"Anything but country." This is a pretty common response to the question, "what kind of music do you like?" And I used to be one of the many who espoused this stance. Surely, I have no stomach for the overproduced, saccharine twang of most popular country, but I've come to realize that country music is so much more than all that.

Of course, there's all the classic stuff: Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and even half of Elvis Presley's catalog for Christ's sake. Country's roots are so tied up with rock 'n' roll, folk, and bluegrass, and yet somehow today it's just pop with a southern accent. Yes, Ryan Adams (in all his incarnations) and Wilco are the obvious choices; but go deeper, you guys! There's a whole host of other artists making music today, some of whom you probably already like, who are slipping you a little country and you don't even realize it.

I've compiled a little list to encourage you to get started on your rediscovery of the genre that is country, so that this time, when someone asks you what you listen to, you can say, "everything."

Deer Tick: Take a listen to opening riffs of 'Baltimore Blues No. 1', from the band's 2007 debut album War Elephant. And those gritty vocals! Yeah it has the word 'blues' in the title, but can't you just see a girl in a cowboy hat and boots slowly two-stepping to this song in a half-empty saloon? Yeah man.



The Civil Wars: These guys won a Grammy in 2012 for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for 'Barton Hollow', the title track of their first album. The same year, they won Best Folk Album for that record. This is what I'm talking about! All these genres, so inextricably linked, you can't use just one word to define The Civil Wars. Except maybe 'beautiful.' They make damn beautiful music.



The Wood Brothers: I came upon these guys by way of Medeski Martin and Wood, Wood being one of the brothers in this particular band. And more particularly, I came upon their cover of the Allman Brothers Band's 'Midnight Rider', which was so understated and groovy, I had to know more. As it turns out, those two words are pretty apt. Loads of southern soul and zero pretension; just the way I like it.



Jonny Lang: This guy is something of a legend. A guitar wunderkind, Lang could play circles around veteran blues guitarists as early as 13 years old. In fact, his debut album came out when he was just 15. 'Good Morning Little Schoolgirl' sounds a lot less disgusting knowing that. And while his style is mainly rock and blues, it isn't hard to picture a dusty country road, convertible, and a rundown gas station when you put on a Jonny Lang record.



Hurray for the Riff Raff: Here's a little bayou music for you. Hurray for the Riff Raff hail from New Orleans, and it shows. I first fell in love with them when I heard 2008's It Don't Mean I Don't Love You, which contains somber, haunting songs like 'Fly Away' and 'Dance with Death'. But as they've progressed since then, the mood has lifted, the fiddle has taken center stage, and the storytelling has grown stronger. My Dearest Darkest Neighbor [2013] is filled with little stories about honeys and church and cowboys. When 'Western Cowboy' comes on, foot-stomping just feels natural.



If you told my teenaged self I'd be touting country acts some years in the future, my teenaged self might have slapped you across the face. But here we are, and I am not ashamed. Teenaged self, you can kiss my country-lovin' booty.

Head here to read Stephanie's 'Guide to Dancefloor Etiquette'.