My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Something to look forward to

We spent part of last month rounding up the best and worst of 2010. Now we’re into a brand new year, it’s time to start looking forward again, and wondering what the year ahead may hold in store.

Newly crowned CMA Entertainer of the Year Brad Paisley’s This is Country Music has a release date in March, with the lead single already on its way up the charts. Current Arista labelmate Alan Jackson is reportedly considering his future options now that he has fulfilled his obligations to the label, and perhaps we will see him moving to pastures new like Martina McBride and Trace Adkins, although either way I don’t really expect a new album from him this year. Ronnie Dunn has already been into the studios for his contribution to the Country Strong soundtrack, and is working on his solo album. I doubt he can expect Brooks & Dunn levels of success for this, even if he was the voice of the duo’s hits, but I’m looking forward to hearing what he comes up with.

The Sony group has relied on American Idol to pick up new artists with a built-in fanbase for several years; this tie-in has now ended, with the group now planning to be associated with Simon Cowell’s rival X Factor show (launching in the fall), and the Idol link now picked up by the Universal Music Group (country imprints are MCA and Mercury). The most successful of these signings is of course Carrie Underwood, whose pattern of releases to date suggests a new album at the end of 2011. I don’t expect any change in direction from her high-energy pop-based style, but more intriguing are the things Kellie Pickler has been saying about her third album being more firmly rooted in traditional country music. I haven’t been particularly impressed by her music to date, but I’m willing to keep an open mind. The latest Idol alumnus to go country after the show is Texan Casey James, who finished third on last year’s Idol and is now with BNA (as the Casey James Band); his roots seem to be more blues than country but he may be worth watching out for. RCA will be releasing a second album from the previous year’s third place finisher Danny Gokey; his debut sold pretty well but failed to set the radio alight or to connect with more traditional country fans.

RCA has lost one of its superstar acts in the form of Martina McBride. It will be interesting to see what (if any) effect Martina’s move to Republic Nashville has on her music: a determined attempt to regain the limelight following the relative under-performance of her last album and recent singles by appealing to modern radio tastes a la Reba’s recent work, an artistic resurgence, or just more of the same? Sunny Sweeney’s Republic debut is also keenly anticipated.

Sticking with RCA, Sara Evans’s long-delayed new album (originally announced for January 2010) is now due to come out in March, taking its title, Stronger, from her Country Strong cut, which is rising up the charts. Again, we’ll have to wait to see if she is trying to get radio play by concentrating on her pop crossover style, or returning to her country roots. I suspect the former, particularly since she has been working with Taylor Swift’s producer Nathan Chapman. My favorite RCA artist at the moment is Chris Young, and I hope he will be back in the studios this year, as his breakthrough second album was released in September 2009. I feel his material to date has (with a few exceptions) not been worthy of his great voice, and I hope that now he can claim two #1 hits, he can demand the very best of what Nashville’s songwriters have to offer.

Reigning CMA Male and Female Vocalists of the Year Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert have a wedding to plan, but Miranda in particular will be expected to produce a follow-up to her acclaimed 2009 release, Revolution. Blake divided his 2010 output into two “Sixpak” EPs (neither of them very good, the first producing just one single), and it will be interesting to see if he sticks with this template or reverts to a fullscale album in future.

I hope this will be the year Ashton Shepherd finally breaks through commercially. The prolific George Strait tends to release an album a year, so with nothing new in 2010 he is overdue for a new album. Joe Nichols has a Greatest Hits set out soon, so I assume Show Dog Universal has stopped promoting 2009’s Old Things New, and perhaps we can look forward to something new later in the year. But the artist I’m most hoping for new music from is Lee Ann Womack, especially after her stellar contribution to the Country Strong soundtrack.

Over at Curb, it seems that Tim McGraw may finally be out of his contract. LeAnn Rimes’s Vince Gill-produced covers set was supposed to be released last year, but may appear this year, although I’m not inspired by what we’ve heard so far. Heidi Newfield is also supposedly due to have her second solo effort for the label out this year. I’d like to hear more from talented duo Martin Ramey and Star de Azlan, but as it’s Curb I’m not exactly holding my breath in anticipation.

One of my favorite artists, Randy Travis is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his groundbreaking Storms Of Life with his second duets album, the success of which will depend partly on the choice of duet partners. Legends who have new music in the works include Dolly Parton and Charley Pride. And of course, I’m also hoping to hear some great music from new acts.

