There have been busier release days in the past year or so with 20+ albums on the Saving Country Music radar hitting the shelves all at once. But it’s who is releasing albums, and what those albums are that makes Friday, February 24th feel like an especially important release day that is worth highlighting.
When you have both Iris DeMent and Rose’s Pawn Shop releasing their first records in over eight years, along with important independent artists like The Shootouts, Matt Hillyer, and The Tender Things releasing albums, and then Dierks Bentley and Muscadine Bloodline releasing albums that could impact the mainstream, it’s a packed day for sure.
Here’s what you shouldn’t miss:
The Shootouts – Stampede
Ohio’s official throwback traditional country honky tonk band has a new album on the way, and it’s produced by Ray Benson of Asleep At The Wheel, and features appearances by Marty Stuart, Raul Malo of The Mavericks, and Jim Lauderdale. Sam Seifert also helped produce.
The Shootouts weren’t exactly planning on releasing a new album this year after releasing the Chuck Mead-produced Bullseye in 2021. But when Ray Benson agreed to produce a new album, they couldn’t help but oblige. Though Akron, Ohio isn’t exactly an epicenter of country music, that rust belt authenticity nonetheless makes a good backdrop for The Shootouts, and they’ve made a name for themselves in the Midwest and well beyond, getting nominated for Best Honky Tonk Group at the upcoming 2023 Ameripolitan Awards. (read more)
Channing Wilson – Dead Man
From Northwest Georgia, Channing Wilson is one of the most well-respected songwriters in Nashville who’s written songs for Luke Combs, Jason Eady, and many more. Folks have been salivating for a solo record from him for years, and now they’ll have one. Working with the renown Dave Cobb as producer, this is Channing Wilson’s official debut, and one of the most anticipated releases of early 2023, and finds a soulful, Outlaw, and Southern rock sound when listening to the early singles.
“Back in the Depression era, Jimmy Rogers was a big hit, and the reason why was because he sang all these sad songs that let people know they weren’t the only ones going through hard times. There are so many people out there right now dealing with problems like mental illness, but we still don’t talk about it nearly as much as we should. So, the one thing I hope for this record is that helps people realize that they’re not alone, that someone else feels the way they do. Because to me that’s the first step to feeling okay again.”
Matt Hillyer – Glorieta
We knew the frontman from legendary local Dallas country band Eleven Hundred Springs wouldn’t be on the sidelines for too long after the band announced their retirement in 2021. Matt Hillyer had already done ample time as a solo artist, and now he’s readying his first post-Eleven Hundred release produced by John Pedigo of the O’s, who’s also worked recently with Joshua Ray Walker.
On his solo career, Matt Hillyer says, “To me they’re all just songs I had a hand in creating, whether it’s an Eleven Hundred Springs song or one of my solo songs and I’m really proud of them. Those songs have gone places and have taken me places. I’m also excited to see where the new music will take me, because I have no plans to stop doing this anytime soon.”
Dierks Bentley – Gravel and Gold
It’s been a career of hits and misses for Dierks Bentley as he see-saws back and forth between pleasing his corporate masters on Music Row and paying down the mortgage on the second home in Telluride, and doing what he wants to do, which is dabbling in bluegrass and traditional country mixed with a bit of new school stuff to broaden the audience.
On his new album Gravel & Gold out February 24th, Dierks promises it will be more of the latter than the former, a more diverse offering overall, and for the first time, Dierks Bentley has stepped into the producer chair to ensure that the sound he wants is the sound you’ll get. He also brought in Ashley McBryde and Billy Strings to help him along.
“It’s been four years since I put out an album, and part of the reason for that is that I wrote and recorded two records that I didn’t feel were good enough and had to start over…twice,” says Bentley. “I’m going to be able look back on it for the rest of my life and be like, yeah, that was harder than I thought it would be, but zero regrets. I had to get it right. That’s the ‘Gravel & Gold’ of it all.”
Iris DeMent – Workin’ On a World
Any time Iris DeMent gets ready to release new music, it’s worthy of stopping down and paying attention. A landmark songwriter of American music, her new album is said to earnestly tackle both internal and external struggles in songs that that yearn for healing and constructive outcomes through the adversities of life.
