The Best Country Concerts I’ve Been To This Year… So Far

Country Music

Nothing beats live music.

Throughout 2020 at the peak of Covid, concerts were few and far between. Things eventually got rolling again in 2021, but for a lot of the year, there always seemed to be some level of concern that a new Covid outbreak or someone in a band’s crew getting sick could derail several shows and festivals.

Now, throughout 2022, for the most part, concerts have been in full swing and gotten back to pre-Covid levels. Crowd sizes seem to be back to normal, there are far less show cancellations, and artists have been able to successfully tour the whole country to promote new music, win over new fans, and provide the concert experience music fans have been yearning for.

With over half of 2022 behind us now, I’ve seen more than 20 concerts and have had tons of opportunities already this year to catch some of my favorite bands live.

So, in alphabetical order, here are nine of my favorite live acts I’ve seen so far this year.

For the sake of narrowing this list down, I’ve only included headliners, but if you’re going to show you always need to get there in time for the openers. Chances are they’re pretty incredible, too.

Whether you are familiar with their music yet or not, I highly recommend seeing all of these bands live if you get the chance.

49 Winchester

I’ve already seen these guys three times this year and I can’t wait for more. If 49 Winchester comes to your city, you better make sure you don’t miss them. The Appalachian soul outfit from Castlewood, Virginia has been on a hot streak for quite some time now, and 2022 has been a special year for them.

Of all the times I’ve seen them this year, their Neighborhood Theater show in Charlotte, NC with Cole Chaney in February takes the cake. Chaney got the show started and had the whole place silent as he played several songs off of his 2021 album Mercy.

Then 49 came on and blew the roof off the place, hitting all the crowd pleasers, previewing several unreleased songs prior to the Fortune Favors the Bold release, and even threw in a Waylon Jennings “Waymore’s Blues” cover at one point.

With one of the best albums of the year so far in Fortune Favors the Bold, 49 Winchester is finally beginning to gain some of the recognition they deserve. This is just the start, though. This band is about to take off.

They have finished up their tour supporting Whiskey Myers, and aside from a few dates with the Turnpike Troubadours, they’ll be back to festivals and headlining some of the smaller venues. Try to make it to one of these shows soon, you won’t regret it.

49 Winchester is one of my favorite live acts in the business.

Here they are playing “Long Hard Life” at the Neighborhood Theatre.

American Aquarium

Another one of my favorite live bands, I’ve seen American Aquarium twice so far this year.

Frontman BJ Barham may be known for his sad song writing expertise, but if you have ever seen American Aquarium live, you know that’s not all they have to offer. The Raleigh, NC band puts on a full blown, high energy rock and roll show that’ll leave you speechless, and BJ always slows things down with a few acoustic songs as well.

My favorite show of theirs this year was at the River Road Ice House in New Braunfels, TX. Margo Cilker opened the show, and then American Aquarium killed their set as always, but the thing that honestly set it apart from all of the other incredible AA shows I’ve seen was the venue. The River Road Ice House is awesome, I need to make it back there at some point.

With the release of their spectacular Chicamacomico album back in June, AA has plenty of new material to play at their shows, but it’s not like fans ever get tired of the older stuff.

Check an old video of them playing my favorite AA tune, “Burn. Flicker. Die.”

Billy Strings

Billy Strings has got to be the greatest guitarist I’ve seen play live, the guy is ridiculous. I saw the young jamgrass phenom in my first Red Rocks show, and I can’t imagine a better venue for it. I hadn’t originally planned to be there, but when he announced a two-show Red Rocks run right before the Turnpike show, I had to make it happen.

Billy played without an opener and jammed for two sets himself. The venue is beautiful, of course, and as the sun set over the stage and behind the mountains, the lights of Denver were breathtaking. Billy picked and jammed away as the stage lights went crazy for hours on end, and if he never stopped playing, I think I’d still be there today fully entertained.

Here’s part of the livestream from the beginning of that show.

Cody Canada and the Departed

Cross Canadian Ragweeds is one of my favorite bands of all time, but considering I was ten years old when they broke up and I didn’t find their music until several years later, I never had the luxury of seeing them live.

Luckily for me, Cody Canada still tours with his band The Departed, and their set usually includes quite a few CCR songs.

I caught them at one of my favorite venues, The Grey Eagle in Asheville, NC on 4/20. Yep, that’s right. “Boys From Oklahoma” was in high demand all night, and it was even better than I had expected when they finally played it. Canada’s family was in Nebraska at the Koe Wetzel/Snoop Dogg concert the same night, but even though he was a little jealous of them, he delivered one of the best concerts I have ever been to.

