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Hot Artists to Watch in 2016: Tara Thompson [No. 7]

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Tara Thompson’s old website URL used to be That may be about all you need to know about the East Tennessean.

Thompson is a newcomer to radio audiences in 2016, but anyone who’s honky-tonked in Nashville recently may have seen her. The energetic singer and songwriter often parked herself alongside good friend Jarett McAlister at Tootsie’s World Famous Orchid Lounge on Broadway, singing classics by Randy Travis, Johnny Cash or George Jones. She brings a traditional country twang missing from females on the radio.

Thompson signed to the Big Machine Label Group in October, just as the buzz around her was reaching a fever pitch. “Someone to Take Your Place” is her debut single, and she’s spent the better part of a month visiting radio stations nationwide, forming the relationships she’ll need if she’s to shine among the group of newcomers to this world. The song mixes her twang with more pop-friendly (but hardly pop) instrumentation, without sacrificing her Southern sass.

“Get your hand off my mmm-mmm / Wipe that grin off your face / It ain’t you I’m looking for / I’m looking for someone to take your place,” she sings at the chorus. Thompson’s phrasing is original, with the last word of many lyrics spoken matter-of-factly. She’s got the voice, but not every moment of every song needs to showcase it. Singers twice her age haven’t figured that out yet.

Thompson is a blood relative of Loretta Lynn and spent some time touring with her prior to signing with BMLG. She was raised in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., home of Dolly Parton’s Dollywood theme park. Those are pretty strong credentials to back up a newcomer’s claim that icons like Willie, Merle, Waylon and Patsy were influences.

While those legends paved her trail to Music City (and ultimately a record deal), the turning of the tide for women in 2015 smoothed it. With singers like Cam, Kacey Musgraves and Maddie & Tae showing that it’s safe for women to have a strong opinion again, a spitfire like Tara Thompson is viewed more favorably. There is a void for someone that draws positive comparisons to Gretchen Wilson. She’s sure to add a more traditional element to the CMT Next Women of Country Tour 2016 this winter. Jennifer Nettles, Brandy Clark and Lindsay Ell are also part of the 31-stop trek.

More Hot Artists to Watch in 2016

Next: Meet Artist No. 8

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