It took six years for Workin’ On a World to come together. Working with co-producers Richard Bennett, Jim Rooney and Pieta Brown, Iris DeMent had much of the record done before the pandemic, but put it down after the lockdowns, perhaps feeling like the world had left what she wanted to say behind. But compelled by her collaborators to restart the project, she finished it up in April of 2022 in Nashville.
Muscadine Bloodline – Teenage Dixie
Charlie Muncaster and Gary Stanton are unabashedly Alabaman, and unafraid to sing about it, or to put a reference to the old South right in the title of their new 16-track album. Muscadine Bloodline has found a sweet spot between the independent and mainstream, drawing fans from both sides of the country music cultural divide via sensible songs with often deeper writing. The duo worked with Brent Cobb, BJ Barham of American Aquarium, and Adam Hood among others collaborators on the new album.
“’Teenage Dixie’ is a collection of stories with an eccentric underlying tone based in the south. Some are autobiographical, some are true in history books, some are fables about real figures, while some are stories told from a grandson of a man who is larger than life,” they say. “Regardless of this being inspired by the south, we are all a product of our raising and shaped by our upbringing. This record incorporates some of our favorite elements of a place that, for some, is anything but stereotypical.”
The Tender Things – That Texas Touch
Jesse Ebaugh formerly of The Heartless Bastards came completely out of left field and shattered all of our expectations when he released the 2020 album How You Make a Fool under the name of the music collective he’s assembled in Austin called The Tender Things. Those who got clued into the album sung it’s praises to the rafters, and said it was one of their favorites of the year.
Now he’s back, and working with Gordy Quist of the Band of Heathens as producer for the new 8-song set called That Texas Touch. Quist also recently worked on the latest albums from Jason Eady and Courtney Patton. Listening to the lead single “Carousel,” you can expect this one to be a little more greasy, sweaty, and funky. But don’t worry, there will still be plenty of that Texas twang too, and apparently, plenty of jalapenos.
Rose’s Pawn Shop – Punch Drunk Life
It’s been eight years since this Los Angeles-based outfit released a new album, prompting some fans to ask, “Where did they go?” Well they’re here once again, and are releasing a new album of Paul Givant songs put to the band’s unique fusion of “bluegrass instrumentation and folk-rock amplification.” Joining Givant in the current incarnation of the band is guitarist/producer Zachary Ross, upright bassist Stephen Andrews, drummer Matt Lesser, and multi-instrumentalists Tim Weed and John Kraus.
“We’ve always resonated with people who live in remote communities and far-flung locations,” says Paul Givant. “We spend a lot of our time playing mountain towns like Madrid, New Mexico, connecting to the people who, like us, are out there searching for something.” Givant and the rest of Rose’s Pawn Shop feel they have found something special with Punch Drunk Life.
Andy Hedges – Roll On, Cowboys
If you’re into Western acoustic music and cowboy poetry, this double album will be right down your alley. It includes duets and collaborations with Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, Michael Martin Murphey, Tom Russell, Dom Flemons, Pipp Gillette, Brenn Hill, Corb Lund, Waddie Mitchell, Brigid Reed, Randy Rieman, Rod Taylor, and Andy Wilkinson.
Truly a labor of love for his fellow Western singers and songwriters, the physical copy of Roll On, Cowboys from Andy Hedges also includes an expansive 28-page booklet. It includes both traditional and modern works of the Cowboy & Western genre from the Lubbock-based artist, many of which he hunted down himself, with “traditional” being credited as the origin of about a dozen of the tunes.
Lucero – Should’ve Learned by Now
Alt-country rockers Lucero were mostly dark and broody on their last two albums Among the Ghosts (2018) and When You Found Me (2021). One of the reasons for this was a purposeful attempt to be more weighty and intense. As many Lucero fans will attest, they were successful in that attempt, no matter how you feel about the songs themselves.
But it wasn’t that they weren’t writing any lighter material, they were just holding it back. It’s those songs that will comprise the new album. “All that fun stuff has a home!” the band says. “It’s time to get these songs out into the world! That’s how we got to the appropriately-for-us-titled album ‘Should’ve Learned by Now.’ The album is basically about how we know we are fuckups and I guess we are ok with that.”
Volores – Ages – Dark Americana post-punk husband and wife duo. Album was recorded at the famed Sonic Ranch in West Texas.
Sawyer Fredericks – The Golden Tree – Ernest acoustic folk music from the former winner of The Voice in 2015.