Tim McGraw's newest album, Emotional Traffic, is finally seeing the light of day this winter, along with new albums by Dierks Bentley, Neal McCoy, Craig Morgan, Kellie Pickler and Rascal Flatts. Numerous artists are also spotlighted in two upcoming collections -- one for country ballads and the other in tribute to Waylon Jennings. Faith Hill and Lionel Richie are preparing new work, too.
McGraw's new project had been shelved by his label, Curb Records, because they felt it violated the timelines stipulated in his contract. However, a Nashville judge ruled that McGraw was free to record for a new label after completing his contract. In turn, Curb rushed a release date for the album, which arrives Tuesday (Jan. 24). The album includes the No. 1 hit, "Felt Good on My Lips." In addition, Faith Hill harmonizes with McGraw on "One Part, Two Part," while rapper Ne-Yo lends his talent to "Being Human."
Bentley's Home finds him in a comfortable spot. "Am I the Only One" has already climbed to No. 1, while the rising title track has resonated with country fans for its heartfelt patriotism. Bentley co-wrote six of the 12 tracks. Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild appears on the yearning duet, "When You Gonna Come Around." Bentley will preview his new material at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium on Feb. 2. Home arrives on Feb. 7 on Capitol Nashville.
A new Waylon Jennings tribute album, The Music Inside: A Collaboration Dedicated to Waylon Jennings, Volume II, will be released on Feb. 7. Bentley leads the project with "Lonesome, On'ry and Mean," followed by new recordings from Montgomery Gentry, Justin Moore and Hank Williams Jr. In addition, Jennings' widow, Jessi Colter, sings a spiritual song she wrote called "Mama." Other participating artists are Colt Ford, Pat Green, Jack Ingram, Jewel, Josh Thompson and newcomer Wyatt McCubbin. The album will be released by Average Joe's Entertainment in conjunction with Scatter Records.
McCoy and Morgan have built up sizable fan bases over the years with energetic shows and crowd-pleasing hits. This winter, their loyal audiences will be rewarded with new music released on new labels. McCoy's XII (a.k.a. Twelve) arrives on March 6 on Blaster Records. Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton and guitarist Brent Rowan co-produced the album. Meanwhile, Morgan's This Ole Boy arrives on Feb. 28 on Black River Entertainment. His charming video for the title track features actress Angie Harmon.
The endearing singer Pickler returns with 100 Proof on Jan. 24, less than a week after the new season of American Idol begins. The bubbly North Carolina native found fame on the show in season five, then launched a country career with "Red High Heels" and an active tour schedule. 100 Proof draws heavily on her traditional country influences. Although "Tough" faced a rather tough time at country radio, she's back on the charts with the sensual title track.
Rascal Flatts' upcoming album, Changed, is now on the books for April 3. It's the trio's second project for Big Machine Records. They co-produced it with Dann Huff. The lead single, "Banjo," was released to country radio earlier this month. Over the last 12 years, Rascal Flatts have notched a remarkable 26 Top 10 hits. Their latest entries include "Why Wait," "I Won't Let Go" and "Easy" featuring Natasha Bedingfield.
Drawing on Nashville's most familiar faces, a new compilation titled Now That's What I Call Country Ballads will be released on Jan. 24. The 18-track collection begins with the piano version of Taylor Swift's "Forever and Always." The project also includes ballads by Keith Urban ("Tonight I Wanna Cry"), The Band Perry ("If I Die Young") and many others.
Although no official date has been announced, keep an eye out for a new release by Hill, her first nonholiday album since Fireflies in 2005. In addition, Lionel Richie partnered with numerous country stars like Kenny Chesney, Billy Currington and Shania Twain to record Tuskegee, a duets album named for his hometown of Tuskegee, Ala.