Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Brooks & Dunn, Martina McBride, Brad Paisley and Gretchen Wilson are among the top artists planning to release new albums during 2007, and the year promises the introduction of several new acts, too.
Whether it's a superstar performer or a brand new act, creating memorable music remains a constant challenge and a major joy.
"It's cool to know that you can be 10 albums into a career -- and 15, 17 years into it to playing on the road -- and still feel like I'm just beginning to learn how to do it," Tim McGraw told CMT Insider. His new album, Let It Go, will be released March 27 on Curb Records.
"I feel like I'm just starting to get better," McGraw said. "I try to get better every project, but I feel like now I'm starting to get a handle on a little bit. I feel like there's tons of room for improvement, and all I want to do as an artist is try to get better and better ... and make better music."
Album release schedules often change at all record labels, so dates are rarely set in stone until a few months before the CDs are shipped to the marketplace. And while this is by no means a complete list of all the music scheduled for release by Nashville-based labels and artists, here's an overview of some of the projects you can expect in 2007:
Rascal Flatts, whose 2006 release, Me and My Gang, has sold more than 3.5 million copies, will likely release their next Lyric Street project in October. McBride's new RCA Nashville album, still untitled, is due on April 3. It follows up Timeless, her 2005 tribute to classic country.
Brooks & Dunn and Brad Paisley will be working on new albums for Arista Nashville, although release dates have not been set. The same is the case for Gretchen Wilson's third project for Columbia.
George Strait fans can look forward to the spring release of a live album recorded at Texas Stadium with Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson in 2004. A second volume of Alabama's gospel music, Songs of Inspiration, is expected in late March or early April on RCA Nashville.
Larry the Cable Guy will be one of the big profit centers at Warner Bros. Nashville with the release of his new CD (on April 17) and DVD (June 5). Warner Bros. is continuing to emphasize comedy, as evidenced by the release of Lisa Lampanelli's new CD and DVD on Jan. 30. Known for her outrageous and often blue material, Lampanelli has been a frequent guest on Howard Stern's radio show. Warner Bros. is also scheduling the Feb. 13 release of Bill Engvall's new CD. A DVD will follow on March 27.
Also in the comedy realm, Texas native Rodney Carrington will release his new Capitol Nashville CD, King of the Mountains, on April 3. Carrington's DVD, Live at the Majestic, arrives April 24.
Other established music acts are releasing new albums.
Jack Ingram's This Is It arrives March 27 on Big Machine Records. Gary Allan will deliver his first greatest hits compilation sometime this spring on MCA Nashville. At Warner Bros., Blake Shelton's Pure BS is set to arrive in the spring, to be followed by a new CD from Rick Trevino in late spring or early summer.
With Warner Bros. serving as home to the MuzikMafia, it should be noted that Big & Rich are expected to release their third album during the late spring or summer, with a similar target date set for Cowboy Troy's second CD. In the meantime, John Anderson -- a newcomer to the MuzikMafia fold -- returns to Warner Bros. with the May 15 release of Easy Money.
Miranda Lambert's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, her second album for Columbia, will be released May 1. Lambert wrote or co-wrote eight of the 11 songs, and the project also includes material from Patty Griffin, Gillian Welch and others.
Dierks Bentley's latest Capitol Nashville album was released just 13 weeks ago, but his concert DVD, Live and Loud at the Fillmore, arrives March 20. Chris Cagle is working on another Capitol album that could be released by the end of the year.
Big Machine Records anticipates new albums by Jimmy Wayne and Danielle Peck to be released by late summer. Universal South is planning the fall release of Joe Nichols' latest work. Lyric Street's Josh Gracin will have a new CD in stores this spring. While all three artists are expected to release new albums in 2007, release dates are still being determined for Sara Evans' next CD for RCA, Keith Anderson's second project for Arista and Van Zant's second collection for Columbia.
Clint Black has recorded new versions of several of his past hits for Love Songs, to be released Jan. 30 by the Equity Music Group. Black is also working on a CD of new material set for release this summer. Also at Equity, Little Big Town will follow their platinum-certified debut for the label with a new CD to be released this fall. Mark Wills is expected to release his new album in early spring, and Carolyn Dawn Johnson's new project will arrive by late summer.
Other established artists have moved to new labels for their next CDs. Mary Chapin Carpenter's The Calling will be released March 6 by Zoë/Rounder. Lawrence has established his own company, Rocky Mountain Records, and will release For the Love on Jan. 30. American Idol judge Randy Jackson is producing Travis Tritt's new album that's scheduled to be released in September. As yet untitled, it's Tritt's first project for Category 5 Records. Clay Walker's first album for Curb Records arrives in stores March 13. Terri Clark is working on her first CD for BNA Records, but a specific release date has not been set.
Among the new crop of artists, Arista Nashville's Jason Michael Carroll has already made a splash with his debut single, "Alyssa Lies." His debut album, Waitin' in the Country, will be released Feb. 6.
Lori McKenna gained national attention when three of her songs showed up on Faith Hill's Fireflies album. McKenna's new album for Warner Bros. will be released this spring.
At Lyric Street, American Idol finalist Bucky Covington has just released the single, "A Different World." His debut album will be released April 17. Sarah Buxton's debut album for Lyric Street is tentatively set to arrive this summer. In the meantime, she'll be cashing royalty checks for co-writing Keith Urban's current Top 10 hit, "Stupid Boy."
Newcomer Ashley Monroe, receiving airplay for her duet with Ronnie Dunn on "I Don't Want To," will be releasing her Columbia debut album sometime this year. Cole Deggs & the Lonesome, a five-piece band that has been touring with Miranda Lambert and others, will also release an album for Columbia this year. Their new single is titled "I Got More." Australian-born Catherine Britt is also on RCA's 2007 release schedule. Her new single, "What I Did Last Night," will be released to country radio stations later this month.
Former Nashville Star finalist Lance Miller's Warner Bros. debut album will be released in late summer. Pennsylvania native Dusty Drake moves to Big Machine for the summer release of his second album. Drake's new single is titled "Say Yes." Big Machine has also scheduled a March 6 release date for acclaimed singer-songwriter Sunny Sweeney's Heartbreaker's Hall of Fame.
Another newcomer, Laura Bryna, will release her first project for the Equity Music Group in early summer. And Georgia native Luke Bryan is scheduled to release his Capitol Nashville debut album in June.