley and Keith Urban, and trading vocals with Brantley Gilbert on “What Stays in a Small Town,” as well as providing the heat-seeking single’s incendiary solo.

And finally, there’s Big Machine’s Danielle Bradbery, who’s much more than The Voice’s season-four winner. A big voice in a small body, Bradbery covered Pam Tillis, Patty Loveless, Jo Dee Messina and Rodney Crowell on her way to catching Scott Borchetta’s ear. Currently on tour with fellow outlier Kane Brown, she’s opened two tours apiece for Thomas Rhett, Brad Paisley, Miranda Lambert and Hunter Hayes. With songs exploring young women’s awkward feelings in a post-Taylor world, this singer’s singer connects with listeners who need her particular view of existence and aren’t getting it from radio.