The Young Fables are the answer to that question.
Listening to their crowdfunded album Pages, the first impression is how shockingly stripped back their sound is. Two vocalists, a guitar or two, and some light drums. Occasionally a backup instrument like a harmonica appears, but not for long. TYF are focused on bringing back a more classic Americana country sound, one centered on the singing and the songwriting.
In both those cases, TYF excels. Lead singer Laurel Wright, a three-time American Idol veteran, has a truly gorgeous lilting voice which adds extra emotion to every lyric. She means every word she sings, with a sincerity that's been lacking in a world of music seeped in ironic detachment.
She's partnered with Wes Lunsford, whose vocal contributions to this album are primarily harmonic, but he makes up for it with his graceful guitar work. He makes it sound effortless, despite parts which are often quite complicated. Whether he's providing laid-back sweeps and twangs, or launching into a solo, his guitar work anchors and fleshes out the songs.
Since their first album Two in 2017, The Young Fables have been picking up fans in high places at a rapid pace including Keith Urban and Sheryl Crow. They've performed on the same stage as numerous top-tier acts as well, including Rascal Flatts, Delta Rae, and more.
Oh, they're from Nashville, and they're a couple. You don't get much more country than that!
The songs on Pages tread familiar ground for classic country fans - loneliness, found love, and lost love. They rarely stray out of that milieu, perhaps for the best. Country has always been the music of the heart, the music for everyday people trying to make their way through the world and find a little meaning in their existence.
Most impressive is how timeless their songs sound, in the sense of being infinitely relatable. The opening track Wonder If We Did sings of hookups at a bar and dancing on the floor, in a way that somehow feels like it could be just as relevant in 1951 or 2021. It's followed up with a future gospel classic in the making, House Of The Lord, a rare non-ironic glance inside a church, complete with a bit of organ glissando and tambourine to give it the right vibe.
Nearly every song on the album is a highlight. Over You is probably the closest to a modern pop country song, with prominent drums and a chorus that begs for a singalong. A Thing Or Two is a beautiful duet that could easily become a staple. There's no bad track on this album and the pair constantly surprise with the range and depth of the emotion on display.
The lyrics seem particularly melancholy at times: 2018 was a hard year for Laurel Wright, losing both her sister and father within the span of just a few months. The echo of that loss hangs over this album, adding depth to its messages.
The Young Fables are poised on the edge of stardom, and Pages could easily be the album that pushes them over the top.