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Ward Davis
Black Cats and Crows

Ward Davis is billed as an outlaw country rocker, but that description is far too limiting. He is a terrific songwriter, able to generate loud, rowdy outlaw-like tunes as well as delivering warm, engaging ballads with the stroke of his same pen, or, better said, notes on the piano. ...

Chris Stapleton
Startin' Over

Chris Stapleton's "Starting Over" release is one of those rare beauties of an album, where your favorite track may change from day to day. All of 'em are just that great. It is, simply put, Stapleton's best full-length to date. You may love the title track, which puts flesh ...

The Sensational Country Blues Wonders!
The World Will Break Your Heart

The Sensational Country Blues Wonders! is the moniker for singer-songwriter Gary Van Miert of Jersey City, N.J. This eccentric character has a natural facility for crafting solid country songs with clever word play ("I'm playing second fiddle to a steel guitar. My lover jumps around from bar to bar. ...

Mitchell Tenpenny
Neon Christmas EP

If all you know about Mitchell Tenpenny is "Alcohol You Later," you may be unprepared for a few of the Christmas present surprises on his "Neon Christmas" EP. Granted, "Snow Angels" is a little too pop for its own good. However, the acoustic guitar-picked subtlety of ...

Maddie & Tae
We Need Christmas

In just two songs, Maddie & Tae illustrate the two sides of Christmas. The pair's version of "O Come All Ye Faithful" is given a faithful reading and even includes scripture recitation at the end. Next, with "Merry Married Christmas," marital fidelity at Christmastime is celebrated happily. ...

Trace Adkins
Ain't That Kind of Cowboy

Anybody with staying power in the modern country music landscape must have found a four-leaf clover and a niche. Trace Adkins hearkens back to a time when country stars included more Alpha males. He's got a baritone as deep as an oil well and stands eye-to-eye with quite a few pro basketball players. ...

Parker McCollum
Hollywood Gold

The best song on Parker McCollum's EP, "Like a Cowboy," wasn't one the singer/songwriter composed. No, this piano ballad was written by Chris Stapleton and Al Anderson, two of country music's best songwriters. Lyrically, it questions the assumptions we oftentimes make about cowboy character. ...

William Elliott Whitmore
I'm With You

His name sounds like he's from a couple of centuries ago. His gravelly, well-worn voice fits the part too. William Elliott Whitmore is an Iowa-based singer-songwriter/banjoist/guitarist, who is not easily pigeonholed. On his eighth album, "I'm With You," he returns to original ...

David Adam Byrnes
Neon Town

Rising Texas country artist David Adam Byrnes knows the art of writing a country song with relatable lyrics that will attract listeners and garner airplay. He has proven that already with "Beer Bucket List," "I Can Give You One" and his rollicking title track. ...

Runaway June
When I Think About Christmas EP

Runaway June put a lot of thought in how their five-song holiday project would sound. Yes, three of these five selections are already overly familiar tunes to most of us. Yet, you haven't heard them sung exactly like this before. The trio Runaway June put their vocal harmony skills to excellent ...

Dolly Parton
A Holly Dolly Christmas

A Dolly Parton Christmas album seems like a natural, as Parton oftentimes comes off like a child inside an adult's body. Parton was able to rope both famous Cyruses (Miley and Billy Ray) as well Jimmy Fallon, Willie Nelson and Michael Bublé to sing with her. Perhaps, best of all, Parton ...

Brent Cobb
Keep 'Em On They Toes

Not sure we've seen the term 'minimalist country' but that's a fair description for Brent Cobb's artistry, especially on "Keep 'Em On They Toes," one that he prefers to call 'quiet and conversational.' His fourth album is certainly reflective as Cobb ...

Brandon Fulson
Roaring Twenty

Which line will be your favorite? "This may be TMI/But I wrote it on the toilet at work" is certainly a strong contender, as is "If I tell you a rooster pulls a plow, Son, you'd better hook it up."Brandon Fulson has a sense of humor that could crack up a scarecrow. ...

Terri Clark
"It's Christmas...Cheer!

When it comes to recording a country Christmas album, usually the less wheel-reinvention, the better. Some artists attempt to go all Sinatra jazzy or take on a rocker's pose. While these exercises may feel freeing to these artists, it leaves less room for more hearty, straight forward country collections. ...

Carrie Underwood
My Gift

It makes logical sense that Carrie Underwood, arguably mainstream country music's best pure vocalist, would make a Christmas album. And make no mistake about it, this is a 'Christmas' album, as opposed to a 'holiday' release. These 11 tracks are nearly all spiritual in nature. ...

Thomm Jutz
To Live in Two Worlds Volume 2

Frequent collaborator and author Peter Cooper says he has never met anyone who pays attention and stays more focused than singer-songwriter-guitarist extraordinaire Thomm Jutz. Considering Jutz is a German native, his mastery of southern history and folkloric storytelling of the South never ceases to amaze. ...

Mark Stoffel
Coffee & Cake

For the non-musician, instrumental bluegrass albums sometimes appear unfinished. Not only does one ask, "Where's the words?," but occasionally one ponders, "Where's the variety?" as one song bleeds seamlessly — and indistinguishably — into the next. ...

Brennen Leigh
Prairie Love Letter

There are not many artists that sing about life and various characters on the border of western Minnesota and eastern North Dakota. There may be just as few that can sing about tractors, cowboys, a pet dog and the lure of the prairie without sounding contrived. Brennen Leigh does both on "Prairie Love Letter. ...

Alecia Nugent
The Old Side of Town

From the first notes of Alecia Nugent's "The Old Side of Town," the opener and album title track, her classic country, '80s sound is an immediate draw. Her presence is authentic and commanding. She knows this turf very well, but it's rather remarkable because the IBMA and ...

Keith Urban
THE SPEED OF NOW Part 1

It's getting tougher and tougher all the time to justify categorizing Keith Urban's music as country. "The Speed of Now, Pt. 1" doesn't help. (What, is there a pt. 2 of this largely lame music on the way? Say it ain't so!) It's a relatively good pop album, for a ...


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