From Waxahatchee to Buck Meek, here are 22 of the best alt-country bands killing it now and forever

While Waxahatchee may lay claim to the best album of the year, there is plenty more to swoon over, check out the best alt-country releases so far, and then some

Alt-country stretches far beyond Nashville’s polished twang. Emerging in the 1980s, is a sprawling landscape where classic country elements mingle with rock, punk, and even folk.

Here’s a look at the best alternative-country bands pushing the boundaries of the genre so far in 2024.

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M.J. Lenderman

The North Carolina-born musician shines as a solo artist, crafting critically acclaimed albums like the fuzzy, lo-fi “Boat Songs” (2022) that explores life’s complexities with “disarming insights”. Blending indie rock with alt-country influences, his music evokes comparisons to Jason Molina and Uncle Tupelo.

Beyond solo work, Lenderman contributes his guitar skills to the alternative rock band Wednesday. With a recent signing to Anti- Records and his upcoming album “Manning Fireworks” (Sept. 2024) about to land,  Lenderman’s star continues to rise.

Adrienne Lenker

Adrienne Lenker isn’t your average musician. By day (or perhaps it’s night, judging by some of her lyrics) she’s the head honcho of critically-acclaimed indie rockers Big Thief. But when the mood strikes, she sheds the band skin and transforms into a solo artist, an introspective explorer venturing deep into the psyche.

 Her solo work is a world of self-discovery, with nature and the human condition acting as her compass. Albums like “Abysskiss” and “Songs” showcased her knack for crafting intimate melodies and lyrics that burrow into your soul.

Lenker’s latest offering, “Bright Future,” throws a seemingly optimistic title our way. A departure from the heartbreak and self-reflection that colored her past work, “Bright Future” hints at a fresh direction. One thing’s for sure – Adrienne Lenker stands out – as one of the best alt country musicians of all time – a captivating artist with a voice that’s undeniably her own.

Buck Meek

Primarily known as the guitarist and backing vocalist for the acclaimed indie rock band Big Thief, Meek also carves his own path as a solo alt-country artist.

Hailing from Wimberley, Texas, Meek was drawn to the guitar at a young age, honing his skills in blues and folk before attending Berklee College of Music. While his solo career started after Big Thief’s formation, his musical roots are evident in his work.

Meek’s solo albums, like the critically praised “Haunted Mountain,” showcase a blend of folk and Americana influences. His music features intricate guitar work and introspective lyrics that explore themes of love, isolation, and the complexities of life.


With “Right Back to It,” Waxahatchee, the brainchild of singer-songwriter Katie Crutchfield, has delivered a strong contender for both best alt-country song and best alt-country album of 2024. Launched in 2010 as a solo outlet for Crutchfield’s raw emotions, Waxahatchee (named after the Alabama creek near her childhood home) has evolved from an indie rock project to a name synonymous with powerful alt-country.

Of all the alt-country women you need to know about, its Waxahatchee. Her early albums, like “American Weekend,” showcased a lo-fi folk sound with lyrics tackling heartbreak, self-discovery, and the complexities of young adulthood.

Over time, the project has evolved. Waxahatchee now often features a full backing band, with Crutchfield’s sound maturing into a blend of indie rock and alt-country with a Southern influence.

Despite the musical shift, her songwriting remains the core, known for its unflinching honesty and relatable themes make it among the best alt-county lyrics going. Albums like “Saint Cloud” and the recent “Tigers Blood” continue to resonate with fans seeking a voice for their own experiences.


Hailing from Chicago, these cousins emerged in the mid-1990s. Fronted by singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy, they started with alternative country roots, building upon the legacy of their previous band Uncle Tupelo. However, Wilco didn’t stay confined to one genre.

Throughout their career, they’ve embraced experimentation, incorporating elements of alternative rock, classic pop, and even touches of psychedelia. This constant evolution has earned them a reputation as a versatile and unpredictable band. Albums like “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot” and “summerteeth” are considered modern classics, showcasing their ability to blend catchy melodies with complex soundscapes. Despite lineup changes, Wilco remains a creative force, influencing a generation of alternative rock acts.

Bill Callahan

A master storyteller through and through. Callahan initially released music under the name Smog, known for its lo-fi experimentation and dissonant sounds. Later, under his own name, his sound shifted towards a more focused and melodic style, while retaining his insightful and often wry lyrics.

