With the release of his latest solo country record, Aaron Lewis, the lead singer for hard rock group Staind, has successfully made a rare stylistic leap. It's not often we see genuine hard rock acts attempt the jump, let alone succeed.
Last year, Aerosmith's Steven Tyler released an embarrassing album that was quickly forgotten, thankfully. Though Kid Rock has never fully crossed over, he has released a handful of country tunes, with the results ranging from silly to superb. (Think "Picture," his duet with Sheryl Crow, not "Cowboy," his rap-rock prostitution fantasy.)
But Sinner, Lewis' third solo country album, is not only his best one so far; it's genuinely a darn-fine honky-tonk record, regardless of back story or personal musical history. With Lewis taking the famed Billy Bob's Texas stage on Saturday, Jan. 28, we think there are some other rockers that could make for an interesting trip through the country.
With the release of the seminal metal band's 2016 LP Hardwired... To Self Destruct, we know the Napster-hating group still has a ferocious fastball ready to sling when they need it. How interesting it would be to see the band channel lead-singer James Hetfield's lifelong love of Waylon Jennings into something truly countrified. They've admirably covered Bob Seger and Thin Lizzy, two rock acts with strong roots elements, and the strength of the random acoustic-driven tunes they've offered leads me to believe a country record from the thrashers would be worth a spin.
There aren't many more successful rock bands to ever emerge from North Texas than the Toadies. And though the Vaden Lewis-led unit lives on the darker, more menacing side of the hard rock spectrum, they've long made sinister stories of stalking, murder and general unrest sparkle with tight melodies made for shouting along. The group has long championed local country bands such as Eleven Hundred Springs, Tejas Brothers, Somebody's Darling and more, so there's already an appreciation for the honky tonk life in the mix. The group's 2015 album Heretics is comprised of acoustic driven tunes that still boast the grit and danger of its best work.
Similar to the Toadies, St. Vincent frontwoman Annie Clark probably has a good dose of country flowing through her musical consciousness thanks to her Texas upbringing. The former Dallas dweller is, to put it simply, an innovator with few peers. Whether she's helping serve tacos at her sister's Dallas restaurant or directing a horror movie, she oozes style and unpredictability in a way no one else does. We're pretty sure she would do the same in country music, too.
Few lead singers in rock can bust out soul like Brittany Howard. The Grammy-winning group has certainly showcased a massive amount of expertise in groove-intensive blues rock and even spacey psychedelic already. Throw a pedal steel player and a fiddle into the band as it's currently configured, and it's a safe bet they would make a style of country music that's both immediately identifiable yet completely individual.
Of the artists on this list, the mercurial Jack White has come to the closest to already putting his foot into country. Since moving to Nashville years ago, he's made Music City into his own little shop of musical wonder. And over a decade ago, he produced the lauded Van Lear Rose album for Loretta Lynn and he's worked with other noteworthy queens of country such as Wanda Jackson and Margo Price. Some of the rootsier tracks from his days in the White Stripes could make for some quality gothic country. But we're ready for him to take a full plunge onto a country avenue.
Aaron Lewis performs Jan. 28 at 10:30 p.m. at Billy Bob's Texas 2520 Rodeo Plaza, Fort Worth. Find event details here.