A Dozen Upcoming Country Albums

New Releases on the Way to Make You Cherish Country Music Even More

If country music's your format, you'll be in hog heaven for the next few months. Here's a roundup of impending albums from headliners, newcomers and an old-timer that's guaranteed to lure out the most reclusive credit card.

Here's a list of 12 acts with new projects coming soon:

The Band Perry, Pioneer (April 2, Republic Nashville)

This album will arrive amid the echoes of a lead single -- "Better Dig Two" -- that crowned the country chart for two weeks. Produced by golden-fingered Dann Huff, Pioneer is being advanced as a collection "steeped in country tradition with rock 'n' roll elements." Given the wild appeal of "Better Dig Two" and the band's debut hit, "If I Die Young," will shadows of the Grim Reaper hover as potential musical topics? The brothers-and-sister trio will tour this summer with Rascal Flatts, as well as headline shows of its own.

Kenny Chesney, Life on a Rock (April 30, BNA)

Chesney's underappreciated gifts as a songwriter finally take the spotlight here where he's co-written eight of the 10 tracks. In league with longtime co-producer Buddy Cannon, the wandering troubadour recorded and mixed this, his 14th album, at studios in Los Angeles, Hawaii, Jamaica, Key West, London and Nashville. His lead single, "Pirate Flag," sets the strong personal tone that characterizes the whole collection. Chesney kicked off his No Shoes Nation tour Saturday (March 16) in Tampa.

Eric Church, Eric Church Live: Caught in the Act (April 9, EMI Nashville)

Recorded in October at the Tivoli Theatre in Chattanooga, Tenn., this album spotlights such sing-along crowd-rousers as "Springsteen," "Creepin'," "Smoke a Little Smoke" and "How 'Bout You." It will be released as a 17-track CD and as a 21-cut double-vinyl set. Church will tour this year with Kenny Chesney and headline an April 24 date in London.

Alan Jackson, Precious Memories Volume II ACR (March 26, ACR/EMI Nashville)

The Georgia native returned to the studio with longtime producer Keith Stegall to record another collection of gospel favorites such as "Amazing Grace," "Just as I Am," "Sweet Hour of Prayer" and "When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder." The first volume of Precious Memories, released in 2006, featured songs from a list he compiled with his wife. "Denise and I had made a list of 30 to 40 songs to do for that first album," he said. "We had so many that we didn't get to, I thought we'd go in and do a few more just the same way -- heartfelt and simple."

Lady Antebellum, Golden (May 7, Capitol Nashville)

Music has been seeping with tantalizing slownesss from Lady A's fourth studio album -- first the feisty and fun-loving "Downtown," then the sweet, euphoric title cut. All three members had a hand in writing "Golden," assisted by friend and labelmate Eric Paslay. The band wrote about half the material, much of which, according to Lady A's Charles Kelley, is "a little more organic and less polished."

Willie Nelson, Let's Face the Music and Dance (April 16, Sony Legacy)

Nelson surfaces with this salute to the pop songs of his youth exactly two weeks before his 80th birthday. Although very much in the spirit of his record-setting Stardust (1978), Let's Face the Music and Dance is more elastic in that it finds room for such thematic deviations as Carl Perkins' "Matchbox" and Django Reinhardt's "Nuages," as well as some of Nelson's own compositions. But the focus is on evergreens from the great American songbook, notably "You'll Never Know," "Twilight Time," "South of the Border," "Walking My Baby Back Home" and "I Can't Give You Anything but Love."

Brad Paisley, Wheelhouse (April 9, Arista Nashville)

The prodigiously gifted Paisley continues to mix the profound and the whimsical in his records -- and to attract a slew of guests artists to help him convey the finer points of his musical messages. On his new album, that cast of "extras" includes Dierks Bentley, Hunter Hayes, Charlie Daniels, LL Cool J and Monty Python's Eric Idle. Paisley has already released two singles from the album, "Southern Comfort Zone" and the currently climbing "Beat This Summer." Wheelhouse will be available as both a 17-song package and a 21-song "deluxe" edition. Paisley will kick off his Beat This Summer tour with Chris Young and Lee Brice on May 9 in St. Louis.

Pistol Annies, Annie Up (May 7, RCA Nashville)

Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley showed plenty of attitude on their 2001 debut, Hell on Heels. Judging by the song titles, they're not holding back on this one, either. How many albums these days begin with a song titled "I Feel a Sin Comin' On"? Other titles include "Blues, You're a Buzz Kill," "Unhappily Married, " "Dear Sobriety" and the current single, "Hush Hush." The three singer-songwriters composed all of the songs without any other writers. A vinyl version of the album will also be available May 7.

Darius Rucker, True Believers (May 21, Capitol Nashville)

At least in recent years, a significant string of hit singles has been a prerequisite for receiving an invitation to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry. By the time he was inducted last year, Rucker's country track record was undeniable. Despite co-writing the majority of the tracks on True Believers, his third country album, he shows his adventurous side with the project's current single, "Wagon Wheel." Written by Old Crow Medicine Show's Ketch Secor from a unfinished song composed by Bob Dylan, the unexpected choice is quickly edging toward the Top 10 on Billboard's country airplay chart.

Blake Shelton, Based on a True Story ... (March 26, Warner Bros)

Shelton says he came up with the title for this album after noticing how closely the songs paralleled events in his life. When he previewed it to programmers at the recent Country Radio Seminar, he said he wanted to make a rowdy sort of album that conformed to his current high-spirits and that he only reluctantly included a couple of ballads like the ones he used to record (think "Austin" and "The Baby"). He's already debuted the wily come-on, "Sure Be Cool If You Did," and said he hopes to follow it with the raucous "Boys 'Round Here." Then there's his combative "Still Got a Finger," which, he surmised with an eye to radio, will not be a single.

Tate Stevens, Tate Stevens (April 23, Syco Music/RCA)

Stevens comes to Music Row on the wings of having won the second season of The X Factor. Besides netting him a reported $5 million record contract, his strong, versatile vocals also caught the attention of some of Nashville's most chart-savvy songwriters. Dallas Davidson, Ben Hayslip, Rivers Rutherford, David Lee Murphy, Kim Tribble and Carson Chamberlain are among the lyrical throng that contributed material to this fledgling effort. Blake Chancey produced it, and Stevens co-wrote three of its 11 songs. The lead single is "Power of a Love Song."

Thompson Square, Just Feels Good (March 26, Stoney Creek)

The reigning ACM and CMA vocal duo of the year roll in with a sophomore album fronted by its latest Top 10 single, "If I Didn't Have You." The Thompsons co-wrote five of the collection's 13 songs, including the autobiographical "how we met" chronicle, "That's So Me and You." Prominent among the writers contributing to the album is David Lee Murphy, who co-authored their debut hit, "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not." He has four cuts here. The husband-and-wife team will be opening for Luke Bryan's Dirt Road Diaries tour through October.

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