John Bohlinger—Nashville Correspondent

Chris Stapleton

When Chris Stapleton left the Steel Drivers I thought it was a huge mistake. The band had a Grammy nomination and a bright future. Why jack with that? Then I caught Stapleton at a festival in Canada. He was the opener, playing before five more successful acts. With his Jazzmaster and an old Deluxe, Stapleton and his band—his singing hippie-mama wife, Morgane, a bass player, and a drummer—tore up that stage. No light show, no backing tracks, no smoke machines or big production—just killer songs played by people who felt every note. I immediately bought their latest album. The rest is history. Just goes to show that following your heart—even if it seems crazy—is the right thing to do … if you’re that talented.

Ryan Adams

It’s a bit embarrassing to admit you like Taylor Swift. What self-respecting guitar dude listens to the breakup songs of a young, rich, white girl? But that shows what a true artist Ryan Adams is—he recognized Swift’s songs for what they are: well-crafted, beautiful, insightful tunes that are catchy as a cold in January. Adams rocks where he should rock and goes dark as he tends to do, but he still taps into the relentless fun of a great album.

Most-anticipated 2016 releases: the Rolling Stones, David Bowie