With a new year and new decade comes new music from country music stars and genre-defiant Americana songwriters, as exemplified in 2020 by these 15 winter and spring releases.
Our list starts in February because January releases Re-Dunn by Ronnie Dunn; Love, Heartbreak & Everything in Between by Tenille Arts; Tullahoma by Dustin Lynch; Tornillo by Lil' Smokies and Nightfall by Little Big Town hit shelves before press time. Also, we skip potential 2020 releases without a firm release date, such as Garth Brooks' FUN, The Dixie Chicks' Gaslighter, The Hot Country Knights' debut and rumored new albums by Dan + Shay, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Kip Moore, Keith Urban and other Nashville stars.
With that in mind, here's a chronological rundown of this decade's first batch of must-hear country albums.
Country Fuzz, The Cadillac Three
Expect The Cadillac Three's Feb. 7 release Country Fuzz to live up to its name. Advanced track "Hard Out Here for a Country Boy" features Chris Janson and Travis Tritt and, as its special guests imply, sounds equal parts modern and nostalgic. The rest of the track listing reads like a round of infectiously fun drinking songs.
LP5, John Moreland
It's hard to define John Moreland, whether you're assigning him a made-up folk sub-genre or trying to pin down the emotions stirred by one of his lyrical masterpieces. One thing's for sure based on the easygoing tune "East October"--His fifth full-length LP (out Feb. 7) should be among the first must-hear albums of the year.
Far From Home, Aubrie Sellers
Americana isn't just another word for country music that's never played on commercial radio. Throwback soul (Yola) and rock 'n' roll (Lilly Hiatt, whose March 27 release Walking Proof should be another good one) also exist and thrive under the Americana banner. Another rocker at heart, Lee Ann Womack and Jason Sellers' daughter Aubrie Sellers, backs this up Feb. 7 with songs that owe as much to Cheap Trick as country music.
Carly Pearce, Carly Pearce
Few on this list of mainstream heavy-hitters and critical darlings previewed their album with a song as amazing as "Call Me." Its lyrics and Carly Pearce's vocal performance could've been the makings of a crossover hit in just about any decade. There'll be more where that came from on Valentine's Day when Pearce's self-titled album hits shelves and streaming services.
Saturn Return, The Secret Sisters
Alabamians Laura and Lydia Rogers' critically-acclaimed recording project The Secret Sisters gets taken to the next level with the Feb. 28 release of Saturn Return. It's the latest release by an established act made even better by the production skills of Brandi Carlile and her twin band mates Phil and Tim Hanseroth. For a taste of things to come, check out the dreamy escape "Hand Over My Heart."
The Dream, Hailey Whitters
One of the new year's most promising artists, Hailey Whitters, will back up recent hype with the Feb. 28 release of The Dream. The "Heartland" and "Janice at the Hotel Bar" singer's potential breakthrough release features co-writes with Lori McKenna, Hillary Lindsey, Nicolle Galyon and Brandy Clark.
Your Life is a Record, Brandy Clark
Songwriting great Brandy Clark's solo albums are like text-based small towns filled with with all sorts of quirky, tragic and, most importantly, relatable characters. Examples of this include a song for all of us wanna-be Elvises, "Who You Thought I Was." Clark's latest album kicks off a big month of releases by talented singer-songwriters: The following week's releases will be highlighted by Caitlyn Smith's Supernova.
The Panhandlers, The Panhandlers
Our Red Dirt contingent's likely got March 6 circled on their calendars. That's the release date of The Panhandlers' self-titled debut. The Texas supergroup of William Clark Green, Cleto Cordero, Josh Abbott and John Baumann honor their home state with such collaborative songs as "No Handle."
Kelsea, Kelsea Ballerini
Details are scarce about Kelsea, out March 20. We do know for sure that Kelsea Ballerini's third album will include current radio single "Homecoming Queen?" and another previously released cut, "Club." In a September 2019 interview with British publication Music Week, Ballerini teased two collaborations (fingers crossed for Halsey) and a song with a string quartet.
Better Hurry Up, Caleb Caudle
Singer-songwriter Caleb Caudle tapped into some of that Carter-Cash magic by recording Better Hurry Up, out April 3, at the Cash Cabin Studio. The track list includes Caudle's co-write with Highwomen member Natalie Hemby ("Regular Riot") as well as a star-studded title track featuring hand claps by Courtney Marie Andrews, Elizabeth Cook, John Paul White and Caudle's parents.
Southside, Sam Hunt
Sam Hunt's only album to date, Montevallo, came out way back in 2014. Despite the record-setting success of 2017's "Body Like a Back Road," Hunt seemed in no hurry to deliver a sophomore full-length. That changes with the April 3 release of Southside, a collection featuring current single "Kinfolks" as well as another song that's already made the rounds online, "Sinning With You."
Never Will, Ashley McBryde
Some of 2019's best albums followed up mainstream debuts by Luke Combs, Maren Morris and others. Now it's Ashley McBryde's turn to build off the momentum from 2018's Girl Going Nowhere with a collection of fresh material. The April 3 release will be anchored by hard-hitting story-songs "One Night Standards" and "Martha Divine."
Years, John Anderson
John Anderson makes a late career statement not unlike Johnny Cash's storied American Recordings and Tanya Tucker's multi-Grammy award-winning While I'm Livin' with the Dan Auerbach-produced Years, out April 10. The confessional title track reintroduces a man who's experienced quite the career and survived unspecified health scares.
The Way It Feels, Maddie & Tae
Maddie & Tae's long-awaited sophomore album arrives April 10 and compiles songs off recent EPs with five brand-new tracks. Retreads include the fantastic Dierks Bentley team-up "Lay Here With Me" and biting breakup song "Die From a Broken Heart." It's part compilation of songs you love, part opportunity to fall for Maddie Marlow and Taylor Dye's freshest material.
Born Here, Live Here Die Here, Luke Bryan
Luke Bryan's seventh career studio album, his first since 2017's What Makes You Country, arrives April 24. It bears the name of yet another heartfelt tale about growing up in a rural town. Hopefully, we get a sweet, sentimental and mature single in line with "Most People are Good" to balance out the expected influx of party songs.