Southern rock and rollers Them Dirty Roses opened up the show and joined The Departed several times during their set in an all around fun show.

Check out this legendary video of Ragweed and friends doing “Boys From Oklahoma” live at Shadow Canyon back in their prime.

Read Southall Band

I saw RSB for the first time this year at the Grey Eagle as well. On any normal occasion, I think that lace would be absolutely packed for them. Unfortunately this time they played on a cold and rainy Tuesday in January, and a decent snow had come through a few days prior that I’m sure discouraged some people from making the trek to the show.

To make matters worse, the opener was a band of some pretty low energy older locals that definitely didn’t fit the RSB vibe.

Nevertheless, the band took it all in stride and still played a high energy rock and roll set to probably the smallest audiences they’ve played in years. I mean, it was almost like a private show for me and my friends, and it was awesome. Easily one of my favorite shows of the year. It was just a couple of months after they released their latest album For the Birds in October 2021, so it was great to hear several of the new ones live along with all of their other hits.

Read Southall, the drummer who is also named Reed, and some of the other band members also stuck around after the show a bit to talk to the fans, which is always cool. If any of the RSB guys are reading this, hopefully that Grey Eagle show doesn’t discourage y’all from coming back to the Carolinas soon.

Here’s a recent video of Read Southall Band playing their song “Damn.”

Robert Earl Keen

Thank God I was able to catch the legendary Robert Earl Keen on his farewell tour. He brought a packed house to The Ramkat in Winston-Salem, NC, and although he didn’t really move from the stool he sat on on stage, he kept the audience captivated with his entertaining storytelling and great music.

John R. Miller opened the show and both he and REK played longer sets than I expected, which was awesome. He’s still got a handful of shows left on the farewell tour, so catch him while you can.

Here’s an old video of Keen playing his classic “Feelin’ Good Again” at Austin City Limits.

Turnpike Troubadours

I won’t write too much on this one here, because I could go on forever about it. Turnpike at Red Rocks in May was the best concert I’ve ever attended.

It feels great to have the greatest band of all time back on tour.

Here’s a clip from the livestream of their show the second night.

Whiskey Myers

I had seen Whiskey Myers twice before, but the third time was the charm in Charlotte, NC a couple of weeks ago.

In one of my favorite concerts I’ve ever been to, Whiskey Myers came out hot and never took their foot off the gas, playing one of the best setlists I’ve ever heard. They played a pretty short set before leaving and coming back for an “encore” that was just as long as their first part, and included multi-instrumentalist Tony Kent coming to the front of the stage for an iconic “Wonderwall” cover.

With storms looming all night, the weather largely held off longer than expected, before it poured for their final two songs. The crowd was going crazy.

Zach Bryan

The biggest name in country music that isn’t Morgan Wallen (and I still don’t get all the hype on that guy), Zach Bryan has taken the world by storm this year. But it’s been a long time coming. He released his first studio album American Heartbreak back in May and recently followed it up with another project called Summertime Blues.

Until I saw Turnpike this year, ZB’s show last year in Charlotte with Christian McCaffery was my favorite concert I had been to, and it’s still a solid second.

This year I saw him sell out a much larger venue in Richmond, VA’s 6,000 person Virginia Credit Union Live at the Richmond Raceway. Bad weather delayed the show a couple of hours, and unfortunately Charles Wesley Godwin and ZB both had to play shortened sets, but the crowd stuck around for the show and Zach killed it.

Zach came out on stage in sunglasses, and while I can’t remember exactly what he said, he told the crowd that he had gotten into some trouble and his face was kind of messed up, so he was going to keep the shades on. According to some fans on social media, this may have been from a motorcycle accident he had. Interestingly enough, he mentions it in one of his newest songs “Motorcycle Drive By”

“Readin’ poetry under shade tree, that woman she’s my baby
I will be in Richmond by tonight
With so much shame inside me, I just wanna hide me
But they wanna hear me sing my songs under lights…”

Check out this video of Zach playing “Something in the Orange” at Auburn Rodeo this year.

There are a whole lot more good shows coming through my area, and I’m sure even more are yet to be announced, so hopefully I can continue the hot streak and keep catching some great shows.

I’ve already got several in the works, but I’m most excited to see some of these artists again and several others at Greenville Country Music Fest in October. That lineup is absolutely stacked.

Streaming music from your favorite artists is great and all, but if you want to really support them, get out to a show and maybe even buy some of their merch.

It’s a lot more fun for everybody, anyway.

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