I found myself pumping my fist by the end of the first chorus for Hannah Ellis’ new single “Wine Country”. This is a classic modern country anthem, as real as the day is long, but tailormade for the broadest possible audience. Yeah, women will love this song more than most, perhaps; Ellis has her audience in mind and knows them well. You can even see that in the song’s video and its sly callback to Bravo’s Real Housewives programming. It’s appeal isn’t narrow, however. “Wine Country” packs enough musical punch that even a guy like me appreciates its sternum-rattling drums, melodic yet piercing lead guitar, and muscular riffing during the song’s verses.

There’s even a touch of the purist in Ellis’ music. She doesn’t toss some banjo into the track for fun. It laces the arrangement with a pure country heart and, if you still doubt her, namedropping Old Possum himself, George Jones, should dispel any lingering questions. It’s a song that, in the best country music tradition, knows how to have a good time. She unabashedly kicks up her heels and tips a Solo cup of wine back the same way her male counterparts knock back their shots of whiskey or guzzle their beers. Moreover, she’s got the same willingness to not give a damn whether you like it or not.

Ellis, like many of her modern contemporaries regardless of gender, has some rock and roll pulsing inside her country heart. It pumps a little more attitude into an already rollicking and rambunctious mix. I think she’s certainly a dazzlingly beautiful woman. The video, as well, shows her genuine presence that undoubtedly translates well over to the stage. Pair that with a voice that you’d still hear at the back of any concert hall even if the power went out and you have the ingredients for a first-class modern county classic in the making.

She didn’t get this far on looks and good luck alone. You’re hearing “Wine Country” and seeing its video because she’s put the time in. No one gets a full-ride scholarship to the prestigious University of Kentucky because they just show up. Fewer still want a place in the music world bad enough that they dig deep into their own pockets and throw down the cash to record their debut EP. Her peers and other contemporaries are paying attention as well. Landing plum spots singing for and alongside a bevy of performers like Russell Dickerson, Sidewalk Prophets, and Emily Weisband, just for starters, and touring with Gavin DeGraw and country music legend Dwight Yoakam is a big deal.

Hannah Ellis is becoming a big deal – and is set to get even bigger. When you’re one of the “CMT LISTEN UP” artists for any given year or a Rolling Stone Country’s “Artist to Watch”, it’s a benchmark. “Wine Country” is exactly the sort of single that not only realizes those benchmarks, it moves the goalposts for an artist’s future. The future looks bright for Hannah Ellis with bold new tracks like this. 

Garth Thomas