2020 is in the books and it’s time to look forward to the bright promise of 2021, and specifically the album releases in the country and roots world we have to be excited about. Unfortunately, for whatever reason (likely tied to the pandemic in some capacity), there has never been such a thin prospectus on the album releases coming up for the upcoming year like this since Saving Country Music started the exercise.
No offense whatsoever to the album releases that have been announced and are highly anticipated by fans. But when it comes to volume, or big-named artists you’re really frothing with excitement over, the pickin’s are pretty slim. Perhaps a combination of both artists pushing forward releases in 2020 to help put food on the table when they couldn’t tour, and the tough circumstances for recording new records, we have finally reached the COVID-19 shadow when it comes to releases.
Expect things to pick up as 2021 soldiers on. But for the moment, Q1 of 2021 will be one of the lightest times for new album releases we’ve seen in years. Nonetheless, there are still some important titles, and they can be found below, along with the always-fun “Rumor Mill” where you can catch up with the latest release gossip.
Hint: Bookmark this page, and come back on Fridays to make sure you don’t miss anything important. This list will be updated periodically under the “confirmed releases” heading when new albums are announced, though older albums won’t be removed from the list so people can look back at what they might have missed.
PLEASE NOTE: No artist or album was overlooked, snubbed, or disregarded here. If you know of an album that is going to be released that you believe is of interest to country and roots music, please feel free to share the information below in the comments section for the benefit of everyone.
Steve Earle – J.T. (Justin Townes Earle tribute) – January 4th
Steve Earle’s tribute album to his late son Justin Townes Earle called J.T. will be released on what would have been Justin’s 39th birthday. CD and vinyl copies to be made available on March 19th via New West Records. The album will include 10 songs originally written by Justin Townes Earle, along with a new song from Steve to conclude the album. 100% of artist proceeds and royalties from the album will be donated to a trust of Etta St. James Earle, the three-year-old daughter of Justin and Jenn Earle.
“The record is called J.T. because Justin was never called anything else until he was nearly grown. Well, when he was little, I called him Cowboy,” says Steve Earle. “For better or worse, right or wrong, I loved Justin Townes Earle more than anything else on this earth. That being said, I made this record, like every other record I’ve ever made… for me. It was the only way I knew to say goodbye.” (read more)
Aaron Watson – American Soul – January 8th
If Aaron Watson is nothing else, he’s prolific, and perseveres. He started recording American Soul in Nashville around the time the devastating tornado hit the eastern part of the city. Then shortly after, the pandemic hit, stalling the recording process again. But not wanting to give up, Watson recorded the rest of the project at his home, in his wife’s walk-in closet as a de facto studio. He’s already released five songs ahead of the record.
“Completing this album in the year 2020 took a little bit of perseverance, but I’m thankful to say that we got it done,” Watson says. “I’m proud of each and every one of us who have shown the perseverance to get through the hardships of this year.”
The Divorcees – Drop of Blood – January 8th
The Divorcees from New Brunswick have been Canada’s best contingent for Outlaw country for now going on 15 years. Featured previously on Saving Country Music surrounding their 2016 album From Labour to Refreshment, lineup changes and the requirements of real life have mostly relegated The Divorcees to their environs in eastern Canada in recent years, but that’s never put a dent in their passion for country music.
Their new album Drop of Blood will also feature the return of founding member/lead singer Jason Haywood after a 12 year absence from the band. Blue-collar Canadian country at its best.
Barry Gibb – Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers Songbook, Vol. 1 – January 8th
Produced by Dave Cobb, Greenfields will feature songs from the Barry Gibb catalog, performed with cohorts such as Alison Krauss, Dolly Parton, the aforementioned Jason Isbell, Miranda Lambert, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, and Brandi Carlile. And yes, there’s also a few less savory names, like Keith Urban.
