Delivering new albums is one resolution these country stars intend to keep in the New Year.
January releases include the first duets album from Ray Benson and Dale Watson, a full length debut from hit-maker Natalie Hemby, updated classics from Jeannie Seely, as well as soul-baring collections from American Idol alum Lauren Alaina and Brantley Gilbert.
February marks a month of firsts for Reba McEntire and Brett Young. McEntire’s inaugural faith-based collection Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope, and Young’s self-titled debut land on Feb. 3 and Feb. 10, respectively. Nashville rebel Nikki Lane and Grammy-winning band Little Big Town each hope to break new ground with their next albums, Highway Queen and The Breaker. Alison Krauss will also release her first solo album in 17 years.
On March 3, Brad Paisley will release his 11th studio album, Love and War.
Here is a preview of each album:
Say hello to your new favorite duo hailing from the fictitious metropolis of Bedsore, Texas. Benson is the front man for Asleep at the Wheel and Watson is a prolific Ameripolitan pioneer who has been releasing old-style honky tonk music since the ‘80s. Those who love classic country will dig their first duets album of eight new originals, plus covers of “Write Your Own Songs” from Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson’s 1982 duets album WWII and “I Wish You Knew” from the Louvin Brothers’ 1960 album My Baby’s Gone. The collection kicks off with “The Ballad of Dale and Ray,” a tribute to a few of their favorite things – pickin’, grinnin’, tokin’ and drinkin’. “Ray and I are kindred spirits,” Watson said. “We both love the same kind of music, and we are very comfortable working together — no egos — just what’s best for the song. When it’s like that, great songs and performances happen.” “We started talkin’ about this 10 years ago,” Benson said of the album. “Dale’s a Mogul. He’s the King of Ameripolitan. Mr. Chicken Shit Bingo. You just have to wait your turn. In my opinion, he is one of the great country singers. Singing with him makes me sing better, and our voices blend really well together. Our guitar playing styles compliment each other, and I feel we wrote some great songs together also.” Dale & Ray lands Jan. 6.
Natalie Hemby, Puxico
When Little Big Town hosted their No. 1 party for “Pontoon” at Nashville’s BMI headquarters, the company’s Jody Williams mentioned that the Music Row community was ready Hemby’s full length debut. That was in 2012, and “Pontoon” was the second of Hemby’s four No. 1s as a songwriter. Using some of the royalty money she earned from her first, Miranda Lambert’s “White Liar,” the Nashville native filmed an independent documentary about her second home, her grandfather’s hometown of Puxico, Missouri, and its annual homecoming celebration for U.S. veterans returning from their time in the service. The film’s soulful soundtrack is a touching tribute to living and loving in a small town and serves as her 10-song debut. “I always tell people,” she said, “I spent my 20s trying to get a record deal, my 30s writing for other people and now I’m putting out my own record and it feels really good.” Puxico arrives Jan. 13.
Jeannie Seely, Written In Song
She is Miss Country Soul, a beloved member of the Grand Ole Opry, a country icon and a Pennsylvania hit-maker well before Taylor Swift was born. Available Jan. 13, Seely’s latest album Written in Song features 14 updated timeless classics she has written and co-written for Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Ernest Tubb and Dottie West, the latter of whom initially convinced her to move to Nashville in the 1960s. At the time, Seely was working as a secretary with Liberty and Imperial Records in Hollywood before relocating to Music City in 1965. Connie Smith and Marty Stuart guest on “Senses,” which Willie Nelson recorded for 1970’s Laying My Burdens Down. Jessi Colter and Jan Howard appear on “We’re Still Hangin’ In There Ain’t We Jessi” and Kenny and Tess Sears are featured on “Leavin’ & Sayin’ Goodbye.” “It consists of 14 songs that I have written over the years,” Seely says of the album, “most of them recorded by my peers and my heroes. It’s also very rewarding to know that these songs have stood the test of time and are just as viable today. I am extremely grateful to the musicians and singers who made them sound brand new.”
Lauren Alaina, Road Less Traveled
Alaina’s sophomore album has the American Idol alum sharing the complexities of her life with sophistication and personality. She co-wrote all the material throughout the 12-song collection including the title track single, which was co-written with pop’s Meghan Trainor and hit-maker Jesse Frassure. California-based songwriter/producer busbee produced the album and co-wrote the collection’s openers “Doin’ Fine” and “My Kinda People.” Available Jan. 27, Road Less Traveled follows Alaina’s 2011 debut album Wildflower. She starts the CMT Next Women of Country Love Unleashed Tour 2017 with headliner Martina McBride on Feb. 2 in St. Louis. Tickets are available now.
Brantley Gilbert, The Devil Don’t Sleep
“The Devil Don’t Sleep is all about knowing that the devil’s always there and there’s always temptation,” Gilbert said about his third studio album in a Facebook video in October. “It just keeps me on my toes and it’s just kind of a constant reminder for me to move forward and keep my nose in the right direction.” The regular version of Gilbert’s third album promises 16 new songs, while the deluxe edition adds 10 more. Each land Jan. 27. The lead single “The Weekend” has just gone Top 20 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. The Devil Don’t Sleep Tour starts on Feb. 2 in Reading, Pennsylvania, with special guests Tucker Beathard and Luke Combs appearing at most dates.