Callahan’s music paints vivid pictures, often using imagery from the American West to explore themes of love, loss, loneliness, and the human condition. Albums like “A River Ain’t Too Much to Love” and “Sometimes I Wish We Were an Eagle” showcase his ability to find beauty in the mundane and create deeply affecting songs.

Bright Eyes

Led by singer-songwriter Conor Oberst, Bright Eyes is an American indie rock band known for their raw honesty and melancholic beauty. Formed in Omaha, Nebraska in 1995, the band blends elements of indie folk, emo, and alternative country. Their music delves into themes of heartbreak, loss, and navigating a complex world.

Bright Eyes achieved critical acclaim with albums like “Fevers and Mirrors” and “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning,” resonating with listeners seeking a voice for their own struggles. The band went on hiatus in 2011 but returned in 2020, continuing to capture the hearts of fans with their poignant lyrics and evocative sound.

Brandi Carlile

Known for her powerful vocals and emotionally resonant lyrics. Her music defies easy categorization, blending elements of folk rock, alternative country, Americana, and even classic rock. Born in Washington state, she rose to prominence after leaving high school to pursue music full-time.

Carlile has released seven studio albums to date, garnering ten Grammy Awards and critical acclaim for albums like “By the Way, I Forgive You.” She’s known for her passionate live performances and impressive vocal range.

Cash Savage & The Last Drinks

Melbourne’s Cash Savage & The Last Drinks, formed in 2008 by singer-guitarist Cash Savage, blend pub rock, Americana, and roots rock into a sound that tackles themes of love, loss, and the working class.

Their six albums, including 2023’s “So This is Love,” showcase their energetic live show spirit. They’ve toured extensively in Australia and internationally, building a loyal fanbase. Check out videos for “Keep Working At Your Job” and “$600 Short On The Rent” to get a taste.

Neko Case

Case has been described as having vocals akin to a “vocal tornado,” and is known best for her solo work and membership in the Canadian indie rock band The New Pornographers.

Her lyrics are often cryptic and poetic, while her music blends alternative country-rock, indie rock, and Americana. Case’s solo albums like “Fox Confessor Brings the Flood” gained critical praise, and she’s considered a key figure in the early 21st-century alt-country revival.

Currently touring in support of her career retrospective “Wild Creatures,” her influence extends beyond the US, earning her the title “honorary Canadian.”



This genre-bending band hailing from Nashville, Tennessee,  Lambchop defies easy categorization. Founded in 1986 by Kurt Wagner, they started as a simple trio but have evolved into a fluid collective of musicians centered around Wagner’s songwriting.

Their sound blends traditional country with unexpected elements of soul, jazz, and even post-rock. This unique mix, along with Wagner’s deep baritone voice, has earned them critical acclaim for over a dozen critically acclaimed albums.

M Ward

AKA Matthew Stephen Ward, is an American singer-songwriter and guitarist known for his solo work and collaborations. A cornerstone of indie music, Ward crafts a unique blend of folk and blues-inspired Americana, often recorded using analog techniques.

Since 1999, he’s released 10 solo albums through Merge Records, with “A Wasteland Companion” (2012) reaching the US Top 25. Beyond solo success, Ward is a founding member of the acclaimed indie pop duo She & Him and the folk-rock supergroup Monsters of Folk.

Big Thief

Brooklyn’s Big Thief, are an indie rock band with deep folk roots, weaves raw vulnerability into their music. Led by Adrianne Lenker’s emotionally charged vocals, their sound blends intricate guitar work, a driving rhythm section, and hints of alt-country.

Emerging in 2014, Big Thief’s critically acclaimed albums, like 2022’s sprawling double-album “Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You,” showcase their ability to craft delicate arrangements with powerful emotional impact, captivating audiences with their live performances.


Arizona-based indie rock band, Calexico, are sonic storytellers painting the dusty landscapes of the American Southwest. Founded in the 1990s by Joey Burns and John Convertino, they blend genres like country, rock, and Latin influences (mariachi, cumbia) into a unique sound.

Imagine spaghetti western soundtracks fused with cool jazz and a sprinkle of post-rock. Their music evokes vast deserts and vibrant border towns, often described as “cinematic” and “sprawling.”

Calexico gained acclaim with albums like “Feast of Wire” and “Garden Ruin,” earning them slots at major festivals and collaborations with artists like Iron & Wine. Their latest album, “El Mirador,” dropped in 2022, continuing their exploration of musical crossroads.

Lucinda Williams

 Williams is a Grammy-winning singer-songwriter known for her poetic lyrics and soulful voice. Though often associated with country music, her sound blends elements of rock, folk, and blues.