As part of the three-headed hydra of The Bee Gees, Barry Gibb will always be a pariah to some. But the story of Barry Gibb and even The Bee Gees is much more expansive. Barry Gibb’s first ever solo record called The Kid’s No Good from 1970 has been described by many as a country record as much as anything. Then of course there was Barry Gibb’s collaboration with Kenny Rogers in the early 80’s. (read more)
MusicFest Tribute to Cody Canada & the Music of Cross Canadian Ragweed – January 8th
A tribute record to the revolutionary Red Dirt rock country outfit Cross Canadian Ragweed and its frontman Cody Canada is on the way, and it includes a litany of cool artists from Texas and Red Dirt who all paid tribute to the band last winter at the long-running Music Fest in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
The 17-song album includes live recordings from the in-person tribute at the festival on January 7th and 8th, 2020. Randy Rogers, Wade Bowen, Jamie Lin Wilson, William Clark Green, Reckless Kelly, Courtney Patton, Doug Moreland, Reckless Kelly, and Bri Bagwell are just some of the names that appear on the compilation. (read more)
Pony Bradshaw – Calico Jim – January 29th
If you’re looking for earnest songwriting entwined with a rootsy sound, North Georgia-based songwriter Pony Bradshaw will be releasing the followup to his 2019 album on Rounder Records with Calico Jim on January 29th.
“‘Calico Jim’ is about place, time, and a society of lives,” says Pony Bradshaw. “It’s about the relationship between man and nature. It’s about a region connecting with its history and past. I tried to think small about big things, to reach out into a world directly adjacent to my own and draw something of worth from these hills and valleys, these mountains, rivers, and folks of North Georgia.”
Lucero – Where You Found Me – January 29th
Wildly-influential alt-rock band Lucero will be releasing their 10th album through their own label Liberty and Lament, distributed by Thirty Tigers. You’ll be hard pressed to find a songwriter in alt-country and Americana who doesn’t say Lucero and frontman Ben Nichols is not a significant influence on them. Where You Found Me finds Ben Nichols continuing to mature in his perspective after the birth of his daughter Izzy (now 4-years-old), and also dabbling a little bit with old-school synthesizers in parts.
“I wanted a very classic rock sound for this album,” says Ben Nichols. “I wanted it to sound like stuff I heard on the radio growing up.” It was recorded over two weeks in July of 2020 at Sam Phillips Recording Studio in Memphis. (read more)
Willie Nelson – That’s Life (Frank Sinatra Tribute) – February 26th
Willie Nelson is paying tribute to close friend and musical colleague Frank Sinatra with his 71st studio album and 15th album for Sony’s Legacy imprint. It’s not the first time Willie will tribute Ol’ Blue Eyes. His 2018 album My Way did similar, and ended up earning Willie Nelson a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Pop Solo Album.
To capture the essence of Sinatra, Nelson recorded the new album at Capitol Studios in Hollywood where many of Sinatra’s most memorable recordings were captured, with additional work done at Willie’s Pedernales Studios in Austin, Texas. Producing the album will once again be Buddy Cannon along with Matt Rollings, who worked on the last Sinatra tribute as well. Along with reprising 11 songs from the Great American Songbook made famous by Frank, the record will also include lush string and horn arrangements. (read more)
Vivian Leva & Riley Calcagno – Self-Titled – March 12th
Individually, Vivian Leva and Riley Calcagno are already two of the most exciting, promising, and talented up-and-comers in most all of roots music, fluidly moving through old time, bluegrass, and classic country modes with an ease of execution, and displaying a passion for the enterprise of reviving old music that is infectious with the audience. Put them together, and they’re even greater than the sum of their parts, intertwining disciplines and influences seamlessly until it comprises a roots music symphony of two.
This conjoined magic has already been on display in a number of projects, including the old time band The Onlies, who just released a new self-titled album in 2019, and on Vivian Leva’s solo debut Time Is Everything from 2018 which Riley also had a heavy hand in. But the two will be putting their duo magic on full display when they release a self-titled album through Free Dirt Records. (read more)
Travis Tritt – TBA – TBA
A new original studio album is on the way from Travis Tritt, finally. His first original album in over 13 years, the 90’s country legend who’s sold more than 30 million records worldwide signed with the Los Angeles-based record label Big Noise earlier this year, and will be releasing a Dave Cobb-produced record sometime in 2021. The album was originally promised in 2020, and Tritt released the first single “Ghost Town Nation” on September 25th. But no solid release date for the album has been set.
