the new traditionalist sound of dillon carmichael

Dillon Carmichael. Photo by Angelina Castillo.

From the moment you hear Dillon Carmichael launch into “It’s Simple,” a standout life parable from his debut album, “Hell on an Angel,” a sense of authenticity is struck.

Sure, as a country artist from Burgin making his way in Nashville, the 25 year old singer-songwriter has plenty of family ties to lean on, from parents and grandparents who sang gospel and country throughout Eastern Kentucky to a pair of famous uncles that know a thing or two about making a hit – John Michael and Eddie Montgomery.

All of that fades for a moment, though, when you hear Carmichael sing. What he lets loose is an effortless and inviting baritone, a voice so rustically smoky that a solid traditionalist streak is immediately established.

It’s no wonder then, in a generation where stars like Kane Brown and Florida-Georgia Line seem to almost purposely distance themselves from where country music has sprung from, Carmichael is going old school. His sound blends outlaw sentiments and serious Hank Williams charm with a list of influences that reel back through the years to such country classicists as Waylon Jennings and Vern Gosdin.

“Honestly, I think that sound is just in my soul,” said Carmichael, who performs this weekend at the Kentucky Castle. “I could have rebelled against it very easily and gone in a different direction. But Kentucky generates such great songwriters, so I wanted to sing to people as a songwriter.”

“As far as growing up went, my uncles Eddie and John Michael were gone and on the road as I was growing up. Of course, we would spend Thanksgiving and Christmas together and hang out then like a normal family.”

One of the key artists in Carmichael’s corner when creating “Hell on an Angel” may not have been part of the family, even though he came to feel like a brother as soon as recording sessions commenced. His name is Dave Cobb, who has been the Americana-and-more producer of the moment for several years. Cobb’s diverse client list includes John Prine, Jason Isbell, Zac Brown Band, Brent Cobb, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Chris Isaak, Lake Street Dive, Shooter Jennings and two other Kentucky born country stylists who have made more than a little commotion of late – Chris Stapleton and Sturgill Simpson.

“Dave is kind of an ambassador for all of us out here,” Carmichael said. “But mainly, he just a great guy. The guys he got to play on the record are the best around, plus Dave is a great guitar player himself. While we got him to play on the play on the record, too, he but mostly just let me do my thing. You just leave all the other stuff at door when you go into the studio with Dave.

“This is my dream record with my dream producer on my dream record label (the booming publishing, management and label collective Riser House) helped by my dream radio team. It’s a big dream come true. The album just tells my story. I got to record songs that were true to me and my life. To out play them every night… man, that never gets old.”

Dillon Carmichael performs at 6 p.m. Jan 18 and 19 at the Greenhouse of the Kentucky Castle, 230 Pisgah Pike. Tickets are $35-$75. Call 859-256-0322 or go to

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