With summer almost here and the mercury rising, let’s dip into a freshly-filled pool of country albums. They’re always good
for some much-needed relief.
Veterans and newcomers alike are submitting new projects in the next couple of months,
and all are hoping to become your favorite warm-weather jam of 2012. Some are best suited for cruising with the windows down,
and others will do nicely with a hammock and a shade tree. TV stars, rockers and gospel singers are all in the mix.
alphabetical order by artist, here are a dozen fresh albums poised to help you wring the last drop of juice out of your early
Chris Cagle, Back in the Saddle
faded from the spotlight in 2008, it was a much needed break. “I had become somebody who I didn’t want to be,” says the singer.
In the years since then, he’s regained a sense of purpose by building his dream ranch, getting married, having a daughter
and spending his time raising and training horses. With his aptly-titled Back in the Saddle arriving May 29, Cagle
returns to show he’s still “as rowdy as redneck can get.” But more importantly, he’s healthy. “I’m happy,” he says. “You’re
gonna hear the smile through the radio.”
Kenny Chesney, Welcome
to the Fishbowl
After years performing as the undisputed king of summer concert tours, Chesney knows what it means
to live with all eyes on you. For his 13th studio album, out June 19, he brings that idea down to ground level. “You don’t
have to be in the public eye for your business to be everybody’s business,” says Chesney. He’s titled the new project Welcome
to the Fishbowl to highlight that idea. Along with the title track and his familiar country-meets-the-beach flavor, the
new album also includes his duet with Tim McGraw, “Feel Like a Rock Star.”
Edens Edge, Edens Edge
Edens Edge are a gospel-influenced
trio from Arkansas that have recently been profiled as artists to watch. The group reached the Top 20 with their debut single,
“Amen,” and are really taking their follow-up, “Too Good to Be True,” literally.
“For years, we played music in our hometowns, so it’s been thrilling to do what we love on a broader scale,” says lead vocalist
Hannah Blaylock. “And now, to release our first album … is just ‘too good to be true.’” The self-titled album comes out
June 12, and they will open concerts during Rascal Flatts’ Changed tour.
The Farm, The Farm
The Farm, a new trio, think of their
group as a musical melting pot. Pulling influences from country, pop and RB, Nick Hoffman, Damien Horne and Krista Marie
met in Nashville as songwriters but quickly realized their vocal harmony was unique. “It’s really three elements that you
bring together,” says Marie. “Like earth, wind, fire — and there we are.” Aiming for a July 17 release, their self-titled
debut album features the single “Home Sweet Home,” which is currently
at No. 23 on Billboard‘s country songs chart. You might also recognize the tune as the theme song to CMT’s new series,
Jennie Garth: A Little Bit Country.
Jackson, Thirty Miles West
Jackson’s incredible career is a long way from slowing down. In fact, it’s at
least Thirty Miles West, the title of his upcoming album. Planned for a June 5 release, the title comes straight from
his childhood. “I grew up on Highway 34 outside of Newman, Ga.,” he says. “I think we were about 30 miles west of the Dixie
Highway” which runs all the way from South Florida to Michigan. He’s currently heading north toward his 36th No. 1 country
song with “So You Don’t Have to Love Me Anymore.”
Jana Kramer, Jana Kramer
This former TV starlet had a big role
on the CW’s hit show One Tree Hill as femme fatale Alex Dupre. Her real-life persona is slightly kinder and gentler,
though, since she regularly says in concert that she doesn’t want to kill her ex-boyfriends, just make them suffer a little.
Jokes aside, her self-titled debut was produced by Scott Hendricks, the hit maker responsible for some of Blake
Shelton and Brooks Dunn’s most enduring work. Featuring “Why Ya Wanna,” a bouncy tune about running into an ex, the album
comes out June 5.
Aaron Lewis, The Road
the success of “Country Boy” and his Town Line EP last year,
Lewis is moving ahead with The Road, his first full-length country album. The hard-rocking Staind frontman had originally
planned to add five new songs to Town Line and call it a day, but inspiration intervened, and a whole new batch of
material was recorded. His first single, “Endless Summer,” is
out now, and you can start pounding the pavement with the rest of his tunes on June 26.
and Theft, Love and Theft
Love and Theft have reinvented themselves after trimming down from a trio to duo,
but the band members say they’re actually much closer to their original vision now. “Stephen [Barker Liles] and I have always
been on the same page as far as the vision for Love and Theft,” says co-lead singer Eric Gunderson. “We feel like we have
made the record we’ve always wanted to make.” Splitting vocal duties on their self-titled debut, out July 24, the pair come
up with a smooth sound that will steal your heart. Check out their “Angel
Eyes” video on CMT.com.
Willie Nelson, Heroes
age 79, Nelson connects modern classics with the days of old on his just-released new album, Heroes. On it, his inspiring
takes on Coldplay’s “The Scientist” and Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe” stand shoulder to shoulder with dusty gems from the ’30s
and ’40s. A highlight of the project has got to be “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I’m Gone,” a new tune featuring Jamey
Johnson, Kris Kristofferson and Snoop Dogg. Merle
Haggard, Billy Joe Shaver, Sheryl
Crow, Nelson’s sons Lukas and Micah and Ray Price also show up on other
Grace Potter the Nocturnals,
The Lion the Beast the Beat
Potter introduced herself to country fans this year as the sultry voice tempting
Kenny Chesney on “You and Tequila.”
She’ll be opening shows on Chesney and Tim McGraw’s super-sized Brothers of the Sun stadium tour with her well-equipped rock
band, but for her new album, The Lion the Beast the Beat, the Vermont native is pushing into new territory. On top
of her striking vocals, her latest single “Never Go Back” ditches the rock and soul mix in favor of electronic pop. Find out
where Potter’s vision leads on June 12.
Josh Turner, Punching
After spending two years building a songwriting cottage in his backyard, Turner came up with the perfect idea
for his new album’s title track. “I had just had one of those days,” he says. “And I came home and was standing in the closet
with my wife, and I unloaded on her about my day. I told her, ‘Sometimes I feel like a punching bag, like life is just beating
me up.’” A total of 27 songs came out of the cottage, and eight made the final cut for his new album. The first single, “Time Is Love,” is already helping count down the days until we can
hear the rest on June 12.
Zac Brown Band, Uncaged
Zac Brown Band picked up a new member for their third major label album, Uncaged. Percussionist Daniel de los Reyes
has laid down the groove for artists like Earth, Wind Fire and Jennifer Lopez, and Brown boasts that the new lineup
“creates a new kind of pulse within the band.” Already know for a smooth reggae-meets-country rock feel, the band members
say they just want to make people dance. With this new addition, you can bet the scruffy Georgians will be able to stretch
out their jams even longer. Uncaged lets loose on July 10.