Toby Keith Unleashed, At Last

Thanks to extensive media coverage, it has been impossible to ignore the fact that Toby Keith releases his new album, Unleashed, on Tuesday (July 23). Speaking of impossible, Joe Nichols, on the country charts with “The Impossible,” makes his major label debut with Man With a Memory. And who else but Charlie Daniels could call his latest record Redneck Fiddlin’ Man?

“Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” the colorful and controversial single from Keith’s Unleashed (DreamWorks), shot to No. 1 in just 9 weeks. Keith wrote or co-wrote all 12 songs on Unleashed; Chris LeDoux pitched in to help write “Rodeo Moon,” based on an idea LeDoux had about a couple traveling the rodeo circuit.

Also on Unleashed, listen for Willie Nelson on “Beer for My Horses,” a song about justice and the Old West. Lari White contributes background vocals to “Rock You Baby,” a power ballad which Keith has called “the most pop thing on the album.”

A native of Rogers, Ark., 25-year-old Nichols returns with Man With a Memory (Universal South). Country fans with a memory may recall that Nichols released a self-titled album on Intersound in 1996, with a single titled “Wal-Mart Parking Lot.”

His latest offering should do better at the check-out lanes, as Nichols scales the Top 20 with “The Impossible.” One of Nashville’s most sought-after studio guitarists, Brent Rowan, produced the new album, which might appeal to fans of early George Strait.

The Charlie Daniels Band forges ahead with Redneck Fiddlin’ Man (Audium/Blue Hat), and yes, the rednecks and the fiddlin’ can be found in abundance here. Along with references to Dixie, barbecue, “Sweet Home Alabama,” Bocephus, the Mason-Dixon line, Dale Earnhardt, “Cotton-Eyed Joe” and hoecakes, the album includes guest appearances from Garth Brooks and Travis Tritt . This may also be the first time the phrase “get jiggy with it” surfaces on a country release. Redneck Fiddlin’ Man closes with “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Mark Olson, a former member of the Jayhawks, delivers his fifth solo album, December’s Child (Dualtone), recorded in Mississippi with his touring band. The release marks his first collaboration with Gary Louris, also of the Jayhawks, since Olson left the pioneering alt-country band in 1995. Olson and Victoria Williams, his warbling wife, live near Joshua Tree, Calif. One of the late members of their community inspired the track “Alta’s Song.”

Those who follow the Texas Music Chart may recognize Aaron Watson from the hit “When All Those Aggies Move to Austin.” With Radney Foster serving as his mentor, the 24-year-old Amarillo native recorded Shut Up and Dance (Sonnet Publishing) with the Robert Earl Keen Band and Lloyd Maines.

Craig Shelburne has been writing for since 2002. He is also a producer for CMT Edge, Concrete Country and Live @ CMT.