The last quarter of 2016 has some big country album releases in store. From the format's biggest stars to Americana luminaries, there are several highly-anticipated new country albums coming out soon. Here are some new and upcoming albums that you don't want to miss.
Shovels & Rope, Little Seeds (10/7)
Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, better known as Shovels & Rope, are a freewheelin' couple that consistently supply creative and infectious Americana music. In 2013, their semi-biographical story-song "Birmingham" was pretty much everywhere, and moved them to struggling strummers to mainstream darlings. Thanks to a constant touring schedule and incredible work ethic, they've evolved their sound without sliding away from the subtle accompaniment and sweet harmonies that launched them to fame. After hitting number one with their albums O' Be Joyful and Swimmin' Time, it's likely that Little Seeds will fare just as well.
Miranda Lambert, The Weight of These Wings (11/18)
2016 has been quite the year for Miranda Lambert. After the surprise split from ex-husband Blake Shelton, she escaped to a quiet house outside of Nashville to channel all her feelings into song. Two years after her record-breaking album Platinum, she's laying it all out there with The Weight of These Wings. Although she promises that it won't be a "breakup album," her lead single "Vice" implies that she has no intention of anything holding back on her new record.
Willie Nelson, For the Good Times: A Ray Price Tribute (Sept. 16)
Willie Nelson owes some of his legendary success to his late friend and country legend Ray Price. In the early 60's, Nelson did a stint in Price's backing band, and Price also helped Nelson break into songwriting. Around the time of his death in 2013, Price was working on a new album, Beauty Is..., in Nashville. Nelson rounded up the same production team, players and recording studio to cut a tribute to "The Cherokee Cowboy." The result is For The Good Times, 12 renditions of Price's all-time classics. The backing players on this record are superb. The Nashville String Machine provide support on one-half of the tracks, and the Time Jumpers take the other. If you're a fan of the classics, do yourself a favor and give this a listen.
Brent Cobb 'Shine On Rainy Day' (10/7)
It's easy to forget that some of your favorite hit songs are actually penned by someone else. Brent Cobb is among those talents, hidden in plain sight, who are more than worthy of being stars themselves. The distant cousin of beloved producer Dave Cobb (Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson), Brent has been building his own solo career while penning tracks for artists like Luke Bryan and Kellie Pickler. Inspired by greats like Kris Kristofferson, Cobb has an ability to tell a story with both ease and incredible depth. Don't be surprised if Shine on Rainy Day appears on a lot of "Best Of" lists by the end of the year.
Dwight Yoakam, Swimmin' Pools, Movie Stars (9/23)
Originally from Kentucky, Dwight Yoakam has a deep love and talent for bluegrass music. Yoakam channels that love and skill on his upcoming album, Swimmin' Pools, Movie Stars. The record features bluegrass versions of his greatest hits, chestnuts from his catalog and a stellar cover of Prince's "Purple Rain." If you're a dyed-in-the-wool bluegrass fan, you'll appreciate the players: Bryan Sutton (Kentucky Thunder) lends his guitar wizardry, Stuart Duncan (Nashville Bluegrass Band) plays fiddle, and Adam Staffey (Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver) is on mandolin.
Mo Pitney, Behind This Guitar (10/7)
If you're stilling wondering who's gonna fill their shoes, you should pay attention to Mo Pitney. The young, traditionally-leaning singer has a rich baritone that will instantly remind you of Merle Haggard and George Jones. Pitney's highly-anticipated debut album features 12 songs, 10 of which Pitney co-wrote with elite Nashville songwriters. His music sounds like a natural evolution of classic country music, not like an up-and-comer chasing trends. Pitney gained some national attention with his singles, "Boy And a Girl Thing" and "Clean Up on Aisle Five," but this record will likely push him to the next level.
William Michael Morgan, Vinyl (9/30)
As many country fans find themselves moving away from the bro-country brand of music, newcomers with a different sound are once again allowed to flourish on the charts. Mississippi native William Michael Morgan first came on my radar last summer with the release of his debut single, "I Met a Girl." The sweet traditional country track, surprisingly co-written by Sam Hunt, has climbed to the top 10 over a year later. His debut full-length LP, set for release on Sept. 30, looks to be one of the most refreshing and surprising records of the year.
Kenny Chesney, Cosmic Hallelujah (10/28)
Fans of Kenny Chesney have been waiting for his sixteenth studio album for two years now. It was initially supposed to be released earlier this summer under the name Some Town Somewhere, but Chesney opted to push it back to October. Why? He wanted to add a rather unexpected collaboration with Pink, "Setting the World on Fire," which has become a big crossover success. Chesney's sound has slowly evolved over the years, from George Strait-inspired ballads to sandy beach anthems. Only time will tell Cosmic Hallelujah shows off an overall different, more pop-inspired side to Chesney's music.
Garth Brooks, Title TBD (Date TBA)
On Nov. 11, Garth Brooks plans to drop a 10-disc, career-spanning box set titled The Ultimate Collection. One of those 10 discs will be his new album. We don't know the title yet, but we do know a little bit about what to expect. Brooks says he wrote most of the material on the album, and that "it will be the most Garth thing we've done since Sevens." The Ultimate Collection will debut exclusively through Target, but we're assuming Brooks will make the new album a stand-alone purchase at some point.