Country California

Country music. Seriously.

Questions for 2010

jamey-johnsonThere’s no doubt that many stories will take me by surprise in the year ahead, but there are also quite a few I see coming. Some of the looming questions as we enter 2010:

Will Lady Antebellum prove it?
“Need You Now” went some way toward establishing them critically, but the hype is still ahead of the horse for this trio. Will their next album prove the early accolades well-deserved or leave them still one step behind their press?

How will Jamey Johnson follow That Lonesome Song?
As with Lady Antebellum, hype ends up being both a blessing and a curse. Johnson lept to the top of the heap with That Lonesome Song, an album born of hard-luck circumstances, but the follow-up will have been created under dramatically different conditions. Although he has wisely signaled that he doesn’t want to remake his opus, the question remains as to whether he’ll be able to escape the shadow of one of the most adored albums of the decade.

Ashton Shepherd, Gretchen Wilson, or neither?
Wilson is angling for a comeback on her own Redneck Records, while Shepherd is set to begin work with Buddy Cannon on her sophomore album. Is it time for another revolution by and for redneck women?

Brooks & Dunn solo?
Dunn solo probably won’t be much different than Brooks & Dunn, given that the lanky Oklahoman has been the voice of the duo for the past decade. So, the real wild card is Brooks, whose B&D album tracks have hinted at possibilities as a country-folk troubadour in the Jerry Jeff Walker mold. If Dunn manages a commercially successful solo turn – and why shouldn’t he? – he’ll be up there with George Strait as one of the oldest guy singers still regularly charting singles. In any case, we’ll have to wait to find out: The Last Rodeo tour begins in April and continues well into the second half of the year.

What about Strait?
Speaking of which, Strait showed a new willingness to shake things up on 2009′s Twang: cowriting songs, singing in Spanish, and going all retro with “Arkansas Dave.” If his next album continues down the same path, the future of Strait could be interesting indeed. But will he revert back to the same old routine instead?

Chris Young set for a breakthrough year?
“Gettin’ You Home” was the hit he needed, and I count at least four more on his current album, so 2010 could prove to be a big year for the former Nashville Star winner.

Who will rule the summer?
With Kenny Chesney taking the year off of his usual summer extravaganza, it’s game on for everyone else.

More from Joey + Rory?
The duo has said that Rory (the guy) will take a more prominent role on their sophomore album, which should introduce a new dynamic to a sound that was at times almost too sweet on 2008′s The Life of a Song.

What’s next for Taylor Swift?
Swift is already a pop phenomenon based in the country format, and she has already seemingly won everything there is to win. Where’s her next challenge? And as she continues on her path toward world domination, what role (if any) will country music play in her future?

Will Lambert release “The House That Built Me” as a single?
She should. It’s the best Revolution has to offer, and almost inevitable Song of the Year material.

New music from Ashley Monroe?
One can always hope. Jason Aldean’s cut of “The Truth” (written by Monroe and Brett James) looks to be headed for the top of the charts, which should certainly help the cause.

Dierks Bentley bluegrass album?
The bluegrass tracks have long been the highlights of his regular albums, but how will he fare on the full-length bluegrass album rumored for 2010 release? Probably just fine, as long as he brings along well-chosen friends like The Grascals and The Del McCoury Band, as he has on past one-off bluegrass efforts.

Joe Diffie bluegrass album?
The ’90s mullet king (also, one of the most versatile pure singers out there) is returning to his roots with a bluegrass album. As long as it doesn’t include a banjo-fried version of “This Is Your Brain,” it should be good. Actually, come to think of it, some of Diffie’s novelty songs would make interesting bluegrass scorchers.

Bucky Covington bluegrass album?
I’m starting this rumor right now.

New music from The Steeldrivers?
I can’t wait to hear what else this blues-grass supergroup has in store for us. Between the soulful lead of Chris Stapleton, the harmony support of Tammy Rogers, fine picking all around, and the collective songwriting chops of the group’s members, it’s hard to imagine it being anything but excellent.

Sarah Buxton releases a whole album?
I’ll believe it when I see it.

Elizabeth Cook with Don Was. How great?
One of my favorite honky tonk women, Elizabeth Cook, is working with producer Don Was (The Excitement Plan, Closer to the Bone) on her next album, a pairing that has me very excited indeed. I heard some of the possible tracks at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass last October.

What are you looking forward to in 2010?

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  1. Yay! You’ve gotten me excited about the possibilities for 2010, particularly Elizabeth Cook, Joe Diffie, the Steeldrivers and Dierks Bentley. I hope these things come to pass within the year. Ashley Monroe would be awesome too. Now, that Bucky Covington bluegrass album?! Ha!

  2. 2010 is shaping up to be a very interesting year in country music. Jamey Johnson is on top critically, but That Lonesome Song is a tough act to follow. It’s probably unrealistic to expect an album that’s quite as good, so here’s hoping that he can produce an album that’s at least in the same ballpark in quality.

