It was in the hills and hollers of Appalachia where country music originally came into being, and it’s those same hills and hollers of Appalachia that are birthing old souls with young bodies that are rising up to save country music. They’re fulfilling the hunger for honesty and authenticity that is lacking in so much of corporate country music today, and that was originally at the heart of making country music an important and beloved art form of America to begin with.
It only seems fitting that 49 Winchester and their song “Russell County Line” would be named the 2022 Saving Country Music Single of the Year. Along with releasing an excellent track on a superb album, the band is also arguably 2022’s most promising emerging act, if they haven’t emerged already, packing out clubs and threatening to set the world on fire in 2023.
It all came together for lead guitarist Brandon “Bus” Shelton, pedal steel player Noah Patrick, bassist Chase Chafin, keyboard player Tim Hall, drummer Justin Louthian, and lead singer Isaac Gibson here in 2022. Their album Fortune Favors The Bold on New West Records found favor with a wide audience with its brand of country soul.
Hailing from Castlewood, VA in the heart of Appalachia (pop. 2000) and first forming on Winchester Street in the unincorporated community, 49 Winchester serves it up greasy, whether it’s Southern fried rock, honky tonk country, sentimental moments tickling the fringes of Americana, or a version of soul that takes all of those influences and stews them up together, creating a launching pad for the soaring voice of Isaac Gibson.
That is all most unmistakably evidenced in the song “Russell County Line.” Receiving nearly 6 million streams so far on Spotify alone, this song has risen to become one of 49 Winchester’s signature tunes, and combines both the infectiousness and substance that the ideal Single of the Year recipient includes.
Fortune Favors The Bold is all about the band’s attempt to balance pursuing their dreams of making it big in music while remaining grounded to their roots, and faithful to their loved ones. “Russell County Line” is the crown jewel of the set, starting off intimate and sweet, and building to an anthemic crescendo. A Single of the Year is not just about the writing and performance, but about the appeal of how it’s all put together. You will find few more appealing choruses than the one “Russell County Line” turns in.
Congratulations are in order for all of the Single of the Year nominees, with special mention to Kimmi Bitter’s throwback classic country song “My Grass Is Blue,” which far and away received the most votes due to a spirited social media campaign. Kimmi’s future is very bright, and we all look forward to what she might have in store in 2023 and beyond.
But in the present, 49 Winchester is the band that many point to as the one that is taking up the mantle for the new generation of Appalachia music that first sprang back into the consciousness through guys and gals like Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton, Kelsey Waldon, Tyler Childers, and is now being pushed forward by fellow up-and-comers such as Charles Wesley Godwin, Ian Noe, Brit Taylor, Arlo McKinley, and many more.
Congratulations to 49 Winchester.
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See Saving Country Music’s Song of the Year and Album of the Year nominees.