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10 Country Albums You Need to Hear This Spring and Summer

From Keith Urban and Dolly Parton to rock royalty gone country

Nashville Gold; Keith Urban; Dolly Parton; Albums; Spring; Rolling Stone

Keith Urban and Dolly Parton have highly-anticipated albums coming soon.

Jason Edwards/Newspix/Rex, Broadimage/Rex

Steven Tyler and Cyndi Lauper are the latest music icons to jump on the country bandwagon, while more and more country stars are taking cues from the pop and rock worlds. (Sturgill Simpson covering Nirvana, anyone?) The mix of albums coming out of Nashville this spring and summer prove just how wide country music's doors are open. We narrow it down to the 10 must-hears, from a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer-gone-country to some steadfast country traditionalists.

Nashville Gold; Keith Urban; Dolly Parton; Albums; Spring; Rolling Stone

Merle Haggard during Willie Nelson and Friends: "Outlaws & Angels" - Show and Backstage at Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by L. Cohen/WireImage for NBC Universal Photo Department)

L. Cohen/WireImage/Getty

Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, Title TBD (Date TBD)

"Our names seem to be magic together," says Haggard of his
 partnership with Nelson. The duo
 are currently selecting songs for the follow-up to 2015's chart-topping country album, Django and Jimmie, and their upcoming shows will be Haggard's first since a double-pneumonia scare. "I'm lucky to be alive," he says. Patrick Doyle

Nashville Gold; Keith Urban; Dolly Parton; Albums; Spring; Rolling Stone

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 07: Brandy Clark performs on stage during Day 1 of C2C at The O2 Arena on March 7, 2015 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Joseph Okpako/Redferns via Getty Images)

Joseph Okpako/Redferns/Getty

Brandy Clark, ‘Big Day in a Small Town’ (June 10th)

Clark, a top Nashville songwriter, calls her major-label debut the "crazy, edgy cousin" of her 2013 left field hit, 12 Stories. Big Day matches heart-punch storytelling with electronics, guitar squalls and off-kilter rhythms. "I played it for a friend who said, 'This is 21st-century country music,'" she says. "And I took that as such a compliment." Will Hermes

Nashville Gold; Keith Urban; Dolly Parton; Albums; Spring; Rolling Stone

INDIO, CA - APRIL 26: Musician Blake Shelton performs onstage during day three of 2015 Stagecoach, California's Country Music Festival, at The Empire Polo Club on April 26, 2015 in Indio, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images for Stagecoach)

Kevin Winter/Getty

Blake Shelton, ‘If I’m Honest’ (May 20th)

The new album from Nashville's top tabloid heartthrob deals openly with his divorce from Miranda Lambert and his new relationship with Gwen Stefani, his fellow coach on The Voice. "It's my job as a country singer to sing about things that have happened in real life and hope that somebody out there can relate to it," says Shelton. In addition to post-breakup fare like the first single, "Came Here to Forget," the album also includes lighter songs such as "Doin' It to Country Songs," featuring the Oak Ridge Boys. "When people hear it, they are going to understand every emotion I've gone through in the last year," Shelton says of If I'm Honest, "and that makes me feel really good." Joseph Hudak 

Nashville Gold; Keith Urban; Dolly Parton; Albums; Spring; Rolling Stone

Mandatory Credit: Photo by REX/Shutterstock (2210130f) Aerosmith - Steven Tyler Aerosmith in concert at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, Tampa, Florida, America - 11 Dec 2012

Rex/Shutterstock

Steven Tyler, Title TBD (Summer)

Tyler traveled to Nashville to record
his solo LP, but he's not willing to pin a genre label to it – "although I am down here, and I wanted to throw in a little country flavor." The two singles he's released, "Love Is Your Name" and "Red, White & You," are certainly down-home tunes. "I want to rub noses with Alison Krauss, good folks like that," he says.
"I guess if that's called country, fucking throw me in!" Andy Greene

Nashville Gold; Keith Urban; Dolly Parton; Albums; Spring; Rolling Stone

Maren Morris credit: LeAnn Mueller PUBLICITY 2016 via fount.lynch@sonymusic.com

LeAnn Mueller

Maren Morris, ‘Hero’ (June 3rd)

