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Album Reviews

Album Reviews

Toby Keith
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
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Album Spotlight: Toby Keith, ‘Drinks After Work’

The opening track on Toby Keith's 'Drinks After Work' album sets the tone for a mostly hard-rockin' ride that's full of attitude. Sure, that describes many of the singer's best songs, but as a producer, he makes subtle changes to give this collection of songs its own space.

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Chase Rice
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
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Album Spotlight: Chase Rice, ‘Ready Set Roll’

Chase Rice's new EP comes dripping with testosterone. The first six songs (of seven if you purchase a physical copy) are loud, rowdy party anthems that feature the star as the next to merge hip-hop and country music. Colt Ford makes a guest appearance on one particularly rowdy cut called 'Party Up.'

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Willie Nelson
Jackson Lazuire, Getty Images
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Album Spotlight: Willie Nelson, ‘To All the Girls’

Willie Nelson's scratchy tenor and familiar guitar are the two constants on his new album of duets called 'To All the Girls.' The project is an enormous collection of female talent -- mostly country, but some not, most well-known, but a few still relatively unheard of. There's a pleasing variety, yet none steer too far from what Nelson has released in the last half-decade.

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Scotty McCreery
Mercury Records
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Album Spotlight: Scotty McCreery, ‘See You Tonight’ – ToC Critic’s Pick

"Dynamic" could be a one-word review of Scotty McCreery's sophomore album, 'See You Tonight.' The 20-year-old's follow-up to his post-'American Idol' debut leans into life's exciting edges. The songwriting and production -- especially the production -- are sharp, but most exciting is the new sides of this singer fans see for the very first time.

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Cassadee Pope
Republic Nashville
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Album Spotlight: Cassadee Pope, ‘Frame by Frame’

Cassadee Pope's debut album 'Frame by Frame' is a young woman's record. She refers to "boys" and "girls" and sings of things like her parents' divorce and falling in love in the front seat of an old car. The production straddles both pop and country, using phasers and Gwen Stefani-inspired stomps alongside fiddle and acoustic guitar. It's a mix that will be unique on country radio.

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Kenny Rogers
Warner Brothers
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Album Spotlight: Kenny Rogers, ‘You Can’t Make Old Friends’ – ToC Critic’s Pick

Kenny Rogers' new album 'You Can't Make Old Friends' is a collection of songs as diverse as this legend's career. No two of the 11 cuts could be placed neatly within the same sub-genre of country music. Intense displays of love, hope, anger and patriotism keep the listener pulled forward to hear what will come next.

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Joe Nichols
Christopher Polk, Getty Images
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Album Spotlight: Joe Nichols, ‘Crickets’

'Crickets' is a fine way to describe Joe Nichols' new album. The singer aims for a relax-on-the-riverbank vibe with many of the mid-tempo cuts on this project. The album begins and ends with crickets ( literally), and in between it offers a fairly level ride.

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Randy Travis
Warner Bros.
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Album Spotlight: Randy Travis, ‘Influence Vol. 1: The Man I Am’

Randy Travis' 'Influence Vol. 1: The Man I Am' is a simple collection of covers from artists that inspired him. Merle Haggard is the most represented singer, with eight cuts influenced by or recorded by him at some point. Three of the first four are Haggard songs, with 'What Have You Got Planned Tonight Diana' being the one to remember.

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Tyler Farr
BNA Records
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Album Spotlight: Tyler Farr, ‘Redneck Crazy’

Tyler Farr's first three singles are a fair representation of his debut album 'Redneck Crazy.' There's a little pain, a little heart and a little cray-cray. The singer relies on his unique voice, but nothing about the project feels self-indulgent.

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Alan Jackson
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
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Album Spotlight: Alan Jackson, ‘The Bluegrass Album’

If you ask him, Alan Jackson will tell you that 'The Bluegrass Album' is long overdue, but fans will find the collection to be not too much different than the music he's known for making of late. The singer's naturally slow-paced storytelling style is highlighted on a project that provides his team of talented pickers plenty of room to fiddle about. It's an intimate album, with Jackson even talking directly to his fans at one point.

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