Key Changes: New Country Mega Albums

In previous blog posts, we’ve talked about how being in isolation during the coronavirus pandemic has caused many artists to make unique new music and innovative albums. This time around, it’s the Country Music Edition, featuring two artists who have created double and triple albums of their best work in the past year. Don’t miss these exciting large-scale projects from big names and hitmakers from the country music world!

First up, Eric Church. Heart and Soul were released in April, two weeks apart, and they’re designed to be part of a trilogy set. The third album, called ‘&’, which unites the two, is being exclusively released on vinyl to Church’s fan club. Heart and Soul are the two bookend albums with nine songs each, featuring songs each written and recorded in a single-day marathon recording session in early 2020, according to an interview with Church about the release. This allowed writers and musicians to collaborate more directly than in his previous work, a process which Church says produced a “special, special project.”

 

Second, Sturgill Simpson. Rather than releasing new tracks, Simpson has remixed his older country songs into bluegrass versions. Cuttin’ Grass vol. 1: the Butcher Shoppe Sessions, and Cuttin’ Grass vol. 2: The Cowboy Arms Sessions are two albums which pay homage to bluegrass music with powerful and creative versions of Simpson’s earlier works. Volume 2, released in April, also features a previously un-released track shared with Simpson by the late Merle Haggard. A longtime trendsetter in the country music genre, Simpson has now created a pair of albums that explore his inspirations, grounding his transcendent themes in an earthy style.

Recently Added: Quarantine Music

I think it’s safe to say the last few months have changed a lot of plans. Countless goals and dreams and ways of thinking have been forced to adapt, be revised, or be put to rest. One way, both beautiful and bittersweet, that these changes are expressed is through the art we create. Taylor Swift is a good example of what can be created in these unusual circumstances, but there are several other cases of creative projects altered by pandemic that are worth looking at. All the albums listed have recently been ordered for the library and will be available soon.

how i’m feeling now by Charli XCX is an album that was created in a truly unique way, unlikely to have arisen except in the context of self-isolation. The artist announced (where else?) on a Zoom call  that she would be making an album in self-isolation and that she would use only the tools at her fingertips to create the music, album art, everything.  Moreover, she worked collaboratively with her fans to get feedback on tracks, album art, and more. The result has been highly acclaimed by critics and fans.

In A Dream by Troye Sivan is the artist’s third album, following 2018’s Bloom. According to Sivan, this album represents an emotional rollercoaster, where emotions and feelings are shockingly fresh. Similar to Taylor Swift’s journey with Folklore, this album was made while Sivan was in lockdown in Melbourne, and it was facilitated by the boredom and isolation of the experience. Songs were created day by day and it was an unexpected realization to find that an entire album had materialized.

Here On Earth by Tim McGraw, in contrast to previous examples, was planned and recorded before the pandemic, but was unmistakably altered by it. The tour originally planned to accompany the release had to be canceled, and according to an interview with Rolling Stone, McGraw had to reexamine the record in light of the pandemic to see how its emotional impact had been changed. Some tracks, including I Called Mama, were found to have unexpected emotional weight.

ALICIA by Alicia Keys was also planned ahead of time, but struck a timely chord with its themes. Critics said the album struck a balance between hope and despair, and Keys herself said the album showed the value of introspection – something we’ve all had more time to do lately, right? The album was scheduled for release in March, but was delayed by the pandemic until September. In the meantime, various virtual performances allowed Keys to debut songs from the album ahead of its release, including the iHeart Living Room Concert for America.

My Way by Willie Nelson on CD

Guest post by Laura V.

I became a Willie Nelson fan around 2005. This was also about the same time I became enamored with Patsy Cline and Lyle Lovett. Old-style country is one of the many music genres that has my heart. I also like old-school jazz like Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra so this was a fusion of tunes I was eager to hear.

Nelson and Sinatra were good friends so what better way to honor an old friend’s memory? It’s a bit odd to hear Nelson backed by jazz music but the steel pedal guitar and the harmonica brings the music back home to Nelson’s Texas roots. He interprets the well-known and often covered songs in his one-of-a-kind style, a kind of slow half-speaking, half-singing conversation with the audience.

I was not completely awed by My Way but I really enjoyed “Summer Wind” and I found myself a little misty-eyed with his version of “My Way”, the last track of the album. Sinatra fans and Nelson fans alike should give this release a listen.

New CDs for October

Michael Buble — Nobody But Me

The 9th studio album and first in three years from the multi-Grammy, multi-platinum award winning singer. It follows the critically acclaimed To Be Loved album which was his fourth album to reach No. 1 on Billboard’s Top 200 Charts.

 

 

Colbie Caillat — The Malibu Sessions

Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat returns with the follow up to her 2014 album Gypsy Heart. Her sixth studio album also includes the single Goldmine.

 

 

Kenny Chesney — Some Town Somewhere

Country superstar Kenny Chesney releases the follow-up to his hit album The Big Revival. His latest includes the single Noise, which is quickly rising up the country charts.

 

 

 

Green Day — Revolution Radio

After four years, Green Day return with a brand new album, their first release since being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Their latest includes the new single Bang Bang.

 

 

Norah Jones — Day Breaks

One of music’s most beautiful and critically acclaimed voices returns with an album that finds her returning to her jazz roots.

 

 

Kings of Leon — Walls

Kings Of Leon release the follow-up to their Mechanical Bull album. Includes the songs Waste A Moment; Find Me; Over; and more.

