Strait’s Latest Leads Summer Albums

Fans of traditional country will be pleased with this summer’s new releases, led by the most beloved Texas singer of all, George Strait. Just when you thought Strait might coast for the rest of his career, here comes Honkytonkville, set for June 10 release. The melodies hearken back to the era of “Amarillo by Morning,” and Strait still sings as smooth as Sinatra.

Honkytonkville, Strait’s 31st album, is just one of the major releases scheduled this summer. In-store dates are listed in parentheses, but keep in mind that schedules are always subject to change.

Dwight Yoakam moved to an independent label to release Population Me, but his innovative shuffle remains as fresh as ever. The title track sounds like forgotten, late-era Elvis, and he nails the California vibe on “The Late Great Golden State,” even as he laments its loss. Pete Anderson produced, of course. (June 24)

Tracy Byrd keeps the novelty songwriter in business with The Truth About Men. Titles like “Drinkin’ Bone” and “How’d I Wind Up in Jamaica” give a clear indication that Byrd’s ready to be silly. That’s what summer’s for, right? Concludes with a live version of “Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo.” (July 1)

Marty Stuart launches a comeback with Country Music, providing a much-needed dose of hillbilly rock. A smokin’ cover of Porter Wagoner’s “A Satisfied Mind” should indeed satisfy his longtime fans, and the rest of the album ain’t bad either. The Opry star takes it to the people on the Electric Barnyard tour this summer. Sharing the bill: Merle Haggard. (July 1)

Brooks & Dunn keep pace on Red Dirt Road, their eighth studio album. While many country stars like to pretend there’s an R&B influence in their music, B&D can rightfully claim it here. The piano-laced “I Used to Know This Song by Heart” may launch a thousand bad karaoke attempts, but nobody could sing it like Ronnie Dunn. (July 15)

No wonder Sara Evans titled her album Restless. She must be exhausted from chasing trends. Heavily produced a la Faith Hill, these songs are mostly about the anticipation of love and lovemaking. The lyrics echo Shania Twain, the Dixie Chicks, Trisha Yearwood — pretty much any woman who’s sold platinum in the last five years. (Aug. 5)

A handful of newcomers try to squeeze into the summer airwaves, too. Dusty Drake (June 3), Jimmy Wayne (June 24), Buddy Jewell (July 1) and Brian McComas (July 22) lead the pack, followed later in the summer by Dierks Bentley and Billy Currington.

Suzy Bogguss and Western melodies make good partners on Swing, produced by Asleep at the Wheel’s Ray Benson (June 17). Though she just can’t get a hit, Allison Moorer collects material from her three albums for Show, a live CD/DVD combo featuring her sister Shelby Lynne and Kid Rock. (June 24)

Jim Lauderdale teams with festival favorite Donna the Buffalo for Wait ‘Til Spring (July 1). He’s still a relative newcomer to the rest of the nation, but energetic and fun-loving Texans will rejoice for Pat Green’s Wave on Wave (July 15). Rodney Crowell takes a tough look at adulthood on Fate’s Right Hand (July 29). Wynonna’s latest — her first since 2000 — will feature her soulful hit “What the World Needs.” (Aug. 19)

Brad Paisley and Clay Walker return with new albums, although no release dates have been set. Also, look for greatest hits packages from Lonestar (June 3), Dolly Parton (June 3), Charlie Daniels (June 10) and Trace Adkins (July 8). Four vintage Willie Nelson albums will be reissued on Legacy (June 17), while Lost Highway offers his recent Live & Kickin’ concert on CD. (June 24)

Bluegrass fans can look forward to albums from Blue Highway (June 24), as well as newcomer Michelle Nixon and the talented family of the Del McCoury Band (both Aug. 12). Plus, concerts DVDs are on the way from Alison Krauss & Union Station, as well as the Three Pickers — Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson and Ricky Skaggs. (July 15)