Reba McEntire, Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope
The new double-disc album is McEntire’s first faith-based collection. Album one is comprised of new arrangements of 10 traditional hymns, while album two features 10 new inspirational originals, including “I Got the Lord on My Side,” which McEntire co-wrote with her mother Jacqueline McEntire. Kelly Clarkson and Trisha Yearwood sing on an uplifting version of “Softly and Tenderly.” Out Feb. 3, McEntire co-produced the album with her band leader/musical director Doug Sisemore and Rascal Flatts’ Jay DeMarcus in his home studio. “Sing It Now was the perfect title for this album because the message and melody throughout the song connects the dots between the traditional hymns I grew up on and new music that has been uplifting for me in challenging times,” she said. She makes her headlining debut at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium on Feb. 15. Tickets are on sale now through Ticketmaster. Reba, Brooks & Dunn: Together in Vegas will return to The Colosseum at Caesars on Feb. 22.
Brett Young, Brett Young
The Feb. 10 release of Young’s self-titled debut makes making it Nashville look like easy. After living in town for only three years, his runaway hit and album opener “Sleep Without You” peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart on Dec. 10. He co-wrote 11 of the collection’s 12 songs and will join Justin Moore and Lee Brice on the final two shows of their American Made tour on March 23 and 24.
Alison Krauss, Windy City
Krauss returns with a collection of rare bluegrass, country and standards that helped shape her into the performer she is today. Available Feb. 17, the 10-song covers compilation features songs recorded by Brenda Lee, Bill Monroe, Willie Nelson and the Osborne Brothers (not to be confused with Brothers Osborne). The album was recorded with producer Buddy Cannon, who appears on backing vocals with his daughter on his “Dream of Me.” He co-wrote the song over 30 years ago with Jimmy Darrell and Raleigh Squires and it has been appeared on albums by the Oak Ridge Boys, Jimmy Reynolds and Vern Gosdin. Krauss holds the record for most Grammy wins ever by a female artist.
Nikki Lane, Highway Queen
Album to album, Lane’s music never fails to cure what ails you. Produced by Lane and rocker Jonathan Tyler, her third collection takes the listener on a wild trip through heartbreak with some exquisite turns. The new music promises soul-baring lyrics over the sounds of rampant blues guitar and vintage country pop. Available now, the title track tells the story of a rambling rebel queen who rules the road and leaves countless broken hearts scattered across the highway in her wake. She sings, “Miles and miles no signs of slowing/It ain’t who she loves it’s who’s she’s holdin’.” “I was always a smart girl, always had to yell to be heard,” she says, “but this was the first time in my career where I decided how things were going to go; I was willing to take the heat.” Highway Queen arrives Feb. 17.
Little Big Town, The Breaker
When the band announced their 2017 residency at the Ryman, Karen Fairchild said their seventh studio album will explore the different roles of breaking and how it affects one’s humanity. “The record is called The Breaker for multiple reasons,” she said. “It’s a song. It’s written by T.J. Osborne (of Brothers Osborne) and Connie Harrington that is beautiful. I think there’s lots of ways you get broken. Sometimes you are the breaker. Sometimes it’s looking ahead at the future and what’s on the horizon breaking. There’s just so many ways that it ties into the record and for us as a band.” When they released the lead single “Better Man” on Oct. 20, they decided to wait at least two weeks for fans to live with the song before revealing that it was a Taylor Swift original. The Feb. 24 album release date coincides with the opening night of their 2017 residency at the Ryman. Additional shows are scheduled for Feb. 25, May 19-20 and Sept. 15-16. Brent Cobb opens the Feb. 24 show, with Ashley Monroe set to open on Feb. 25.
“Every record has a life of its own or a personality of its own and this one really has its own personality, too,” Phillip Sweet added. “I think we went in this time with even more confidence and with an idea to push ourselves even further.”
Brad Paisley, Love and War
Paisley’s 11th studio album will likely be his most eclectic release to date. Co-produced with Luke Wooten, the collection will feature the Demi Lovato duet “Without a Fight,” plus collaborations with Rolling Stones front man Mick Jagger and hip hop’s Timbaland. Love and War’s current single “Today” is inside the Top 15 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart. Paisley was also the first wedding singer to perform the song as a first dance soundtrack for Tyler Farr and Hannah Freeman at their Oct. 10 reception. “The song ‘Today’ is a song that I started writing actually years ago,” Paisley said. “This is one of those things where you look at life and you think of the greatest moments of your life — the way that they linger with you and the way that they get you through the things that aren’t the greatest moments of your life.” His new Life Amplified World Tour: Live at WVU concert DVD and CD are available now. The winter 2017 leg of the Life Amplified World Tour picks up Feb. 1 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario with Lindsay Ell and Chase Bryant.