There’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?