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2015 Country Music Preview: 20 Reasons to Love This Year

From Loretta’s next album to Faith’s new film, we count down the music and events we’re most looking forward to over the next 12 months

2015 country music

Kacey Musgraves and Loretta Lynn. Their new albums are just two reasons why 2015 will be a great year for country music.

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Peering into country music's crystal ball, 2015 is poised to be a year of comebacks, throwbacks and grand events. The biggest revivals will include a new chapter of one country queen's recording career while another returns to the big screen after more than a decade. Albums by the likes of Kacey Musgraves, Loretta Lynn and Jamey Johnson will, no doubt, remind fans of the foundation of country's appeal: its lyrics. And big ticket shows on both coasts will team country-radio rulers with their equally gifted freshmen counterparts. Here, Rolling Stone Country looks ahead to the albums, films, events and trends we're most looking forward to in 2015.

Ty Herndon

Ty Herndon

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Ty Herndon’s Follow-Up to ‘Lies I Told Myself’ (TBD)

In 2013, Ty Herndon released his most recent album. The title, Lies I Told Myself, would take on greater significance when the singer-songwriter came out publicly as a gay man in November 2014. Although his coming-out has temporarily overshadowed Hendon's music career, it doesn't seem to have halted it. If anything, the declaration, and the flurry of media attention that followed, gave him the opportunity to remind fans that he has been performing live and making music all along, including the Grammy-nominated contemporary Christian LP, Journey On, in 2010. What the follow-up to Lies will offer remains to be heard, but this year's album will be his first as an out-and-proud gay man, which would, of course, mark a milestone for country music. Herndon will also be touring this year on a triple bill with fellow country stars Andy Griggs and Jamie O'Neal. S.B.

Honeyhoney

Honeyhoney

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Honeyhoney’s Follow-Up to ‘Billy Jack’ (TBD)

After releasing two albums on now-defunct labels — including Lost Highway Records, the Americana powerhouse that folded just a few months after the band's sophomore LP, Billy Jack, hit shelves — Honeyhoney took matters into their own hands, rebranding themselves as roots-rock independents and hitting the road on their own dime. Their upcoming third release finds them back on a label's roster — Rounder Records, to be specific — but the fierce, ball-busting attitude that steered the boy-girl twosome during their DIY days is still on full display. Also occupying the spotlight are harmony-heavy songs like "Yours to Bear," a crowd favorite during the band's 2013 tour with Jake Bugg, and "Big Man," a dark, driving rocker that bandmate Ben Jaffe describes as "a churchy funeral song." Dave Cobb, the producer behind award-winning records for Jason Isbell and Sturgill Simpson, recorded the album in his Nashville studio, proof that Honeyhoney have finally made it into Americana's "cool kids" club — even as their music looks far beyond that genre's borders. A.L.

Tom Hiddleston

Tom Hiddleston

Mike Marsland/WireImage

‘I Saw the Light’ (TBD)

In development since 2009, the long-awaited Hank Williams biopic will finally see the light in 2015. English actor Tom Hiddleston, who starred in the Avengers series before landing the lead role of Hank Williams Sr., put himself through musical boot camp last summer, running through daily guitar lessons and vocal exercises with music supervisor Rodney Crowell. The two even crashed one of the stages at the 2014 Wheatland Music Festival in Michigan, where Hiddleston flexed his country muscles by performing impromptu versions of "Move It on Over" and "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." Hank Williams III has been a big critic of I Saw the Light in recent months, claiming that a Bible Belt-born actor like Matthew McConaughey would be able to play his grandfather with much more authenticity. . .but 1,500 happy Wheatland fans can't be wrong, can they? A.L.

Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn

Gary Miller/FilmMagic

Loretta Lynn’s Follow-Up to ‘Van Lear Rose’ (TBD)

In April, it will be a full 10 years since the release of Loretta Lynn's remarkable Jack White-produced album, Van Lear Rose. That Grammy-winning LP may not be the last collaboration for the unlikely pair, Lynn hinted late in 2013, but it'll have to wait. Since around 2007, the country icon has been recording several projects that are now set to see the light of day, thanks to a deal with Sony Music's Legacy Recordings division, which was announced the day after the Coal Miner's Daughter appeared with Kacey Musgraves on the 2014 CMA Awards. The first of these recordings, due this year, will include country standards and updated versions of the singer-songwriter's own classics, along with gospel tunes and Appalachian folk songs she learned from her mother as a young girl living in Butcher Holler, Kentucky. Also among them will be fresh, original material penned by Lynn herself. S.B.

Kip Moore

Kip Moore performs at the American Country Countdown Awards.

Kip Moore, ‘Smoke’ (TBD)

Ah, this is nice to see: a country chart-topper who writes not some, or even most, but all of his own songs. On Moore's next album, reportedly titled Smoke, the raspy-throated thirtysomething sings about the redemption of Sunday morning ("Dirt Road"), the blue-collar struggle of the working week ("Comeback Kid") and the romantic thrill of teenage nights ("Young Love"). Originally due out last summer, Smoke was delayed by nearly a year — possibly by a record label that balked when the album's flagship single, "Dirt Road," barely cracked the Top 40, or maybe by a cautious Moore who wanted to tweak and fine-tune his twang before releasing the official follow-up to 2012's lauded Up All Night. The singer promises it'll be worth the wait, telling Rolling Stone Country, "I believe in this record even more than I did the first one. I’ve seen the way our fans react to the new songs, and I know what it's going to do." A.L.

Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Kacey Musgraves’ Follow-Up to ‘Same Trailer Different Park’ (TBD)

Nearly two years have elapsed since the release of Kacey Musgraves' Same Trailer Different Park, and what a two years it has been for the Texan. Her universally acclaimed album topped the country chart and went on to win a Grammy for Best Country Album, while one of the LP's most buzzed-about tracks, "Follow Your Arrow," was named CMA Song of the Year. Musgraves joined Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town and Katy Perry as an opener on their respective tours, hauling her Trailer all over the world, while plotting her next musical move. The new LP will once again be co-produced by the singer with Luke Laird and Shane McAnally, but little else has been revealed about the project. Last fall, however, Musgraves told the Tennessean, "I'm going to go with my gut and make it about the songs. . . I've found my stride, and I'm doing something that makes sense to me." S.B.

Jamey Johnson

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 15: Singer-songwriter Jamey Johnson performs in concert as part of the CMA Songwriters Series 10th anniversary celebration at The Parish on October 15, 2014 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Rick Kern/WireImage)

Country Goes Back to Basics (All Year)

The last year or so saw artists such as Lee Ann Womack and Brandy Clark releasing albums with an emphasis on stripped-down production and engaging story songs, a trend we're excited to see continue in 2015. Jamey Johnson recently gave the first taste of his 2015 album with the sparse, nostalgic "Alabama Pines," which lopes along with a primarily acoustic sound. An early listen to the music Tyler Farr will release this year — like possible album track "Suffer in Peace" — is similarly encouraging, full of soul-baring lyrics and traditional country phrasing. And pop-country duo Love and Theft, whose last single was the party-hearty "Night That You'll Never Forget," have switched gears in 2015 with "Whiskey on My Breath" — a heartbreaker of a regret ballad about meeting one's maker reeking of booze. J.H.

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