 

 

Pitbull — Climate Change

International icon Pitbull releases his 10th full-length album that features an array of superstar and burgeoning musical guests including Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, Prince Royce, Jason Derulo, Stephen Marley and more.

 

 

Rascal Flatts — The Greatest Gift of All

Country superstars Rascal Flatts release their first ever holiday album, which features both new and classic tracks like Strange Way to Save the World; The First Noel, and Someday at Christmas.

 

New CDs for July

Blink-192 — California

Nearly five years after their last album, Blink-182 releases their seventh studio album. It marks a change for the band as Alkaline Trio’s Matt Skiba joins the group.

 

 

 

Jake Owen — American Love

Country star Jake Owen releases his fifth studio album, which includes the single American Country Love Song.

 

 
Hillary Scott & The Scott Family — Love Remains

A collection of thirteen faith-based songs featuring Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, her mom Linda Davis, father Lang Scott, and little sister Rylee Scott, all produced by Ricky Skaggs.

 
Steven Tyler — We’re All Somebody from Somewhere

A highly anticipated first solo country album from Steven Tyler, the voice of rock band Aerosmith. His first single, Love Is Your Name, hit number one on the Billboard Country Streaming Songs chart.

 
Switchfoot — Where the Light Shines Through

For the first time in ten years, Switchfoot went back to the studio with producer John Fields to work on their tenth studio album. While moving forward, the band does look back, and there is a lot of nostalgia flowing through the album.

 
Various Artists — Hamilton Original Broadway Cast Recording

With its unique mix of history and hip-hop, Hamilton has become one of the most talked-about productions on Broadway.

New CDs for May

Eric Clapton — I Still Do

Music legend Eric Clapton has reunited with famed producer Glyn Johns for his forthcoming 23 studio album, set for release on May 20, 2016 on his Bushbranch /Surfdog Records. The twelve-track record includes some original songs written by Clapton.

 

 

Goo Goo Dolls — Boxes

The eleventh album from the Goo Goo Dolls is a vibrant, sonically forward-looking album with indelible melodies, intimate, heartfelt lyrics, and an anthemic, uplifting vibe. Features the single Over and Over.

 

 

Ariana Grande — Dangerous Woman

Grammy Award nominee and pop superstar Ariana Grande returns with her third album, which includes the tracks Dangerous Woman and Be Alright.

 

 

Cole Swindell — You Should Be Here

Cole Swindell releases the follow up his successful debut album, which earned him the ACM Award for New Artist of the Year. Along with the title track, which is also the first single, there is a collaboration with Dierks Bentley.

 

 

Meghan Trainor — Thank You

Meghan Trainor releases her highly anticipated sophomore album three months after winning the Grammy Award for Best New Artist. The first single, NO, made its debut on On Air With Ryan Seacrest.

 

 

Keith Urban — Ripcord

Four-time Grammy winner and judge on the farewell season of American Idol is releasing his eighth studio album. Features the hit singles John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16 and Break on Me.

New CDs for July

Chemical Brothers — Born in the Echoes

The Grammy Winning Chemical Brothers return with their first album in five years and quickly remind fans of their influence and importance.

 

 

Finger Eleven — Five Crooked Lines

Finger Eleven prepares to release their seventh studio album, which is also their first new full-length in five years. Immediate, urgent, and unfiltered, it expresses the exultant spirit of rock n’ roll.
Buddy Guy — Born to Play Guitar

Legendary blues icon Buddy Guy returns with the follow-up to his 2013 album, Rhythm and Blues. Joining him here are such guests as Van Morrison, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Joss Stone, and Kim Wilson.

 

 


Jason Isbell — Something More Than Free

Jason Isbell returns with the follow-up to his acclaimed 2013 album Southeastern. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he stated that this release will be less dark. It also includes the track 24 Frames.
Alan Jackson — Angels and Alcohol

Country superstar Alan Jackson returns with his first new studio album in three years. It also marks 25 years since he released his debut album. Jackson had a hand in writing seven of the album’s ten tracks.
Owl City — Mobile Orchestra

Owl City, the artist behind hits like Fireflies, is back with his fifth album. The first single, Verge, features vocals from Aloe Blacc. There are also appearances from Hanson and country star Jake Owen.

 

 

Joss Stone — Water For Your Soul

Soulful singer Joss Stone returns with her first new album since 2012’s The Soul Sessions, Vol. 2. Includes the tracks The Answer; Stuck On You; and Let Me Breathe.

Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass

With my interest in country music and the classic groups, I found this book fascinating. It is the fictionalized story of the Browns, two sisters and their brother, who sound was called Nashville Chrome. At the height of their fame, this singing trio was second only to Elvis, and even the Beatles shared a few jam sessions with their idols. Have you ever heard of the Browns? I hadn’t.

The focus of Nashville Chrome is Maxine, the eldest sibling, and the novel goes back and forth in time sweeping over her childhood in Poplar Creek, the tough years on the road singing and recording, to a decrepit old age living on social security when a trip to Piggly Wiggly represents a major expedition. Maxine is the driving force behind the trio–the one who takes their singing career so much more seriously, but perhaps that’s because for her, the stakes are so much higher.

Bass’s style underscores the mythic qualities of the tale, for while the Browns’ story is true, at times it almost seems too fantastic to be anything less than fiction. Fate repeatedly seems to intervene in lives marked by the highs and lows of incredibly bad luck and amazing strokes of good fortune.