2011 Taste of Country Awards: Album of the Year
The sixth category to be announced for the 2011 Taste of Country Awards is Album of the Year. Only artists who've released albums in the 2011 calendar year are eligible for this fan-voted award that includes five of the best country releases over the last 12 months. The nominees are Blake Shelton's 'Red River Blue,' Eric Church's 'Chief,' Miranda Lambert's 'Four the Record,' Pistol Annies' 'Hell on Heels' and Sunny Sweeney's 'Concrete.'
Blake Shelton, 'Red River Blue': Shelton released his most complete album to date just weeks after finishing up a stint on 'The Voice' on NBC. 'Honey Bee' is arguably the year's biggest hit, and he's since followed that up with 'God Gave Me You,' another chart topper. Fans know there is plenty more playful and tragic emotion to choose from on this project.
Eric Church, 'Chief': Church has long been considered a star in the making, and his fans have known he's got one of the best live shows in Nashville, but the singer finally delivered an album that the mainstream can't ignore. Often this means an artist has played it safe, but Church can never be accused of that. Songs like 'Springsteen' and 'Like Jesus Does' are two big hits waiting to happen.
Miranda Lambert, 'Four the Record': Lambert managed to put all the pressures of following up 2009's 'Revolution' to the side to turn in one of the more creative albums in recent memory. She takes chances and not every one works, but those that do will become hits as big as 'The House That Built Me.' Expect the upcoming year to be a big one for the singer.
Pistol Annies, 'Hell on Heels': It's worth noting that three of the five nominees on this list come from the same household. Lambert's side project with Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe is edgy without being offensive. Perhaps it's because they maintain quasi-characters when performing these songs that no one criticizes them for being too vengeful -- or maybe it's because 'Hell on Heels' holds some of the best written lyrics of the year.
Sunny Sweeney, 'Concrete': Sweeney wrote this album during a dark time in her life. Years of heartache came bubbling to the surface, and she poured it all into 10 sharply written traditional country songs. This album has largely flown under the radar in 2011, but those who've picked it up know it's money well spent.
Vote for the 2011 Taste of Country Awards’ Album of the Year here, or on the 2011 Taste of Country Awards full categories page. Voting ends on Jan. 1, 2012 at 11:59PM ET. Winners will be announced on Jan. 3, 2012.