Lawson, Hometown News Issue First CDs

Two young country hitmakers release debut albums Tuesday (June 4), while adventurous new collections from Jack Ingram and Tift Merritt stretch the boundaries of country music. Kitty Wells , “The Queen of Country Music,” enjoys a remastered reissue, and Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen get back to basics.

Kentucky native Shannon Lawson delivers Chase the Sun (MCA Nashville), featuring his first hit “Goodbye on a Bad Day.” Produced by Mark Wright (Lee Ann Womack, Mark Chesnutt), Chase the Sun includes 10 songs co-written by Lawson, as well as a bluegrass take on the Marvin Gaye classic “Let’s Get it On.”

Hometown News, a duo who cracked the Top 40 with the novelty hit “Minivan,” are driving all over the country, in a minivan of course, to support their debut, Wheels (VFR Records). The set includes a remake of Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You.”

Already one of the biggest music stars in Texas, Ingram returns with Electric (Lucky Dog). A batch of Nashville’s most in-demand guitarists plug it in, which gives Ingram a more robust sound than on previous efforts. He’s doing rare in-store appearances in Texas this week to promote the album.

Debuting with Bramble Rose, Merritt’s earthy music has drawn comparisons to Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. She’s the latest artist to bow on Lost Highway Records, home to Ryan Adams , Lucinda Williams and the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

Hillman and Pedersen, formerly of the Desert Rose Band , reunite for Way Out West (Back Porch), a collection of back-to-basics California country music. The CD booklet boasts cool pictures from throughout their notable careers, as well as an essay by Alan Rockman. Hillman was also a member of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers , and Pedersen played with the Dillards and the Laurel Canyon Ramblers.

Wells gets the Millenium Collection (MCA Nashville/Decca) treatment on a digitally remastered package featuring 12 original, Owen Bradley-produced singles. Besides the country classic “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” the CD includes two duets with Red Foley .

Three contemporary country stars –- Confederate Railroad , Chris LeDoux and Lila McCann –- see their hits repackaged this week. Meanwhile, Cool Blue Outlaws: Rogues, Renegades and Rapscallions plunders 16 cuts from the Sugar Hill Records catalog.