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.

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