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Who's Who of COWBOY CARTER

April 6, 2024 8:04 pm GMT
Last Edited April 7, 2024 9:03 am GMT

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The new Beyoncé album is here and it's a star studded extravaganza featuring some of the biggest names in country music and Americana, from exciting newcomers to living legends.

Holler takes a look at who exactly is who joining Beyoncé on Renaissance Act II: COWBOY CARTER.

Linda Martell

Having already appeared on our Holler list of the 50 Most Influential Women In Country Music recently for paving the way for black artists in country music with hits like 'Color Him Father', 'Before The Next Teardrop Falls' and 'Bad Case of the Blues', as well as being the first black woman to ever play the Grand Ole Opry, it was a fitting callback for Beyoncé to feature Linda Martell on COWBOY CARTER.

Despite facing racial discrimination from the country music industry and audiences she played in front of, Martell's talent and drive made her one of the first black artists to find commercial success in the genre.

Tanner Adell

“If Beyoncé does ever get around to making that country album she’s been hinting at, she’s going to find Tanner Adell has already beaten her to it,” Holler wrote back at the beginning of 2023 when the singer was our New Artist of The Week.

Beyoncé must have been reading, because she took note and Tanner Adell guests on 'BLACKBIIRD' along with Brittney Spencer, Reyna Roberts and Tiera Kennedy on COWBOY CARTER.

Growing up between Manhattan Beach, California, and Star Valley, Wyoming, Adell's music is a mix of LA glamour and country roots that she calls "Funtry." Mixing a love for 90s and early 2000s country with trappy hip-hop beats, her mixtape, Buckle Bunny, was one of our favourites of 2023; the title track flipping the historically derogatory term for a rodeo groupie into an anti-slut shaming, party popping summer anthem.

Tiera Kennedy

"We have a superstar right here in front of us,” Shania Twain once said of Tiera Kennedy, who she later tapped to sing in tribute to her at the 2022 ACM Honors. “I want this young lady representing country music around the world."

After being the first signee to Nicolle Galyon’s Songs & Daughters publishing company, hosting a wildly successful Apple Music show and being named in numerous watchlists such as CMT’s Next Women of Country, the Alabama native has been checking off boxes ever since her first self-titled EP showcased her “R&B Country” sound, as she describes it; country laced with the influence of the R&B she was raised on, stemming from equal parts nature and nurture.

Dolly Parton and Dionne Warwick invited her to be a part of their ‘Peace Like a River’ music video, and now Beyoncé has been dazzled by her shining light too, appearing on 'BLACKBIIRD' on the new album.

Brittney Spencer

Baltimore-born singer and songwriter Brittney Spencer grew up singing in church choir, a gospel foundation that has leant itself to the country music she's since crafted.

Although she studied classical voice as a young girl, in the hopes of attending George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, it was ultimately country that most entranced her. At age 15, a friend introduced her to the genre.

Spencer moved to Nashville in 2013, where she began singing backing vocals for Carrie Underwood and Christopher Cross, among other artists. All the while, though, she kept writing her own songs and in 2020 she released her debut EP Compassion.

Spencer was even featured as part of Victoria’s Secret Global “UNDEFINABLE” campaign, and she appeared in Amazon’s “For Love & Country” Documentary. She has shared stages with Jason Isbell, The Highwomen, Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire, Bobby Weir, and Maren Morris to name a few. She’s also performed the National Anthem at The 148th Kentucky Derby, the Preakness in 2022 alongside Megan Thee Stallion and Lauryn Hill, and the 2023 NFL Draft.

Releasing her stunning debut album, My Stupid Life, at the top of 2024, it's no wonder Beyoncé took notice and invited her to join the cast of COWBOY CARTER.

Reyna Roberts

Joining Brittney Spencer, Tanner Adell and Tiera Kennedy on 'BLACKBIIRD' is Reyna Roberts, an original outlaw spirit who bridges the gap between Miranda Lambert renegade country rock and imperious divas like Carrie Underwood.

Her single 'Stomping Grounds' was Holler's Single of the Year when it came out in 2020, and she's opened up for Reba McEntire, Jamey Johnson, and featured alongside Luke Combs performing at CMT Giants: Charley Pride.

Her debut album Bad Girl Bible Vol 1 came out in 2023, and she just goes from strength to strength, without ever losing that fiery spark that she began with.

"I want to empower people in the way that my favourite artists have inspired me," she told Holler back in 2020. "The reason they are my idols isn't just because of their music but their character, and I've always wanted to be that same inspiration for other people. You don't see many black women in country, so I didn't know how people were going to receive me. But from my mindset it didn't matter because I'm going to make sure I can be that person that inspires others."

