Country music and the Ozarks go together like biscuits and gravy. We have a rich tradition of great tunes in the Ozarks. In the mid-1950s, we were at the center of the rise of popular country music when Ozarks Jubilee was filmed right here in the Queen City. The show featured legendary artists like Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Springfield native Speedy Haworth on a regular basis. The tradition has continued through the years with the music of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, Big Smith and plenty more talented musicians after them. Right now, the country music scene is in good hands with some skilled song writers and performers in our city. Let’s take a look at some of the best known country crooners in Springfield!
Laura Ashley and her trusty steed Lil Bit have taken the Facebook Country Music scene in Springfield by storm. Her recent cover of Dolly Parton’s Jolene is amazing, both in music and the fact that she sings it to her horse! Lil Bit seems to enjoy it quite a bit! Ashley is originally from Rogersville and still performs in the Springfield area pretty often. She’s also traveled to Nashville to pursue her career further! In a Laura Ashley song you can always count on a heart felt message with twangy southern vocals and catchy melody. Her song “Backroad Memories” is one of our favorites. It’s a sweet tune about a young couple looking back on the times when they’d just drive around and enjoy the country roads, presumably in Missouri. If you haven’t heard her yet, you’ve got to check out her stuff!
Husband and wife duo Cindy Woolf and Mark Bilyeu are quickly gaining steam as one of the premier bluegrass bands in the area. Bilyeu was a founding member of the legendary Springfield band Big Smith and Cindy has been putting out albums since 2003. They can often be found at the Hotel Vandivort playing songs from their album Wolf Hunter. The album is named after two songwriters who influenced the album, John Quincy Wolf and Max Hunter who are from Cindy’s and Mark’s hometowns respectively. Seriously, go to Hotel V and see these two. You won’t regret it!
Porter Union is a family affair. Cole and his wife Kendra provide the vocals for this southern rock/country hybrid band along with their bearded band. They don’t mess around. They’re country through and through, but with and edge you’d find in the red dirt rock of Texas. The harmonies they achieve are heavenly and they tell amazing tales of life in the midwest and what it means to be human. You won’t find cliched language or gimmicks in the lyrics of their songs, just heart felt emotions and a little bit of the love they share.
The Mark Chapman Band is always in the conversation for best country band in the Ozarks. They recently won the best group and best male vocalist at the KTTS awards. They taken home best band in 417 Mag’s Best Of issues three times. Their live shows are high energy and tons of fun, but they do have some great ballads for relaxing too. Seeing them live is like seeing a Luke Bryan or Garth Brooks show and Chapman’s vocals can hang with the best of them. But don’t sleep on lead guitarist Taylor Dodson either. He’ll blow you away with his intricate solos. Keep an eye out for their next show and do yourself a favor. Go to it!
When the hectic nature of the world gets to you, Ryan Collins music can be a great outlet to relax and appreciate the little things in life that sometimes we forget about. Collins and his band have plenty of variety in their original songs. They’re high energy on stage and put on a great show, but they also make some amazing ballads for lazy Sunday afternoons. They’ve had quite a bit of success recently, opening for Cody Johnson at the Shrine Mosque on January 27th and for Casey Donahew in November. Keep an eye on Ryan and the band. These fellas are going places!
Buffalo native Lyal Strickland has built quite a following over the past few years. He has more than 14K followers on his Facebook page and plenty more fans out in the real world. People love his country-folk hyrbid music because it tells a story. Strickland is also a working farmer, though he’s recently taken some time off to tour. His music tells the story of what it’s like to be a farmer, what it’s like to live in a rural community and how we all feel in good times and in bad times. He has a deft hand at taking the listener on a journey in his songs, but you have to experience it for yourself to truly appreciate it!
We interviewed lead singer Adam Schoeller back in 2016 and we’ve been fans ever since. When we asked Ada to describe JAB’s sound, he didn’t specifically classify it, but many have called them country-rock or red dirt. In our estimation it’s still country music, but with a heavy does of rock infused into the songs. Justice Adams recently released a new EP called HereAfter that is available on their Facebook page. You can also check them out playing shows around town!
Forget the Avett Brothers! Springfield has its own harmonizing sibling band! The Brothers Roberson play off of each so well it’s like they’ve known each other their whole lives (we know, bad joke). Rhett takes the lead in vocals with Brendan backing him up and forming a strong harmony. They grew up performing in church worship services and the gospel shines through the textures of the pop country style they’ve crafted over the years. Their new project The Brotherhood now includes friends from their youth who now play alongside them. Check ’em out!
If you’re looking for some knee-slapping bluegrass country, look no further! The Springfield-based Finley River Boys have plenty of banjo, fiddle, guitar and standup bass in their songs. They play originals and covers when they perform live, including classic like “Rollin’ in my sweet baby’s arms” and Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” They are also two-time nominees for the International Country Music Gospel Awards’ Band of the Year!
Though not everyone would agree that bluegrass is a subgenre of country, we’re counting it for this article because we want to share how good the Hillbenders are with you! They hail from Springfield originally, but have played all over the place. The quintet is known for its high energy performances of original songs and bluegrass iterations of classics. We especially like their concept album and tribute, Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry. 45 years after the Who released the rock opera Tommy, The Hillbenders reimagined it in their own style. Definitely worth a listen!
If you ask leads singer Josh Belew what Bootleg Riot sounds like he’ll tell you it smells like Rock N’ Roll and tastes like country! That kind of personality is prevalent in Bootleg Riot’s music. It’s not pop country, but it does have a tilt of rock like new country without loosing its roots. It’s down and dirty country music with a high energy feel and plenty of fun. Think Big and Rich for comparison.
If you’re a fan of country music in Springfield, you’ve probably seen Art rockin’ out in the city at least once. The bearded songsmith has a strong country sound with elements of blues, jazz and soul mixed in it. The best thing about Art’s music is that each song has its own personality that matches the content of the song. “Always a Lady” is a throwback tune that uses a traditional country western melody to tell a softer story about love. On the same album, “I Wonder” is a pulsing, crunchy song about a love lost. The acoustic rhythm is supplemented by a memorable riff on an electric guitar. Bentley is a prolific performer and you can catch his shows all around town!