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The 10 best acts to see at FarmBorough Festival

Heading to NYC's awesome country-music festival? Here are the names you need to check out

Written by
Time Out New York Music

New York has plenty of big summer music festivals—Governors Ball, Celebrate Brooklyn!, Central Park SummerStage—but it doesn’t have a lot of genre-specific ones, other than the hip-hop bonanza that is Hot 97's Summer Jam. Enter the FarmBorough Festival, which debuts this year and fills two niches simultaneously. Besides adding some much-needed depth to New York’s festival scene, FarmBorough acknowledges the growing importance of country, which is no longer just a regional concern. Below are the 10 artists you need to see at FarmBorough.

RECOMMENDED: Complete guide to FarmBorough Festival

The best acts to see at FarmBorough Festival

Luke Bryan

1. Luke Bryan

Any conversation about country’s biggest star has to include Bryan. He helped lead the genre into the 21st century, and he’s been rewarded with massive success: His last two albums both went to No. 1 on the country charts, and his next, scheduled for an August release, will likely do the same. Summer festival season is the best time to see him—the man has been releasing annual EPs dedicated to spring break every year since 2009 (except for 2013). That shows his commitment to good times, and he’ll bring the same dedication to his show.

Mickey Guyton
Photograph: Courtesy David McClister

2. Mickey Guyton

If you subscribe to the Great Song theory, the idea that one stunning, poignant track can make an artist’s career, then pay attention to Guyton. “Better than You Left Me” is a remarkable tune: a kiss-off to a cruel lover that somehow feels self-immolating even as it asserts Guyton’s newfound strength. This is fated to become ubiquitous on movie soundtracks, a testament to its power and accessibility, but also a tease—what will she do next?

Sturgill Simpson
Photograph: Crackerfarm

3. Sturgill Simpson

Sturgill Simpson is so beloved by the press, you’d be forgiven for thinking he was a huge star in the genre. He’s nowhere to be found on radio, but that only tells you what he doesn’t sound like. Simpson released a pair of tough, spare albums that earned him a slew of comparisons to venerated elders like Waylon Jennings and David Allan Coe, men who defined what country meant for years. To Simpson’s credit, all the savior talk he inspires hasn’t gone to his head: In fact, his second album was even bleaker than the first.

Jon Pardi
Photograph: Courtesy Russ Harrington

4. Jon Pardi

Pardi quietly set himself apart from many of his peers with his 2014 debut album, Write You a Song. Most of his competitors were running towards programmed beats and rap, but Pardi believes that the sounds that always defined country—slide guitars say, or fiddles—don’t have to be left behind to connect with a modern audience. Unfortunately, country is usually discussed only in terms of now versus then, which does artists in both camps a disservice. Pardi is one of several young artists interested in illustrating how outdated that notion is.

Photograph: Courtesy RaeLynn

5. RaeLynn

Some artists display an early and indefatigable knack for stardom. RaeLynn appeared on the second season of The Voice, but eventually got eliminated. No matter: She popped up again in the video for Blake Shelton’s massive 2013 hit, “Boys Round Here.” Her next single, “God Made Girls,” went top 10 on the country charts and launched her into a spot opening for Miranda Lambert. It’s only a matter of time before RaeLynn is the one handing out guest spots as a headliner: Her voice screams classic, but she’s at home with the production trends that dominate country at the moment.

Maddie & Tae
Photograph: Courtesy Allister Ann

6. Maddie & Tae

There’s been a lot of complaining about the state of modern country. But griping is easy: this duo actually did something about it by recording “Girl in a Country Song,” an ultra-clever send-up of the male tropes that dominated the genre and a hit to boot. It was a gimmick track, to be sure, but their follow-up single, “Fly,” showed they were capable of more than cunning pranks. Their debut full-length is coming later this summer, so they’ll probably unveil some new material during this set.

Dwight Yoakam
Photograph: Randee St. Nicholas

7. Dwight Yoakam

Yoakam first encountered success in the late '80s with a series of fiercely melodic honky-tonk records. He has been a force in country music longer than anyone in this festival, and that sort of experience holds weight in country more than it does in any other genre. He remains the consummate showman, and his band matches his intensity—and just as importantly, his flash.

Brandy Clark
Photograph: David McClister

8. Brandy Clark

Clark worked behind the scenes as a songwriter for the stars —Reba McEntire, Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves—before stepping out on her own in 2013 with her solo debut, 12 Stories. That album was a landmark for contemporary country, existing defiantly outside of existing trends, alternatively hilarious and devastating but always economical and punchy.

Chris Stapleton
Photograph: Becky Fluke

9. Chris Stapleton

Stapleton is like Clark’s male counterpart, a longtime Nashville songwriter who recently released a stunning solo debut. His trick is that he’s firmly grounded in Southern soul: His voice is all raw rasp, as much Otis Redding as Nashville. There’s plenty of impressive singers at FarmBorough, but Stapleton’s one of the most vibrant: For a quick primer, watch the video of him backing up Luke Bryan at The 2013 CMA Awards.

The Cadillac Three
Photograph: Courtesy The Cadillac Three

10. The Cadillac Three

A common knock on country is that it has lost its edge amid all the solo cups and trips to the beach. The Cadillac Three, with one foot planted firmly in Southern rock, will be your antidote. Their self-titled album, released in 2013, is filled with barbed, stomping riffs and shouted hooks: This is country music that takes pride in ruckus.

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