    Chris Young is probably my favorite young act in mainstream country, so I’m hoping he can continue his hot streak started by the success of “Gettin’ You Home.” His album has a few excellent tracks that I think could be hits.

    I like Dierks Bentley’s voice but haven’t really been able to get into his songs. The bluegrass tracks on his albums have been the standouts for me, so an album of all bluegrass material has me excited.

  3. My prediction is that some young guy with brooding good looks and a cowboy hat wins American Idol, releases a bad pop album with vague hints of country music buried in it, and becomes the next big sensation in country music. Granted, I’ve thought that for the last couple years, but there’s a big opportunity for whoever can bring out the male equivalent of Carrie Underwood or Taylor Swift.

    I’m most looking forward to hearing new music from Zac Brown Band, Johnson, Cuff The Duke (a Canadian roots rock band who are getting released in the U.S. for the first time this year), Sean McCann (part of the Canadian Celtic rock band Great Big Sea) and Robbie Fulks (the Michael Jackson tribute album should see the light of day in 2010).

  4. I’d like to see a return to form from former superstars Shania, Faith and Dixie Chicks to take the spotlight off of Carrie/Taylor for awhile and let another female(s) artist(s) in it. I wonder which one will come back first, from what I gather none are in any big rush or care all that much.

    It would be nice to see someone come out of nowhere what a big hit that sings traditional country to counter balance the bubble gum. It would also be nice if at the end of the year when describing 2010 in country the headline would be, ‘the year of going back to your roots’

    Last year, radio snuffed out Brooks & Dunn forcing them to call it quits, I wonder if Alan Jacksons turn is this year, his new single isn’t all that great.

    Otherwise I dont expect this year to be all that different, Taylor Swift will be everywhere and dominate everything, her new album will be a phenom, Toby Keith, Rascal Flatts will churn out another album with new up to date forgettable number 1′s, George Strait will satisfy our hunger for another solid album, The ACM awards will make up some honourary award to present to Brooks & Dunn, John Rich will start a new reality show for CMT, Connie Smith will be at the Opry on Saturday night, not much will change.

  5. I have seen Taylor Swift in the preview for a new movie, “Valentine’s Day”. Her part is probably small, but it’s gotta be where she’s going next. Entertainer of the Year is as big as you get chart-wise, and she has sold a bajillion records. Hollywood is the next step, while she’s still young, pretty in a lanky weird way, and basically still aw-shucks girl-next-door-y. Dunno if she can act, but that’s my prediction for her future. . .

    Lots of exciting Bluegrass ‘news’ on this posting, and that should be exciting to follow. Of the stuff on your list, I am most looking forward to a new Gretchen Wilson record and a full-length album by Buxton (I agree – believe it when I see it). Plus, it’ll be interesting to see if Jessica Harp puts something out finally. She’s done what, two singles in a year since leaving The Wreckers?

  6. There are actually rumors on the web that the Dixie Chicks may be releasing something this year. And they recently started tweeting which makes me think something might actually be up. Could be interesting…

    • Oh gosh, I sure hope so! Its been far too long! =)

      • Agreed! I am ready for some new material from the Gals.

        @Rick — Is there indeed word of more Sunny Sweeney? That’s awesome news! I recently picked up her record from iTunes after reading a recommendation on this blog (or MKOC or 9513 or wherever LOL). “Next Big Nothing” is such a fun fun song, and her sound is wonderful.

        I wish I still had Ashton Shepard’s CD. I really liked the two singles from it — especially “Takin Off This Pain” — and bought it upon release, but I recall being underwhelmed by the rest of the record – thinking it was on par with something like Danielle Peck [whose song "I Don't" I could listen to a million times but who fails to interest me in anything else she does]. But Ashton gets so much praise around these parts that I am wondering if I missed something. . .

  7. The semi-psychotic state and short term sobriety that Jamey Johnson went through after his divorce (due to his cheating on his wife from what I’ve read) that gave rise to “That Lonesome Song” is fortunately behind him. On the other hand that state of “pathos” will be lacking on his next album. I too am interested to see what direction he heads next. “Lonesome Song” was not actually that far removed from Jamie’s indie debut album “They Call Me Country”, so I don’t anticipate any radical departures.

    I wish Ashley Monroe would co-write some more songs with the folks that worked with her on the “Satisfied” album (well except for “Pain, Pain”). Her latest output seems more folky than country, so she needs to head back to the holler! (In Knoxville? Hmm…)

    I would love to see the upcoming albums from Sarah Buxton (which is a co-effort with Aussie Jedd Hughes) and Ashton Shepherd released on CD!!!! (My second choice is they get released at all!) I’ve heard some of Elizabeth Cook’s new songs and they don’t exactly thrill me. As much as I love Elizabeth the zany human being I’ve liked each of her albums less than its predecessor. Her marriage to Tim Carroll has led her down the Americana realm path to perdition, in a musical sense anyways

    Most looking forward to a new album from Sunny Sweeney!!!!!! First she got the notorious “CURB Label Style Shelf Treatment” from Big Machine and then was moved to Republic Nashville for phase II of the treatment. Set Sunny Free!