“I’m very excited about recording the new album with Dave Cobb,” Travis Tritt says. “I’m also glad to be partnering with the Big Noise team and I’m looking forward to promoting this album with them in my corner.”
OTHER CONFIRMED RELEASES
Dan Whitaker – Moving On With You (re-release) – January 8th
Silas J. Dirge – The Poor Devil – January 8th
Scott MacKay – Stupid Cupid – January 8th
Kerri Watt – Neptune’s Daughter – January 15th
Misty River – Promises – January 22nd
Justin Moses – Fall Like Rain – January 22nd
Lee Rocker – Gather Round – January 22nd
Anna Elizabeth Laube – Annamania (retrospective) – January 22nd
Jamie Richards – The Real Deal – January 22nd
Langhorne Slim – Strawberry Mansion – January 29th
David Miner – Silver Valley – January 29th
Drayton Farley – A Hard Up Life – January 29th
Lilly Winwood – Time Well Spent – January 29th
Alabama Slim – The Parlor – January 29th
Jenna Torres – All Heart – January 29th
Jeremy Studdard – On My Own – January 29th
Three Pairs of Boots – Long Rider – January 29th
Todd Sterling – Dark Horses: The Acoustic Sessions – February 1st
Rod Abernathy – Normal Isn’t Normal – February 5th
Aaron Lee Tasjan – Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan! – February 5th
Uncle Walt’s Band – Live At Waterloo Ice House (Reissue) – February 5th
Grant Nesmith – Dream Of The Coast – February 5th
The Carloways – Resuscitator – February 5th
Aaron Vance – Cabin Fever – February 5th
Beth Lee – Waiting On You Tonight – February 12th
Kip Moore – Wild World (Deluxe Edition) – February 12th
Mac Leaphart – Music City Joke – February 12th
Will Overman – The Winemaker’s Daughter – February 12th
Jordan Robert Kirk – Western Holler – February 12th
Johnny Lee – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright – February 12th
The Barlow – Horseshoe Lounge – February 12th
Lily B. Moonflower – Moonflower – February 12th
Austin Meade – Black Sheep – February 19th
Spencer Burton – Coyote – February 19th
Tami Neilson – Chickaboom! Deluxe Edition – February 19th
Jason Charles Miller – From The Wreckage, Part 1 – February 19th
Davie Furey – Haunted Streets – February 19th
Bones Owens – Self-Titled – February 26th
Sara Petite – Rare Bird – February 26th
David Huckfelt – Room Enough, Time Enough – February 26th
Rodger Wilhoit – The “Social World” Of Rodger Wilhoit (Reissue) – February 26th
Olivia Ellen Lloyd – Loose Cannon – February 26th
Ross Cooper – Chasing Old Highs – February 26th
Lydia Luce – Dark River – February 26th
Chris Roberts – Feather EP – February 26th
Mando Saenz – All My Shame – February 26th
Simon Flory – Haul These Blues Away – February 26th
Nate Fredrick – Different Shade of Blue – February 26th
Hailey Whitters – Living The Dream (Deluxe Edition) – February 26th
Ottoman Turks – Turks II – March 5th
Jesse Brewster – The Lonely Pines – March 5th
Kristian Montgomery – Prince of Poverty – March 5th
Jimbo Mathus and Andrew Bird – These 13 – March 5th
Charles Ellsworth – Honeysuckle Summer – March 5th
Max Flinn – Meant To Be EP – March 5th
Garrison Starr – Girl I Used To Be – March 5th
Johnny Ironsides – Murder Mountain – March 5th
Ottoman Turks – Ottoman Turks II – March 5th
Israel Nash – Topaz – March 12th
Matt and Madeline Shugert – The Aim Was Song – March 12th
Daniel Young – The World Ain’t Gonna Wait – March 12th
Valerie June – The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers – March 12th
Rylan Brooks – If Wishes Were Horses – March 12th
Lake Street Dive – Obviously – March 12th
Melody Duncan – Wolf Song – March 12th
VOLK – Cashville – March 13th
Wild & Blue – Restless – March 19th
Melissa Carper – Daddy’s Country Gold – March 19th
Rob Leines – Blood Sweat and Beers – March 19th
Morgan Wade – Reckless – March 19th