What are you most looking forward to this year?

19 responses to “Something to look forward to

  1. bob January 6, 2011 at 10:27 am

    I’d like to hear a song that is hysterically funny from Martina McBride. Maybe she could get together with the guy who writes the Drunken Martina stuff.

  2. Ben Foster January 6, 2011 at 11:28 am

    I’m very excited to hear Sara Evans’ new album, since I’m a big fan of hers. As for Paisley, it seems like each of his new single releases is gradually killing off the interest I once had in his music. I also hope to see a new album from Lee Ann Womack, and I have heard Trisha Yearwood hinting at the possibility of new music in the near future, and I’m always up for hearing a new Dolly album.

    I’m still dying to hear LeAnn Rimes’ cover album, especially after hearing the two singles it’s produced so far. Her stellar version of “Swingin'” was easily one of the best singles of 2010, in my opinion, and “Crazy Women” was a strong single as well. I just hope that Curb Records Syndrome doesn’t claim the career of another artist!

  3. J.R. Journey January 6, 2011 at 11:34 am

    A guy writes that Drunken Martina stuff? 😉

    I am pretty excited to see Country Strong, considering it’s been compared to Tender Mercies and Coal Miner’s Daughter. The soundtrack is pretty solid, so I am betting the movie is too. Likewise, I am anticipating new music from Martina McBride, Sara Evans, George Strait, and Alan Jackson. And I may be going out on a limb here, but I expect Tim McGraw to make another great album akin to Set This Circus Down or The Dancehall Doctors once he’s free from Curb.

  4. CMW January 6, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Melonie Cannon has been posting on her Facebook page about a new Vern Gosdin tribute she’s been working on. That one ought to be great.

  5. Kelsey January 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    I’m looking forward to the Casey James Band’s album more than ANYTHING in 2011!!

  6. ThLostSheep January 6, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I think the Casey James Band will transend any one particular genre. Casey James has a style that is part country, part rock, part blues but all pure talent. His cover of the song “Don’t” on Idol’s country week was amazing. Looking forward to his album.

  7. david January 6, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    I hear Star De Azlan has a new single coming out this month, I heard a clip and it seems really cool, so I hope It does something for her. Her last single was really great , it was just too slow for radio.

  8. Genilu January 6, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Looking forward to Casey James album.

  9. Southern Girl January 6, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    I think the most exciting thing that’s goin to come out of Nashville this year will be the debut of Casey James Band. Pure talent…

  10. Rick January 6, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    I think Star De Azlan needs to move to the Republic Nashville label and hook up with Brett Beavers for production duties! Hey, its working for Sunny Sweeney.

    Artists I would love to see do really well on radio in 2011: Sunny Sweeney, Ashton Shepherd, and Star De Azlan. Also I wouldn’t mind seeing Megan Mullins get back in the game as well.

  11. CMW January 6, 2011 at 8:37 pm

    Forgot to mention: I’ve also been hearing lots of good things about the Casey James Band… but only in this thread, and only from commenters I’ve never seen before. Curious.

  12. Leeann Ward January 7, 2011 at 1:21 am

    Ha, CMW!

    That Cannon album sounds interesting.

    I actually want to hear the Rimes album, though I love “Swingin'”.

  13. Finnishhounddog January 7, 2011 at 1:32 pm

    Casey James Band is going to be A BIG success!

  14. burnthismedia January 7, 2011 at 5:40 pm

    I’m really looking forward to the Casey James Band’s debut album. I’m not a traditional country music fan, but my sense is that it will be a more musically diverse album, crossing genres from rock to blues to Americana, yet fitting nicely under the new country umbrella.

  15. Nicolas January 7, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    I’m lookin’ forward to the new Sara Evans album most importantly. I’ve been waiting for that now for like 2 years and I’m gonna be so ecstatic when its finally in my hands.

    Also very much looking forward to the new albums from Kellie Pickler and Miranda Lambert.

    And I’m anticipating new music from Dolly Parton. Heard she’s got a new album titled Better Day (?) that she’s releasing this year. ❤

  16. Joe January 15, 2011 at 1:51 pm

    I’d really like new sets from Trisha Yearwood, Shania Twain, and Faith Hill. And although it’s a long shot, a new Dixie Chicks album would be great

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