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When it rains...

Country Standard Time Editorial, October 2007

A good chunk of 2007 has been bereft of music releases from the big guns. When it's tough times out there in the music business vis--vis sales, you can rest assured that the labels are not going to be in any rush to put out new material unless they think there is a good chance to make some greenbacks.

The bluegrass labels have been busy all year releasing music. A few new artists have done well going the indie route, especially Tracy Lawrence. A few singers debuted including Jason Michael Carroll and Luke Bryan with some success. And several acts such as Brad Paisley, Joe Nichols, Big & Rich, Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean and Gretchen Wilson kept the doors open at the labels with new CDs.

But now all of a sudden, it's as if the releases can't be pressed fast enough with a plethora of releases by key acts. September saw very strong commercial releases by Kenny Chesney, Reba McEntire and Rascal Flatts.

October isn't slowing down any with new releases from Brooks & Dunn, Gary Allan, Josh Turner and what looms as another huge huge release, the second album of Carrie Underwood (CMT apparently thought so - they played only her video for "So Small" one morning in September).

Greatest hits packages also are in the mix - the first from Trisha Yearwood, Faith Hill and Sara Evans. It's hard to believe the labels waited this long at least for Yearwood and Hill. November will see a greatest hits plus from Garth Brooks.

If looking for something that is a bit more traditional or under the radar screen, don't despair. Merle Haggard goes bluegrass for the first time. Dwight Yoakam pays homage to his musical hero, Buck Owens. Steve Earle leaves the politics behind for the most part on his strong new disc, "Washington Square Serenade." And in the most unusual of pairings, Alison Krauss teams up with Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin fame.

We tend to hear a lot of complaining about the quality of music, not to mention the lack of sales. Okay, the latter is certainly true (Taylor Swift has had a great year chart-wise, topping the country album chart for eight straight weeks, but in some of those weeks, her self-titled debut did not even reach what used to be a paltry 30,000 units).

If you can't find something out there that is new and only sticking to the tried and true hits of yesteryear, that's your loss. There's ample opportunity to check out new music on the web (myspace.com, for example) before buying it. After a year of seemingly intermittent releases, it's great to see a lot of music out there, especially in time for the holiday season. When it rains...