Debuting in the early 80s, she gained critical acclaim for her storytelling songs that explored themes of love, loss, and the struggles of everyday life. Her 1992 album “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road” is considered a masterpiece, and Rolling Stone ranked her one of the greatest songwriters of all time.

Williams continues to tour and record, with her latest album “Stories From a Rock N Roll Heart” released in June 2023.

Best Alt-country bands of all time no matter what the year:


 Led by the enigmatic Mark Linkous, wasn’t your typical rock band. Based in Richmond, Virginia, they existed from 1995 to 2010. Linkous, the sole permanent member, crafted a sound that defied easy labels.

Imagine a blend of noisy rock with softer elements like pastoral folk and psychedelic pop, all tied together by Linkous’s melancholic yet beautiful melodies. Despite battling personal demons, Sparklehorse released critically acclaimed albums like “Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot” and “It’s a Wonderful Life,” leaving a lasting mark on the indie rock landscape.

Silver Jews

 Led by the sardonic songwriting of David Berman, were a genre-bending indie rock force. Emerging in 1989, they embraced a lo-fi aesthetic, crafting raw yet intimate music. Berman’s witty and introspective lyrics explored themes of alienation and relationships with a darkly humorous touch.

Their sound, a unique blend of indie rock, country, and folk, resonated with critics and fans alike. Albums like “Starlite Walker” and “American Water” cemented their legacy, influencing generations of artists before disbanding in 2009.

Purple Mountains

This was a very a short-lived musical project of singer-songwriter David Berman. Emerging in 2019, over a decade after the disbandment of his influential indie rock group Silver Jews, Purple Mountains served as a creative outlet for Berman.

He released a self-titled album in July 2019, featuring his signature melancholic lyrics and introspective songwriting. The album, recorded primarily in Chicago, showcased Berman’s raw talent alongside backing musicians like Jarvis Taveniere and Jeremy Earl of the band Woods. Though Purple Mountains only produced one album, it resonated deeply with fans and critics alike, offering a poignant final chapter in Berman’s musical legacy.

Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins

Jenny Lewis with The Watson Twins wasn’t a permanent collaboration, but a magical musical moment. Fronted by indie rock veteran Jenny Lewis, the project brought together her songwriting with the ethereal harmonies of sisters Susanna and Leigh Watson (The Watson Twins).

Their most celebrated work was the 2006 album “Rabbit Fur Coat,” a critically acclaimed record known for its quirky, Southern California-infused sound. It blended elements of indie rock, country, and pop, with Lewis’ wry lyrics finding perfect counterpoint in the Watson Twins’ angelic vocals. While they haven’t toured or recorded extensively together since, “Rabbit Fur Coat” remains a cherished collaboration and a testament to their unique musical chemistry.

Monsters of Folk

One of the more a short-lived American supergroup’s formed in the mid-2000s. The band consisted of musical heavyweights: Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes), and M. Ward (solo artist and She & Him).

Despite their busy solo careers, they came together to create a self-titled album in 2009. This critically acclaimed record showcased their talents for rich melodies, introspective lyrics, and a blend of folk, rock, and Americana influences. Though their time as a band was brief, Monsters of Folk left a lasting mark on the indie music scene.


This is what happens when country goes punk. The alias of American singer-songwriter Bill Callahan. Active from the late 1980s to the 2000s, Smog pioneered the lo-fi movement. Known for his melancholic baritone vocals and introspective lyrics, Callahan recorded on basic equipment, creating a raw and intimate sound. His songs explored themes of alienation, relationships, and the complexities of everyday life.

While often categorized as “lo-fi” or “sadcore,” Smog’s music incorporated elements of yallternative, folk, and even some experimentation. In 2007, Callahan retired the Smog moniker and began recording under his own name, but not before delivering one of the best alt country albums of all time “Knock Knock”.

My Morning Jacket

Often abbreviated to MMJ, isn’t a solo artist but a beloved American alternative rock band. Fronted by the flamboyant Jim James with his soaring vocals, they’re known for their genre-bending sound.

Emerging in the 90s, MMJ weaved elements of alt-country, psychedelic rock, and spacey jams into their music. Albums like “It Still Moves” and “Z” cemented their reputation for epic live shows and innovative songwriting. Though achieving mainstream success, they retain a devoted fan base. Their latest studio album, “My Morning Jacket,” dropped in 2021.

This is just a taste of the best yallternative style, aka alt-country. Head here to check out the best new Country songs so far for 2024.