Morris is shaping up to be Nashville's biggest breakout artist of 2016. The 25-year-old singer is following the success of her chart-topper "My Church" with a major-label debut that prizes beats as much as melodies, at times suggesting Rihanna as much as Miranda. "I worried that people might not be able to identify the genre," Morris says of Hero,which she co-produced with veteran crossover whiz Mike Busbee. "I didn't set out to prove that I'm making a country record or a pop record. I just wanted to make my record." Joseph Hudak

Nashville Gold; Keith Urban; Dolly Parton; Albums; Spring; Rolling Stone

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 03: Sturgill Simpson performs during the 2015 ACL Music Festival at Zilker Park on October 3, 2015 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

Sturgill Simpson, ‘A Sailor’s Guide to Earth’ (April 15th)

Simpson’s 2014 breakthrough, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, was at once trippy and traditional. His follow-up is just as wild, organized around a concept (a letter to his young son) and full of horns from Brooklyn retrosoul crew the Dap-Kings. "I wanted to make a song cycle, like my favorite Marvin Gaye records," he says. He even preps Jr. for those angsty teenage years with a cover of Nirvana’s "In Bloom." Joseph Hudak

Nashville Gold; Keith Urban; Dolly Parton; Albums; Spring; Rolling Stone

NBC UNIVERSAL EVENTS -- 2015 NBC Upfront Presentation -- Presentation to Advertisers -- Pictured: Dolly Parton "Coat of Many Colors" -- (Photo by: Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Paul Drinkwater/NBC/Getty

Dolly Parton, ‘Pure & Simple/Dolly’s Biggest Hits’ (Summer)

Last year, Parton returned to her acoustic roots in a series of live shows. Now, she's channeling that sound on a new double LP with one side of stripped-down hits and another of new material. "I just wanted to be in a simpler place," she says. Jon Freeman

Nashville Gold; Keith Urban; Dolly Parton; Albums; Spring; Rolling Stone

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 18: Singer-songwriter Cyndi Lauper performs onstage at the Songwriters Hall Of Fame 46th Annual Induction And Awards at Marriott Marquis Hotel on June 18, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Songwriters Hall Of Fame)

Larry Busacca/Getty

Cyndi Lauper, ‘Detour’ (May 6th)

Six years ago, Lauper released the soul-themed Memphis Blues. Her latest is "an homage to when country and R&B were close together," she says. Lauper covered songs from the Fifties and Sixties by iconic singers like Patsy Cline and Wanda Jackson, working with Willie Nelson, Emmylou Harris and Vince Gill. "Childhood defines your music," Lauper says. "If you went by my Aunt Gracie's kitchen, she was playing the country station." Brittany Spanos

Nashville Gold; Keith Urban; Dolly Parton; Albums; Spring; Rolling Stone

Andy Snyder/Guitar Monkey, Inc

Keith Urban, ‘Ripcord’ (May 6th)

"It smells like religion," Urban says, walking through Los Angeles' iconic EastWest Studios, where Frank Sina- tra and the Beach Boys recorded classic hits. Urban is in L.A. taping the remaining episodes of American Idol's last season and putting the finishing touches on his next album, Ripcord, which continues in the try-anything vein of 2013's Fuse. Among the 25 tracks he's considering, there's the danceable country chart-topper "John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16" and "Sun Don't Let Me Down," a collaboration with Pitbull and disco great/ Daft Punk producer Nile Rodgers. Urban is excited about his music's increasingly funky sound: "My dad was a drummer and I've always been drawn toward rhythmic things." But that sound wasn't easy to get. "It was a lot of searching, a lot of experimenting," he says. "When you get to work with as many people as I did, you end up with a lot of stuff." Jenny Eliscu

Nashville Gold; Keith Urban; Dolly Parton; Albums; Spring; Rolling Stone

Mandatory Credit: Photo by MediaPunch/REX/Shutterstock (3674180f) Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle in concert at the Musikfest Cafe, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, America - 19 Mar 2014

MediaPunch/Rex

Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle, ‘Colvin & Earle’ (June)

Earle and singer-songwriter Colvin recorded a set that ranges from the rollicking, political "Tell Moses" to covers like the Stones' "Ruby Tuesday." Says Colvin of Earle, "He's just got the whole package." Jon Dolan