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2017 Spring/Summer Country Preview: 25 Anticipated Albums, Festivals

From new releases by Angaleena Presley and Jason Isbell to annual blowouts like Stagecoach and CMA Music Festival

Spring/Summer Country Album Preview

New albums from Angaleena Presley and Jason Isbell highlight 2017 spring and summer releases.

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From the biggest names in mainstream country to indie songwriter darlings, spring and summer 2017 looks to be full of exciting new releases. Jason Isbell is cranking up with his band the 400 Unit, Angaleena Presley is bucking Nashville traditions and Chris Stapleton is coming back with the follow-up to Traveller. On top of that, warm weather means a wealth of festival options. Here are the albums and concerts not to miss.

Angaleena Presley

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Angaleena Presley

Album: Wrangled
Release Date: April 21st
Halfway through her second solo album Wrangled, Angaleena Presley lays it all on the line: “I don’t wanna be an outlaw,” she sings on the subtle Motown swing of “Outlaw.” “I don’t wanna be a renegade.” It’s a song about wanting a seat at a table that you may never have, but you damn well deserve. In the wake of her excellent debut, American Middle Class, the Pistol Annie still didn’t snag major label interest or even mild radio success, and much of Wrangled is her response to an industry that’s done nothing but try to bring her down. “Everyone has always passed on me,” she says. Wrangled, which features co-writes with Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, Wanda Jackson and the late Guy Clark, will show them exactly what they’re missing, and wondering, in the end, who exactly is wrangling who. M.M.

Justin Townes Earle

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Justin Townes Earle

Album: Kids in the Street
Release Date:
May 26th
Justin Townes Earle has been a major figure on the fringes of country since releasing his breakout debut album The Good Life in 2008. Nearly a decade later, Earle, the son of country and Americana great Steve Earle, is still writing the kind of honest, hardscrabble songs that made that debut a breath of fresh air upon its release. On May 26th he’ll return with his seventh studio album Kids in the Street, a Mike Mogis-produced effort that marks the first time Earle has brought in an outside producer. It’s also, notably, the first album that the Nashville-based artist recorded outside of his hometown, a move that lends sharper edges to songs like lead single “Champagne Corolla,” one of several that explores gentrification and class. B.M. 

Old Crow Medicine Show

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Old Crow Medicine Show

Album: 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde
Release Date: April 28th
All roads lead back to Bob Dylan for Old Crow Medicine Show. Fourteen years after they released their signature song, “Wagon Wheel” – a reworking of an old Dylan outtake – the Virginia natives are tackling a full-on recreation of the man’s Nashville classic, Blonde on Blonde. Recorded at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum last year on the 50th anniversary of the release of the Nobel Prize winner’s masterpiece, Old Crow’s Ketch Secor sees it as much as a tribute to Music City as it is to Dylan himself. “Certain people have sent the hands of the clock spinning. Bob Dylan is the greatest of these time-bending, paradigm-shifting Nashville cats,” he wrote in a recent essay about the record, rock’s first double LP. 50 Years of Blonde on Blonde is the band’s first with Columbia, the same label that released the original. J.G.

Willie Nelson

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Willie Nelson

Album: God’s Problem Child
Release Date: April 28th
At nearly 84, it’s remarkable to make and record new music, let alone be able to laugh at your own mortality. And on God’s Problem Child, Willie Nelson does both: the country legend co-wrote seven out of 13 songs, one of which is pithily titled “Still Not Dead,” addressing the greatly exaggerated rumors of his own demise. There’s wit and wisdom in equal measure on Problem Child, along with plenty of musings on the passage of time. The ghosts of his past echo strong, with a tribute to Merle Haggard (“He Won’t Ever Be Gone”) among the Buddy Cannon-produced album’s offerings, and the voice of Leon Russell can be found the title track, recorded shortly before be passed away. “Old father time, he just keeps on ticking,” Nelson sings softly on “Old Timer.” He can’t slow down the days, but he still can make every note and minute meaningful. M.M.

Justin Timberlake

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Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival

Location: Franklin, Tennessee
Dates: September 23rd – 24th
Franklin, Tennessee’s Pilgrimage Music and Cultural Festival started with a bang its first year, booking major acts like Wilco, Willie Nelson, Sheryl Crow, Chris Stapleton and Steven Tyler for its inaugural 2015 lineup. Since then, the festival has grown in size and notoriety, with Justin Timberlake joining the festival as a partner last year. Timberlake will make his Pilgrimage stage debut this year, alongside Ryan Adams, the Avett Brothers, Shovels & Rope, Marty Stuart, Nikki Lane, Amanda Shires, Colter Wall and many others. In addition to music, Pilgrimage will feature local food, beer and crafts, many of which are sourced from just up the road in Nashville. B.M.

Brad Paisley

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Brad Paisley

Album: Love and War
Release Date: April 21st
It’s been three years since Brad Paisley released his last album Moonshine in the Trunk, but he’s coming back with the big guns on Love and War. His 11th studio album is a star-studded affair with guest spots from Mick Jagger, John Fogerty, Bill Anderson and even an old Johnny Cash poem that Paisley set to music, “Gold All Over the Ground.” While living-in-the-moment single “Today” is featured, last year’s rabble-rousing Demi Lovato duet “Without a Fight” is noticeably absent, a telling sign for which side of the Love and War spectrum these new songs will land. J.G.

Don Williams

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Various Artists

Album: Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams
Release Date:
May 26th
Don Williams may have just retired last year, but the legacy of the iconic country singer is so deeply felt in the songwriting community that a stellar tribute album is already on its way. Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams boasts contributions from Jason Isbell, John Prine, the Pistol Annies and Garth Brooks – just to name a few – all of whom offer their own takes on some of Williams’ most iconic songs like “Tulsa Time,” “Love Is on a Roll” and “Good Ole Boys Like Me.” Proceeds from the Garth Fundis-produced album will benefit MusiCares, and it hits shelves on the eve of Williams’ 78th birthday. B.M.

The Avett Brothers

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Newport Folk Festival

Location: Newport, Rhode Island
Dates: July 28th – 30th
Now nearing its 60th anniversary, Rhode Island’s storied folk and Americana music festival has undergone a renaissance in recent years. Newport Folk, long famous as the scene of Bob Dylan going electric and leaving the out-of-touch purists behind, has found new life as a midsummer mecca for today’s stars and yesterday’s heroes to get together and maybe even collaborate. Last year saw Kris Kristofferson make a historical return (his first appearance since 1969), and 2017 looks set to build on that momentum, with Fleet Foxes, the Avett Brothers and John Prine headlining the fest’s three days, which will also include Angel Olsen, Rhiannon Giddens and a tribute to Chuck Berry. J.G.

Shania Twain

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Shania Twain

Album: TBA
Release Date: Fall 2017
It’s a bit of an understatement to say there is anticipation for Shania Twain’s new full length. The country pop superstar hasn’t released a proper album in 15 years, dealing with stress-related vocal cord issues after her public divorce from Mutt Lange before launching an acclaimed Las Vegas residency and a massive U.S. tour. But Twain’s new material, with help from producers Ron Aniello and Jake Gosling, is said to possess a darker lyrical tone and more organic instrumentation than her blockbuster Nineties productions did. “There’s a lot of songs that have that contrast on it that maybe are too subtle for the listener to even realize,” she told Rolling Stone recently. J.F.

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