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Jason Aldean
Broken Bow Records
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Jason Aldean, ‘Night Train’ – Album Review

If four or five songs from Jason Aldean's new 'Night Train' album reach No. 1, does that mean it's indisputably a great country music record? This seems likely to happen -- the hits are there and Aldean is red hot right now -- yet from top to bottom, the singer's fifth project leaves one wanting some magic never felt before.

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Hunter Hayes
Atlantic Records
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Hunter Hayes, ‘Somebody’s Heartbreak’ – Song Review

What's remarkable about Hunter Hayes's three singles -- including his newest, 'Somebody's Heartbreak' -- is the consistency. There is nothing amateur about this country newcomer. All three fly flat along a bar raised high above the reach of many Nashville singers, both young and old.

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Pat Green
Ethan Miller, Getty Images
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Pat Green, ‘Even the Losers’ – Song Review

Pat Green's cover of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' 'Even the Losers' sets a great example for artists considering the inclusion of a cover track on their new album. The Texas country singer delivers a passionate performance of a lyric that is not his own -- but it sure feels like it. 

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Lucky Ned Pepper
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Lucky Ned Pepper, ‘I Remember the Music’ – Song Review

Former Smokin' Armadillos singer Rick Russell and guitarist Josh Graham have remained close enough to cut new music as Lucky Ned Pepper, a duo named after the villain in 'True Grit.' Their first single, 'I Remember the Music,' is catchy and polished, but likely not the breakthrough song they're hoping for.

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Craig Morgan
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
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Craig Morgan, ‘More Trucks Than Cars’ – Song Review

From the very first notes of Craig Morgan's new single 'More Trucks Than Cars,' you'll know you're in for a no tricks, no twists country song from the man who's made a living painting a scenic picture of rural America. The song is as genuine as any Morgan has released. It's only muted by his own strong catalog of (other) farm boy hits. 

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Curtis Grimes
Facebook
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Curtis Grimes, ‘Smile’ – Song Review

It's been 15 months since Curtis Grimes was eliminated from 'The Voice.' The Team Cee Lo singer has been playing live around Texas and the southeast while honing his songwriting chops. Country music was something of a plan B for the Texan, and while he shows pure talent, his new single 'Smile' proves there is still work to be done. 

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Jake Owen
Michael Loccisano, Getty Images
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Jake Owen, ‘Endless Summer’ – Album Review

The very nature of the EP lends itself more to an artist's most faithful supporters than middling fans looking for an entry point into a new style or sound. Jake Owen's 'Endless Summer' EP allows his warm weather party with Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw to last a little longer, but like summer love, the four songs will be little more than memories by the first yellow leaves of fall. 

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Clay Walker
Curb / Sidewalk Records
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Clay Walker, ‘Jesse James’ – Song Review

Fans of Clay Walker know him as a lot of great things, but 'outlaw' is not one of them. It's a fair question for people to ask if his new single, 'Jesse James,' is sung with tongue loosely planted in cheek. One leans towards yes after checking out the cover art. The hat is a little big, the pants a little too pressed. He's a cowboy if cowboys shopped at Banana Republic.

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Taylor Swift
Big Machine Records
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Taylor Swift, ‘Begin Again’ – Song Review

Taylor Swift has released 'Begin Again,' a new song from her upcoming 'Red' album. It's a huggable, inspiring, acoustic country ballad that is everything country fans wished her first single 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' was when it was released in August.

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Brad Paisley
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
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Brad Paisley, ‘Southern Comfort Zone’ – Song Review

Brad Paisley's new single 'Southern Comfort Zone' is another socially important song, joining previous hits like 'Welcome to the Future' and 'This Is Country Music.' The singer's voice carries more weight in 2012 than it did in 2008 or 2004, and one senses that he's aware of his influence. This song recorded by someone like Hank Williams Jr. or Toby Keith would be labeled as pretentious or preachy, but Paisley's understated delivery (combined with a lovable personality) allows him to pack the punch he's been working toward.

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Faith Hill
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
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Faith Hill, ‘American Heart’ – Song Review

Faith Hill has a new album finished, but it seems fans won't get to hear it until a single sticks. 'American Heart' is at least the third new song fans nationwide have heard -- including 'Come Home' and the title track, 'Illusion,' played during the 'CMA Music Festival' special on ABC. Like the others, it's a thick production made accessible by the wonder of Hill's voice. 

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Kacey Musgraves
Facebook
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Kacey Musgraves, ‘Merry Go Round’ – Song Review

The story goes like this: Texas teen auditions for 'Nashville Star,' doesn't win but uses the experience as motivation to sharpen her pen so that she can release her own melodic country music years later. The result strikes deep; right to the bone. It's uncomfortably close to reality for millions of Americans without offering much hope. Sound familiar? 

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