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The new, ho-hum artists of 2006

Country Standard Time Editorial, July 2006

When it comes time in the next year for the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association to name the best new artists and horizon award winners respectively, at this point at least, they're going to have a lot of trouble finding a winner, maybe even enough worthy acts to nominate.

That's because half-way through this calendar year, there have been few new artists releasing music at least on major labels, and few more seem to be on tap for the rest of 2006. And thus far, none are particularly exceptional.

Thus far, new artists releasing albums were Jamey Johnson in late January, Trent Tomlinson in March, Rockie Lynne and The Wreckers in May and Danielle Peck in June. In July, Eric Church will release his debut followed a week later by Jake Owen.

In the sort of released category fall several artists who are on Sony/BMG. Susan Haynes and Brice Long were slated to release albums this year. At this point, they are available digitally, but don't bother trying to find them in your local record store. Who knows if they ever will be either because thanks to the recent folding in of Sony into BMG and closing of the Epic label, all bets are off. As is typical when labels close and/or new leadership takes over, label rosters change. New artists could be especially hit hard since the label personnel who signed and nurtured them may be history, meaning they have no one left to go to bat for them.

Upcoming later this year is Taylor Swift's debut on Big Machine, Carolina Rain on Equity and for now, not much more.

Haynes put together a strong album, but as a digital release, it comes more as a chance for the label to recoup some money spent on her than a real attempt to break her since at least at t his point the internet has not played a major role in breaking country acts. Nor do Nashville's major labels seem to put much credence unfortunately on the Internet.

If relying on Nashville Star to discover worthy new talent, forget about this year. Aside from winner Chris Young, the rest of the cast came off as second rate and not trailblazing either.

As for the albums of the new artists, while most are competent enough, none are overwhelmingly exciting either. The Wreckers may be the most interesting, but there's a lot of pop in the duo's country. They like the others suffer from not pushing the musical envelope and playing it safe. Church, for example, tends towards the redneck fad.

That's a problem because the lack of breaking new acts leaves a gap on the musical map, leaving the airplay more than likely to the usual cast of characters such as McGraw, Jackson and Chesney. Not that they are necessarily unworthy, but one of the joys of music is discovering new sounds and talents. Let's hope this year is a temporary blip on the screen because country needs new acts and talents to progress the genre.