Although Kenny Chesney is the only megaseller in the lineup, there are dozens of other interesting country, bluegrass and Americana albums -- plus a couple of DVDs -- headed your way during the first quarter of 2005.
Among these are comeback ventures from Lee Ann Womack and Jamie O'Neal, a collection of reissued material on the great Johnny Paycheck, a gospel songbag from Charlie Daniels, a live album and DVD from bluegrass lark Rhonda Vincent and the debut entries of several country newcomers.
Chesney's album, Be As You Are: Songs From an Old Blue Chair, is comprised of his own self-penned meditations on life in the Caribbean islands. The Paycheck reissue, On His Way, compiles the singer's recordings of the late '60s for the Hilltop and Little Darlin' labels and includes some of his first chart hits, including "A-11," "Heartbreak, Tennessee" and "The Lovin' Machine," plus such "B sides" as "Where in the World," "Help Me Hank, I'm Fallin'" and "Pride-Covered Ears."
After trying her hand at pop, Womack takes a more country tack in There's More Where That Came From -- as is amply apparent in the lead single, "I May Hate Myself In The Morning." After a meteoric launch on Mercury Records, O'Neal soon left the label, had a baby and wound up at Capitol Records, where she is still working with Keith Stegall, one of her original producers. "Trying to Find Atlantis," her first single from the new album, Brave, demonstrates the same feistiness and irony she displayed in her early hits.
The most recognizable name among the newcomers is that of Shooter Jennings, Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter's son. After having sampled rock music and found it wanting, he evangelizes for traditional sounds in the slyly titled Put the 'O' Back in Country. Miranda Lambert, third-place winner in the first Nashville Star talent contest, plumbs the various depths of separation in her first album, Kerosene. Jackson, Tenn., native Jessi Alexander wrote or co-wrote all the songs on her debut, Honeysuckle Sweet.
Kerry Harvick leads her self-titled calling card with the raucous "Cowgirl," which is a sort of "Redneck Woman -- Texas Style." Harvick first gained attention as the writer of John Michael Montgomery's "Til Nothing Comes Between Us." Just out of high school, Blaine Larsen has been riveting Music Row the past few months with his uncannily mature sound and lyrics, both of which are showcased in Off to Join the World. Although Larsen did not write the album's first single, "How Do You Get That Lonely," a musing about teen suicide, it does symbolize the seriousness of his music.
Also noteworthy among the albums to come are Chely Wright's first package since the dustup about her new single, "Bumper of My SUV." The Metropolitan Hotel includes "SUV" and seven other songs Wright wrote or co-wrote, as well as a cover of Chuck Berry's "C'est La Vie." Larry Sparks, the International Bluegrass Music Association's reigning male vocalist of the year, will bow a treasury of musical collaborations (with the likes of Vince Gill, Andy Griggs, Alison Krauss, Tom T. Hall and Ralph Stanley) that mark his 40th anniversary as a bluegrass performer. Coming from Louisiana native and Americana favorite Mary Gauthier (pronounced GO-shay) is Mercy Now, another gallery of dark visions.
Keep an ear out, as well, for the soundtrack album to the forthcoming PBS series The Appalachians: America's First and Last Frontier. It includes recordings by Flatt & Scruggs, Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, the Blue Sky Boys, Pete Seeger, Ricky Skaggs, Rosanne and Johnny Cash and many others of legendary stature.
Vincent's Ragin' Live is a CD and DVD drawn from a show she performed at the Sheldon Concert Center in St. Louis. Lonestar will release a collection of its videos, including the animated clip for their recent hit, "Mr. Mom."
Keeping in mind that album release schedules are always subject to change, here's a list of what you can expect through the end of March:
Jan. 25: Cast Iron Filter, Falls of Rough (Irongrass); Kenny Chesney, Be As You Are: Songs From an Old Blue Chair (BNA); Dry Branch Fire Squad, Live at the Newburyport Fire House (Rounder); Greencards, Movin' On (Dualtone); Ray Wylie Hubbard Delerium Tremelos (Philo); James King, Bluegrass Storyteller (Rounder); Sonny Landreth, Grant Street (Sugar Hill); Blaine Larsen, Off to Join the World (BNA); Lonestar, Greatest Video Hits (Featuring "Mr. Mom") DVD (BNA); Old 97's, Live DVD (New West); Johnny Paycheck, On His Way (Koch); LeAnn Rimes, This Woman (Curb); Mando Saenz, Watertown (Carnival); Various Artists, Come to the Mountain: Old Time Music for Modern Times (Rounder); Various Artists, Elko! A Cowboy's Gathering (Dualtone); Various Artists, Mountain Journey: Stars of Old Time Music (Rounder); Various Artists, Should Have Been Hits (Koch).
Feb. 1: Various Artists, Because of Winn-Dixie soundtrack (Nettwerk America).
Feb. 8: Tracy Byrd, Greatest Hits (BNA); The Duhks, The Duhks (Sugar Hill); The Grascals, The Grascals (Rounder); Reckless Kelly, Wicked Twisted Road (Sugar Hill); Cheryl Wheeler, Defying Gravity (Philo/Rounder); Lee Ann Womack, There's More Where That Came From (MCA); Various Artists, Deadwood: Music From the HBO Original Series (Lost Highway); Various Artists, Totally Country, Vol. 4 (RLG/SMG).
Feb. 15: Mary Gauthier, Mercy Now (Lost Highway); Kerry Harvick, Kerry Harvick (Lyric Street); Willie Nelson, Songs (Lost Highway).
Feb. 22: Chatham County Line, Route 23 (Yep Roc); Crooked Still, Hop High (Footprint); Hacienda Brothers, Hacienda Brothers (Koch); Dallas Wayne, I'm Your Biggest Fan (Koch); Chely Wright, The Metropolitan Hotel (Dualtone).
March 1: Jessi Alexander, Honeysuckle Sweet (Columbia); Shooter Jennings, Put the 'O' Back in Country (Universal South); Jamie O'Neal, Brave (Capitol); Larry Sparks, 40 (Rebel).
March 8: Deana Carter, The Story of My Life (Vanguard); Sarah Lee Guthrie and Johnny Irion, Exploration (New West); Craig Morgan, My Kind of Livin' (Broken Bow); Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Ragin' Live CD and DVD (Rounder); Various Artists, The Appalachians: America's First and Last Frontier soundtrack (Dualtone).
March 15: Miranda Lambert, Kerosene (Epic).
March 22: Charlie Daniels, Songs From the Longleaf Pine (Koch).
March 29: Glen Phillips, Winter Pays for Summer (Lost Highway); Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, You Gotta Dig a Little Deeper (Rounder).