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album review

album review

Willie Nelson
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Willie Nelson, ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’ – Album Review

'Let's Face the Music and Dance' is a great place for a young country music fan to meet Willie Nelson. It won't be his most famous, and it won't create any hit singles. This wonderfully consistent effort proves what longtime fans of the legend already know: At 79 years old (80 on April 30), Nelson is still as important and skilled a vocalist as there is in country music. 

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Brad Paisley
Ethan Miller, Getty Images
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Brad Paisley, ‘Wheelhouse’ – Album Review

Brad Paisley's 'Wheelhouse' delivers a familiar mix of humor, life lessons and scorching guitar solos, but it does it in a way different from any of the other eight albums the 'Beat This Summer' singer has released. He took his old formula, balled it up, lit it on fire and tossed the ashes in the garbage. The result is a meaty and ambitious project that doesn't always click, but clears new ground when it does.

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The Band Perry Pioneer
Republic Nashville
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Album Spotlight: The Band Perry, ‘Pioneer’ – ToC Critic’s Pick

The Band Perry's new album 'Pioneer' is just as dramatic, yet dramatically more steady than their debut effort. The bar was raised and reached vocally, and songs like 'Done,' 'Forever Mine Nevermind' and 'Chainsaw' prove the family trio has lost nothing in terms of lyrical edge. 

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Maggie Rose
RPM Entertainment
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Maggie Rose, ‘Cut to Impress’ – Album Review

'Cut to Impress' by Maggie Rose is one of the more entertaining listens of the year. Fans will either embrace the dark, swampy sound the singer creates with producer James Stroud, or they'll be terrified by her bad girl persona and downright chilling stories. The album is no teddy bear.

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Thompson Square
Anthony Baker
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Thompson Square, ‘Just Feels Good’ – Album Review

The best songs on Thompson Square's new album 'Just Feels Good' sound like a conversation between the two married lovers. Early on, their back-and-forth is light and playful. Later ballads take a more somber tone, but all that find the 'If I Didn't Have You' singers sharing lead are highlights from the duo's sophomore project.

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Blake-Shelton
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Album Spotlight: Blake Shelton, ‘Based on a True Story …’ – ToC Critic’s Pick

Women who already think Blake Shelton singing is the sexiest thing since Johnny Castle pulled Baby from the corner may want to take the rest of the week off. The best moments on 'Based on a True Story ...' sizzle, and not in that ironic "bow-chicka-wow-wow" sort of way that's occasionally implied with this singer's sense of humor. Songs like 'Mine Would Be You' are safe to put on any red wine and candles soundtrack. Guys, you can thank Shelton via his Twitter account, if you'd like.

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Kacey Musgraves
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Album Spotlight: Kacey Musgraves, ‘Same Trailer Different Park’ – ToC Critic’s Pick

Kacey Musgraves' Mercury Records debut album is everything a new artist dreams her first record will be. 'Same Trailer Different Park' is well-written, edgy (yet familiar) and coated in "cool." Musgraves is an original who at age 24 is surprisingly wise and adept at using her voice to share her experiences. 

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Shooter Jennings
Sean Gardner, Getty Images
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Shooter Jennings, ‘The Other Life’ – Album Review

Fans of early albums from Shooter Jennings will appreciate the singer's return to center on 'The Other Life,' his sixth studio album, available for purchase as of March 12. Still far from mainstream, the collection of songs isn't quite as experimental as projects that followed 'Put the "O" Back in Country.'

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Ashley Monroe
Michael Loccisano, Getty Images
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Album Spotlight: Ashley Monroe, ‘Like a Rose’ – ToC Critic’s Pick

No one does anguish quite like Ashley Monroe. On her new album, 'Like a Rose,' the singer redefines bittersweet for a country music audience that is still very much learning her name. Her sorrow comes sprinkled with just a teaspoon of sugar when she's at her best. One finds hope in the face of tragedy and bad circumstance, which is at times inspiring.

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Gary Allan
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Album Spotlight: Gary Allan, ‘Set You Free’ – ToC Critic’s Pick

Gary Allan delivers the emotionally rich album his fans expect while stretching his sound in multiple new directions on 'Set You Free,' the singer's ninth studio album and first in three years. The songwriting is strong from the first track to the last, with Allan mixing moments of joy and hope within his familiar anguish.

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Randy Houser
Stoney Creek Records
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Randy Houser, ‘How Country Feels’ – Album Review

Randy Houser comes in from the edges of country music with his third album 'How Country Feels' -- his first on new label Stoney Creek Records. The singer wrote just seven of the project's 15 cuts, but employed many of Nashville's top songwriters to help with the others.

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Katie Armiger
Cold River Records
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Katie Armiger, ‘Fall Into Me’ – Album Review

Katie Armiger's new album, 'Fall Into Me,' features 14 songs that describe love's highs and lows. It's a rollercoaster ride that at times feels like that line from Taylor Swift's 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,' i.e., "I say 'I hate you,' we break up, you call me, 'I love you.'" Fortunately, Armiger's way with words is more debonair.

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