Cam

The Northern California native, who studied psychology as an undergraduate at UC Davis, Cam was working at a research lab and doing music on the side when a conversation with a professor convinced her to switch to music full-time.

Cam spent the next few years experimenting with different sounds and co-writing songs for artists including Miley Cyrus and Sam Smith.

Having provided vocals for Diplo’s song ‘So Long’ for His Thomas Wesley, Chapter 1: Snake Oil album and written songs with Avicii, Harry Styles, and Jack Antonoff, and already known for her Jolene-in-reverse hit ‘Diane’ it seemed the perfect fit for her to pop up on songwriting, production and backing vocal duties for COWBOY CARTER on ‘AMERICAN REQUIEM,’ ‘AMEN,’ ‘PROTECTOR,’ ‘TYRANT,’ and ‘DAUGHTER.’

Shaboozey

Only last month Holler was championing Shaboozey in our monthly 10 Artists You Need To Know feature, so it was exciting to see him featuring twice on COWBOY CARTER on 'SPAGHETTI' with Linda Martell and then again on 'SWEET*HONEY*BUCKIN.'

Influenced by Bob Dylan, Lead Belly, Johnny Cash, and Leonard Cohen, he’s able to fold his Southern roots into his love for rap and hip-hop as he kneads together fast syncopated rhymes with Ennio Morricone soundtracks and old timey country & western instrumentation and melodies.

With an album just around the corner, his latest single ‘Vegas’ follows up the viral smash ‘Anabelle’ from the beginning of the year. Get ready for Shaboozey to be everywhere this Summer.

Willie Nelson

Throughout the album, COWBOY CARTER is presented conceptually as a radio broadcast by a fictitious station called "KNTRY Radio Texas", with country singers Dolly Parton, Linda Martell and Willie Nelson acting as trusted country DJs.

"If there’s one thing you can take away from my set today, let it be this," Willie Nelson announces on 'SMOKE HOUR II.'"Sometimes you don't know what you like until someone you trust turns you onto some real good shit. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I'm here. Up next on The Smoke Hour is, 'JUST FOR FUN' by Beyoncé. You’re welcome."

Singer, songwriter, musician, actor and activist, Nelson is often credited as one of the pioneers of the subgenre we now recognize as Outlaw Country, which developed in the late 1960s, so it's fitting that he should turn up as one of the trusted voices on COWBOY CARTER.

Growing up in central Texas, the beloved tunesmith wrote his first song at age seven and joined his first band at ten.

After making the move to Nashville in 1960 and landing a publishing contract, he quickly become an in-demand lyricist in town, scoring hits with Claude Gray's 'Family Bible', Patsy Cline's 'Crazy', Billy Walker's 'Funny How Time Slips Away' and Faron Young's 'Hello Walls', among others.

When his unique singing style resulted in rejection for Nelson's own attempt at making it as a singer in Music City, he moved back to Texas in 1972, and developed a countercultural persona, donning long hair, earrings and worn-out denim as he wrote and sang however he wanted.

After signing with Columbia Records in 1975 and gaining complete creative control over his records, he released his quintessential outlaw album, Red Headed Stranger, which has become synonymous with the larger-than-life talent and garnered his first No. 1 single, 'Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain'.

Also in 1975, Nelson joined forces with Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter and Tompall Glaser to release the iconic Wanted! The Outlaws. Years later, he joined the country supergroup The Highwaymen, which included fellow singers Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson.

With a career that spans across the better part of seven decades, Nelson has been a leading force in country music, pushing musical boundaries and giving a voice to Americans far and wide.

Earning numerous awards, including 15 Grammys, 10 CMAs and 5 ACMs, as well as twenty No. 1s and over 100 charted singles from 1962 to 1993. Over the years, he's received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award (1999) and the inaugural CMA Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award (2012).

In 2015, become the first ever country artist to earn the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, which honors a living music artist’s lifetime achievement in promoting song to enhance cultural understanding; entertaining and informing audiences; and inspiring new generations.

Dolly Parton

"Hey Miss Honey Bee, it's Dolly P," says a familiar voice a third of the way through COWBOY CARTER. "You know that hussy with the good hair you sing about? Reminded me of someone I knew back when, except she has flamin' locks of auburn hair. Bless her heart

Topping our Holler 50 Most Influential Women In Country Music list, Dolly Parton is a household name far beyond country music and there can't have been many listeners hearing Beyoncé's cover of 'Jolene' who didn't know the Dolly original.

A multi-hyphenate talent with the titles of songwriter, singer, multi-instrumentalist, producer, author, actor, businesswoman and philanthropist, Parton's six-decade-long career has seen her propel 25 songs to No. 1 on the Billboard country charts, nab over 40 Top 10 country albums and chart more than 110 singles, including hits like ‘9 to 5' and ‘I Will Always Love You.’