Janet Simpson – Safe Distance – March 19th
Fretland – Could Have Loved You – March 26th
Sweetlove – Goodnight Lover EP -March 26th
David Olney and Anana Kaye – Whispers & Sighs – March 26th
Cristina Vane – Nowhere Sounds Lovely – April 2nd
The Pink Stones – Introducing The Pink Stones – April 9th
Amigo The Devil – Born Against – April 16th
The Brother Brothers – Calla Lily – April 16th
Amy Speace – There Used to Be Horses Here – April 30th
Soo Line Loons – Self-Titled – May 14th
THE RUMOR MILL
Charles Wesley Godwin seemed to hint on social media that he finished recording a new album on October 8th, 2020. Stay tuned for more details.
Charlie Marie made a big splash with her 2019 debut EP, and there’s a lot of buzz that she’s got an excellent new record for 2021 on tap. Stay tuned.
New Triston Marez album in April.
Laur Joamets and Laura Reed have a new project called Lore, and have released a couple of new songs. Word is they have an album in the can, just waiting on a release date.
Willie Nelson has a new album on the way beyond his upcoming Frank Sinatra tribute. “We’re putting together a new album that we’ve been in [the studio] doing the last few months. It’s a family album with me and all the kids and everybody singing on it, and it’ll be coming out one of these days.”
Cody Jinks says he has an acoustic album, another live album beyond his recent Red Rocks live album, a Lefty Frizzell covers album, a rock EP, and other stuff on the way. (read more). He also said on 1/7/2021, “Demos are done on 20 new songs. Now we just need to schedule some studio time.”
Sarah Shook said on October 23rd, 2018 via social media, “Let it be known we are officially rehearsing for the next rekkid and we def gonna blow some minds bbs…” Perhaps drama at Bloodshot Records has slowed her release plans, but there may be some movement on it in 2021. Stay tuned.
Morgan Wade has been creating a lot of buzz from her OurVinyl videos and a couple of singles she’s released. Expect her Thirty Tigers debut in 2021.
Moot Davis, new album coming.
The Wreckers (Michelle Branch, Jessica Harp) have been hinting they have a new record on the way.
John Driskell Hopkins (Zac Brown Band) – Lonesome High – January
The Steel Woods on December 1st: “Laying it down in the studio this week. New record coming in 2021.”
Joe Nichols says he’s got a new traditional country record on the way.
Jessi Colter has a new album on the way produced by Margo Price. They were in the studio together in May 2019.
Sierra Ferrell has signed to Rounder Records, and if and when she announces a new album, it will immediately rocket to the top of the “most anticipated” heap. (read more)
George Jones recordings that were once used as bail collateral by two drug dealers are finally having the legal entanglements resolved, and could be coming to the public. (read more)
Dwight Yoakam dropped two new songs in May of 2018, but no word if a new album to accompany them will be forthcoming.
Alan Jackson also released a new song “The Older I Get” in 2018, but no new news on a new record. He released a new Christmas album in 2020 will little fanfare.
Talk surrounding Eric Church is of a double album, or even a triple album. But so far he just keeps releasing new singles at a pace of about once a month.
Sunny Sweeney released a live studio album recently from The Machine Shop, and says she’s got a new original studio album coming in 2021 as well.
The Shootouts recently recorded a song with Dale Watson at his home studio in Memphis, and a full album in Nashville with Chuck Mead producing.
Carrie Underwood will release a new Gospel album called My Savior after the major success of her recent Christmas album My Gift.
James McMurtry has signed to New West Records. New record coming.