Last year ended with a trickle of new albums, but that stream will turn into a torrent as 2011 opens up.
Ahead lie new titles from such heavyweights as Brad Paisley, Sara Evans, Joe Nichols and the Grascals and from a host of promising newcomers, among them Steel Magnolia, Thompson Square, James Wesley, Craig Campbell and Sarah Darling.
There are plenty of reissues as well, including packages from Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Willie Nelson and the Jayhawks.
After wowing his fans in November with Hits Alive, a double album of radio singles and concert pieces, Paisley will return April 19 with This Is Country Music. The CD takes its title, of course, from the lyrical manifesto Paisley debuted on the 2010 CMA Awards show, shortly before he won the entertainer of the year prize.
Nichols will bow his Greatest Hits Jan. 25, an assemblage that ranges from his first attention-getter, "The Impossible," in 2002 to last year's chart-topper, "Gimmie That Girl." On March 8, Evans rolls out Stronger, her first studio album since 2005.
The Music Inside: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings, Vol. I comes out Feb. 8. Despite its rather ponderous title, it sparkles with performances from Alabama (reunited for the occasion), Jamey Johnson, John Hiatt, Kris Kristofferson, Patty Griffin, Trace Adkins, James Otto and others, including Jennings' widow, Jessi Colter, and their son, Shooter Jennings.
Here, in chronological order, are other country, bluegrass and Americana titles of interest:
Jan. 4: Nathan Stanley, My Kind of Country, including country classics duetted with Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Ralph Stanley, Gene Watson, John Anderson, Larry Sparks, Little Jimmy Dickens, Rhonda Vincent and others.
Jan. 10: The Grascals, The Grascals & Friends, available only at Cracker Barrel Restaurants, a collection of country standards with guest performances by Brad Paisley, Dierks Bentley, Dolly Parton, Tom T. Hall, Darryl Worley, Charlie Daniels, the Oak Ridge Boys and Joe Nichols.
Jan 11: Steel Magnolia, Steel Magnolia.
Jan. 18: The Jayhawks, Hollywood Town Hall (expanded reissue) and Tomorrow the Green Grass (two CD reissue).
Jan. 25: James Wesley, Real; Willie Nelson, Playlist: The Very Best Gospel of Willie Nelson; Pete Anderson, Even Things Up; Lori McKenna, Lorraine.
Feb. 1: Hot Club of Cowtown, What Makes Bob Holler.
Feb. 8: Thompson Square, Thompson Square Steve Wariner, Guitar Laboratory.
Feb. 15: Sarah Darling, Angels & Devils; Jeff Bates, One Day Closer; Due West, Forget the Miles; Hayes Carll, KMAG YOYO (& Other American Stories); Charlie Sizemore, Heartache Looking for a Home.
Feb. 22: Johnny Cash, From Memphis to Hollywood a double album, the first CD of which covers Cash's career in Memphis from late 1954 to late 1957, beginning with a Memphis radio broadcast hosted by Cash, as well as a dozen demos (11 previously unreleased) and seven outtakes from Sun Records. The second disc gathers Cash's non-album singles, outtakes and B-sides he recorded for Columbia from 1958 to 1969, following his move to Los Angeles to pursue TV and film work as a songwriter and actor.
March 1: Craig Campbell, Craig Campbell; Lucinda Williams, Blessed; Elvis Presley, Elvis Is Back: Legacy Edition, a double album that embraces two albums Presley recorded in Nashville -- Elvis Is Back (1960) and Something for Everybody (1961).