In the less than two years since, the Atlanta-based sextet has become one of country’s hottest acts, winning a CMT Music Award (“Breakthrough Video of the Year”), an Academy of Country Music award (“Top New Vocal Duo or Group”) and the 2010 Grammy for “Top New Artist.”

Don’t chalk that success up to playing by the rules, however. While “Chicken Fried” was the type of feel-good, life-affirming song that today’s big country hits are made of, The Foundation was an album that swayed between easy-going mainstream fare and the kind of gritty Americana storytelling that is seldom present in the music produced by country’s biggest stars.

The band’s second single, the breezy love ballad “Whatever It Is,” and “Toes” (a Jimmy Buffet-fueled up-tempo song spiced with a dash of calypso flavor) solidified their commercial viability, but a cover of Ray LaMontagne’s rough-edged “Jolene” – along with a pair of raucous, bluegrass-tinged barn burners straight from the Charlie Daniels playbook – showed that they had serious aspirations, and plenty of artistic credibility to boot.

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