Parton has earned a long list of awards and accolades, including nine Grammys and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, nine CMA Awards – of which she's only one of seven females to be named Entertainer of the Year – 13 ACM Awards and three American Music Awards.

Parton has been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

In 2004, the Library of Congress presented Parton with the Living Legend Award for her contributions to the United States’ cultural landscape, and a year later, she received the National Medal of Arts. She's also received the prestigious Kennedy Center Honors and two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Miley Cyrus

"I'm gonna add a little hip hop to this hoedown," Miley Cyrus says as she introduces 'Hoedown Throwdown' in the homecoming scene in Hannah Montana: The Movie, before she adds a little boom clap boom de clap de clap to the banjo, fiddle and double bass and basically predates 'TEXAS HOLD 'EM' by a good fifteen years.

Miley's been poppin' it, lockin' it and polka dottin' it ever since. Whatever she does musically, it feels like she's never that far away from her country roots and no one can doubt her country credentials. She'll cross back over whenever the mood takes her, so it felt like she'd just popped home for the Easter holidays when she turned up on COWBOY CARTER to duet on 'II MOST WANTED.'

Post Malone

Beyoncé is the only pop artist who's gone country in 2024.

Post Malone has confirmed he's hard at work on his debut country album, following a blockbuster performance at the 2023 CMA Awards alongside HARDY and Morgan Wallen, and having shared two snippets of new music; one of them featuring Luke Combs.

Along with his appearance on the latest instalment of HARDY's much-loved HIXTAPE series, HIXTAPE Vol III: THE DIFFTAPE, Post Malone has confirmed this is more than just a country fling.

He's been a long-time country music aficionado, having shared a plethora of widely lauded country covers since the early days of his career, as well as having his own songs covered by country artists.

Post Malone appears dueting with Beyoncé on 'LEVII'S JEANS' on COWBOY CARTER.

Rhiannon Giddens

Another of our Holler 50 Most Influential Women In Country Music alumni, it was fitting that Rhiannon Giddens, as a musician and scholar advocating for the reclamation of country music instruments by Black musicians, should contribute to the first taste we got of COWBOY CARTER playing banjo and viola on 'TEXAS HOLD 'EM.'

A singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, actor, and author, Giddens grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina, originally studying opera at the Oberlin Conservatory before discovering the tradition of black banjo playing.

After studying banjo, Giddens co-founded the Americana group Carolina Chocolate Drops, which went on to release two albums and earn a Grammy award for their fourth LP, 2010’s Genuine Negro Jig. They also became the first black string band to play the Grand Ole Opry.

She has released a significant amount of solo work, duo work, and group work. Her debut solo studio album Tomorrow is My Turn arrived in 2015, and she released the critically acclaimed follow-up Freedom Highway in 2017. Her most recent album was You're The One in 2023.

Outside of her own music, she’s recorded albums with multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi, and with the supergroup Our Native Daughters, with Amythyst Kiah, Leyla McCalla and Allison Russell. Their debut album Songs of Our Native Daughters was released in 2019.

A two-time Grammy Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning singer and instrumentalist, MacArthur “Genius” grant recipient and composer of opera, ballet and film, Giddens has published children's books and written and performed music for the soundtrack of Red Dead Redemption II. She's also sang for the Obamas at the White House; is a three-time NPR Tiny Desk Concert alum and hosts her own show on PBS, My Music with Rhiannon Giddens, as well as the Aria Code podcast.

Appearing on the Beyoncé was the latest in a career of career highs.

"My only hope is that it might lead a few more intrepid folks into the exciting history of the banjo," Giddens said after the release. "I used to say many times as soon as Beyoncé puts the banjo on a track my job is done. Well, I didn't expect the banjo to be mine."

Willie Jones

In 2012, as a contestant on The X Factor, Willie Jones impressed judges with his take on Josh Turner’s ‘Your Man,' before he made an even bigger impression on country music with his critically acclaimed debut album Right Now. On the album's lead single, ‘American Dream,' he deconstructs the kind of nationalistic anthem often heard from white country artists, retooling and presenting the concept instead as a patriotic song from the perspective of a young Black man.

“We have so many of these songs coming from country artists, white country artists especially," Jones said on the song's release. "I just wanted to have one where it was like, ‘I’m proud to be an American. I’m Black and I’m proud to be an American.'”

Its follow up, Something To Dance To, picked up where Right Now left off, spanning everything from country, gospel, pop and R&B with his signature Louisiana hip-hop gumbo bridging the Block Party and the Barn Dance. He is also the host of his own Apple Music radio show Crossroads.

Written by Holler
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