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ToC Critic’s Pick: Steve Moakler, ‘Steve Moakler’ EP

Creative Nation
Creative Nation

Steve Moakler makes being an independent artist look good. His self-titled EP features five dynamic and diverse songs that rely on strong songwriting and effortless storytelling. It’s a reminder that you don’t need major label support to make great music.

In fact, more often recently the best music is found on independent or small-label releases. “Suitcase” — a catchy love song that fits Moakler’s inviting voice like the gold wrapper fits a Werther’s Original — is his single. The song is only a gateway to equally catchy, deeper cuts like “Love Drunk” and “Steel Town.”

The former is a peppy pop-country cut that will be a welcome memory for weeks, while the other is almost biographical (Moakler is from Pittsburgh), taken from the Darrell Scott school of songwriting. It’s a blue-collar, Springsteen-esque acoustic slice of life that feels as real as the fires that light the cauldrons at the mill. Moakler’s coming-of-age story is easy to access, even for those who grew up in a farm town, a surf town or cow town.

If Moakler isn’t fielding overtures from major labels by year’s end, it means country music has taken a disappointing left turn in 2016. This isn’t to say he should sign his name on any dotted line. Taste of Country’s No. 4 Hot Artist to Watch of 2016 is an in-demand artist who has proven he can build a career the old-fashioned way, through hard work, repetition, strong handshakes and miles on the road. There’s something to not fixing what ain’t broken.

Key Tracks: “Steel Town,” “Suitcase”

Did You Know?: Thomas Rhett helped write “Suitcase,” but Moakler always felt like it was his song. Finally, after years of waiting, Rhett took it off hold so the newcomer could cut it.

More Hot Artists to Watch in 2016

Next: See All Albums Scheduled for Release in 2016

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