The modern country male voice is made from scratch.
The grainy sound of Luke Combs, the wild rasp of Chris Stapleton, the sandpaper tone of Thomas Rhett or the gravelly delivery of Dierks Bentley — they’re not sideline features of just a handful of country guys. Added to the voices of Brantley Gilbert, Morgan Wallen, Cole Swindell, Blake Shelton, Kip Moore, Chase Rice and Darius Rucker, the current crop of male country stars is more Don Henley than Glenn Frey, fashioned with a working-class sonic edge.
The rise of that sound is predominant enough that Pandora announced a new channel, Country Grit, on April 18. It is stocked with the likes of Stapleton, Aaron Lewis, Cody Jinks and Whiskey Myers.
“Warren Zeiders is another example of somebody who truly inspired the station,” SiriusXM/Pandora head of country talent relations Beville Dunkerley says, crediting former Pandora executive Jen Danielson (who is now at Warner Music Nashville) with creating the playlist. Its core artists “all have this sound that links them together with a rock’n’roll edge but not too many electric guitars. It’s really stripped-down production that lets you concentrate on the lyrics.”
Zeiders is part of a wave of new rough-edged male singers, bringing additional grit to the format. HARDY, Jameson Rodgers, Jelly Roll, C.J. Solar, Chayce Beckham, ERNEST, Mitchell Tenpenny, Niko Moon, Jackson Dean, Larry Fleet and Ray Fulcher are all building on the existing model, one that has toughened up the genre’s sound after its flirtation with the pop-flavored love songs that were in vogue just a couple of years ago.