10 New Albums to Improve Your New Year

Jennifer Nettles, Eric Church, Martina McBride Start 2014 With New Music

If your New Year’s resolution for 2014 is to listen to more country music, you might actually get to say you followed through this year. A wealth of new albums will be arriving in the next few months from some of the biggest names in country.

Among familiar stars are Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland with her first-ever solo project, Eric Church with a menacing throwdown and Martina McBride with her timeless vocal styling. And as for exciting newcomers, we’ve got plenty.

Dierks Bentley and Chris Stapleton haven’t announced release dates for the respective projects, but here are 10 new country music titles to use for self-improvement in 2014.

Jennifer Nettles,That Girl
On Jan. 14, Jennifer Nettles will release her first solo album, named after her single “That Girl.” Super-producer Rick Rubin led the sessions, but Nettles built her new sound from a variety of influences. “I started writing this album three years ago,” she says. “I put no conscious guides or governors on the creation of this album other than to write songs that I want to sing. … The result is an album that plays to my roots — country, ’70s radio, gospel and singer-songwriter.”

Jon Pardi, Write You a Song
Also on Jan. 14, young upstart Jon Pardi aims to make a memorable first impression with his debut, Write You a Song. The “Up All Night” singer and California native opted for a lighthearted approach. “It’s a fun, upbeat album with songs about life and love,” he says. “If you can take a piece of life and put it in a song, it’s going to be a good song — especially if it’s from the heart.”

Ronnie Milsap, Summer # 17
Legendary singer and song stylist Ronnie Milsap is using 2014 to reclaim the musical influences that provided inspiration for him as a young man. Each song is special to the 70-year-old performer. “We are shaped by the music we hear when we’re young,” he admits. “Everything we do as artists starts there, and then we build and explore. These are many of the songs for me. I can tell you every summer, every place I was when I heard them.” Summer # 17 arrives Jan. 28.

Eric Paslay , Eric Paslay
On Eric Paslay’s self-titled debut, out Feb. 4, listeners will get to know a singer-songwriter who has co-written hits like Jake Owen‘s “Barefoot Blue Jean Night” and the Eli Young Band‘s “Even if It Breaks Your Heart.” “It’s hopeful music,” he says about his album. “I just love making music. I love how much you can say to someone in a song. I want to be a part of the soundtrack of people’s lives.” The members of Little Big Town appear as guest vocalists, and his current single is “Friday Night.”

Frankie Ballard , Sunshine & Whiskey
Sunshine & Whiskey, the second album from Michigan native Frankie Ballard, is something of a starting-over moment for the young singer. “I thought my first single [mtvn_video_page id="599237"]“Tell Me You Get Lonely”[/mtvn_video_page] was gonna come out and, ka-pow, be off to the races, but that didn’t happen,” Ballard admitted to CMT.com. Instead, he’s worked toward a new, gracious approach to life and music, starting with his upbeat single “Helluva Life.” The album comes out Feb. 11.

Eric Church, The Outsiders
Follow the massive success of Chief, Eric Church says he wrote more than 100 songs to prepare for his fourth album. Arriving Feb. 11, The Outsiders promises to act like a shot of adrenaline for country fans. His title track — the first single from the collection — serves as Church’s proof. “I’m interested to see what people think about them,” he says of the new tunes. “I always say the songs are mine until we release them, then they’re the fans [songs]. I’m very anxious. I have a lot of anxiety to see what people think about what we’ve done.”

Cole Swindell , Cole Swindell
Fans of Luke Bryan may recognize Cole Swindell, who was once employed by the star to sell T-shirts and then became his opening act. On Feb. 18, Swindell’s self-titled debut album will arrive featuring the gold-certified single, “Chillin’ It.” “The folks who are buying music just want to have fun,” he says of the song. “‘Chillin’ It’ is the perfect song to introduce me to them. It isn’t a full-out party song, and it isn’t serious. Like it says, it’s just a chill song, and that’s just me.”

David Nail, I’m a Fire
With his single “Whatever She’s Got” currently residing in the Top 10, David Nail looks to keep the heat on with his third album, I’m a Fire, out March 4. The Missouri native says his song is the perfect introduction to an album full of new ideas. “In the last 12 to 16 months, I’ve really grown as a man, made some changes that are representative in the songs we chose and the music we’re doing now,” Nail told Billboard magazine. “I feel like it translates well into our live show, and the songs are a little bit more positive and have a little more tempo.”

Sara Evans, Slow Me Down
For Sara Evans’ seventh studio album, the loveable country gal took a year and a-half to create her vision of perfection. “What’s the point of hurrying to rush out a product that’s not perfect?” she asks. “I don’t like having any songs on the record that are throw-away songs. There’s something prideful about me where I just can’t do that.” Featuring duets with Vince Gill, Isaac Slade of the Fray and pop singer Gavin DeGraw, Evans says Slow Me Down feels very deliberate. “If I had to use words to describe this album, I would say it’s sexy and confident. Vocally I tried to stretch myself more than ever and challenge myself.” Look for it on March 4.

Martina McBride, Everlasting
Arriving March 4, Martina McBride’s Everlasting collects a group of timeless songs from the worlds of R&B and soul and pairs them with McBride’s equally timeless voice. McBride says her fans will appreciate the unusual project. “These songs have beautiful melodies and emotional lyrics, which is basically all you can ask for as a singer,” she says. “While this is a bit of a departure for me song-wise, stylistically I approached these songs the way I always have which is singing with as much soul and emotion as I possibly can. I think my fans will love this record because they are some of the best songs of all time done in a very classic style.”

Chris lives in Nashville and has written for CMT.com and CMT Edge since 2007.