Hot-blooded meets cool-and-collected as Eric Church and Frankie Ballard lead the list of new albums arriving Tuesday (Feb. 11).
After the No. 1 success of 2011's Chief, Church's fourth studio album, The Outsiders, is the North Carolina native's most defiant statement of individuality yet.
"When we started this album, I knew I was at a point in my career where I had two choices," Church told reporters at a press event. "I could continue to do songs like 'Drink in My Hand,' 'Springsteen' and 'Creepin',' or I could make a conscious effort to challenge myself and do something that was artistic."
After sifting through more than 100 songs, Church and longtime producer Jay Joyce filled The Outsiders with selections like "Give Me Back My Hometown," "The Wrecking Ball," "The Joint" and the album's title track.
"I don't know how it's going to be received," Church emphasized. "I don't know that I care. Creatively, we are trying to be relevant with our music."
Following a different path -- but nonetheless also trying to define himself as an artist -- is Ballard with his sophomore effort, Sunshine & Whiskey.
"My approach was to pick great songs, whether or not I thought they fit any trends," he said. "Some are old school, some are new school, but if it moved me, I'd record it. People are going to be able to sink their teeth into this from track one all the way down to track 11."
His picks include the Top 10 hit "Helluva Life" and two fan favorites from his previous release, "Tell Me You Get Lonely" and "Sober Me Up."
Independent releases this week include Texas-born songwriter Robert Ellis' cinematic second album The Lights From the Chemical Plant and the rootsy, New Orleans melting pot of Hurray for the Riff Raff's Small Town Heroes.
After stepping away from her growing career to start a family in 2009, singer-songwriter Reagan Boggs makes her return with Quicksand, while Noah Gunderson brings spirituality to his first secular release, Ledges.
Appalachian-raised Americana artist Irene Kelley delivers her first new project in 10 years, Pennsylvania Coal, while songwriter and road dog Rod Picott sticks up for the working man with Hang Your Hopes on a Crooked Nail.