  8. I think Taylor Swift will surprise a lot of people this year with what she does. She’s no longer a teenager and she’s one of the most self-aware people and artists out there, so it is a certainty that whatever she does will reflect her status as an adult. I just hope she doesnt become too adult too soon, the last 5 years of her career and life while reflective in some ways of her young age were years that almost everyone would find hard to match, and its not a certain thing that she can continue having anywhere near the success or approval that she has had in the past. If she turns away from what made her successful and beloved by all of her fans, i.e. sharing her life with them through the internet mediums, she could very easily lose the ground she’s gained, as her persona and her willingness to share were a large part of what connected her to people and made them into fans, along with her music and lyrics.

  9. Chris Young is a force to be reckoned with. His vocals are old school and true country music fans will be craving the sweet sounds of his tradiontal sound. Especially since pop country is starting to wear out it’s welcome. I predict not only will 2010 be his breakthrough year, but he is going to be on the radar for decades to come.

  10. I got a feeling that 2010 will be a BIG year for Chris Young!! He is an amazing artist and his songs are just as special! Not to mention that he is a very kind, caring individual! He truly cares for each and every one of his fans and with an attitude like that, he is going to go far in the music industry!

  11. I truly enjoyed reading this article, and I am anxious to see what 2010 brings in country music. I whole-heartedly agree with your remarks on Chris Young. He is an amazing singer and just beautiful pure country. His latest album ‘The Man I Want to Be’ is incredible and every song on it is a hit. 2010 will definitely be his year…as will 2011, 2012, 2013…I could on and on. :)

  12. I also predict the Chris Young Fan Club will continue to make good use of Google Alert.

  13. I hope Billy Currington gets a bit more momentum going in 2010.
    Would love to see Gretchen Wilson have success in sales and radio airplay this year.

  14. Chris Young’s number one single “Gettin You Home” sure made a blip on a lot of radio’s radar. With the release of his current single “The Man I Want to Be” already having broken Top 40 the prediction of 2010 being Chris Young’s year could very well be a reality. With fans searching more for a “country roots” artist they certainly will have found it with Chris’ rich baritone and flawless falsetto. Chris’ songs are filled with that sweet “down home” Country feeling & it sure doesn’t hurt that he’s got the personality and good looks to match.

  15. Oh, C.M. Please, oh please do a fake news for Chris Young! If only so that I can read the comments. I mean I like him and all, but I probably couldn’t go on and on about his “flawless falsetto”, altruistic behavior and ridiculously good looks. Oh wait, maybe I can…

  16. I’m simply waiting for new albums by Rhonda Vincent, Gene Watson, Cornell Hurd and Justin Trevino. I also am looking for continued development by Chris Young and for Darius Rucker to put out another (more) country album. I would like to see a return to form by Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley. I am a little suspicious of Don Was producing Elizabeth Cook’s next album

    The rest of this jive-pop country stuff doesn’t interest me that much

    Question – why does returning to the roots mean a bluegrass album ??? Bluegrass as it currently is played is not roots music – returning to the roots means prominent fiddle and steel guitar (often played in tandem) , toned down electric guitar that does not drown out the singer and drums that are sensed rather than actually heard . Now that’s returning to the roots of country music

    • Question – why does returning to the roots mean a bluegrass album ???

      Returning to his roots, not the roots (which could mean anything, really). Diffie performed with a bluegrass group for years before he ever moved to Nashville.

  17. Jamey Johnson……why isn’t he MORE popular? I guess it’s because he looks a bit menacing and he sings about cocaine and whores. Of course, so did Johnny Cash and Waylon Jennings.

    I think that Jamey can equal “That Lonesome Song”, especially if they use a couple of the songs that they dropped from the original album and include them on the new one, such as “Leave You Alone”. That is one of the best songs I’ve ever heard. Why that got dropped from the album is beyond me.

    “My Way To You” was great but not close to “Leave You Alone”. That’s just my opinion.

    Given the success of “That Lonesome Song” and how Nashville likes to copy what is successful, it’s amazing to me that A&R guys haven’t been scrambling to find more Jamey Johnsons.

    Of course in the grand scheme of things it makes sense because then they would have a bunch of REAL country artists on their hands. That would pose a problem for them….they would lose control.

    All Jamey needs is for someone to get out of his way, let him do his thing and spend the money to make people aware of it. The rest of it will take care of itself. Believe me, there are others out there (besides me…hint hint) that have a lot to offer.

    Ryan Bingham is a good example. Success WITHOUT Nashville. It can be done but God it’s hard. Thank God for the movie “Crazy Heart”.


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