The music business model continues to shift rapidly toward streaming, and perhaps no segment of the industry is feeling the pinch more than the songwriters. Performers can still make money with touring and merchandise, even if music profits diminish, but what good does it do a songwriter if some fan buys an artist’s T-Shirt ? So, we see songwriter circles and workshops and festivals and cruises and autobiographies and other creative outlets to make direct connections to their audiences.
Here’s a look at four songwriter-singers who released quality albums this year: Erin Enderlin, Travis Meadows, Natalie Hemby, and Kendell Marvel. I have not seen Erin perform, but her star-studded album was a real treat for fans of traditional country and sad characters. I saw Travis perform at 2016 Americanafest. His introspective style is a favorite with many critics and fellow artists, and he has lived a lot of stories. I saw Natalie at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and she was entertaining and informative. Although she has also written hits in other genres, most notably “Jealousy” by Labrinth, her own album was steel guitar-drenched and nostalgic. Last month, I saw Kendell’s monthly “Honky Tonk Experience” in Nashville. His album strongly fits what he does live, and it would be great to see him get the opportunity to tour with some of the all-star friends who have made guest appearances at his shows.