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2018 Country Music Preview: 30 Most Anticipated Albums and Tours

From new LPs by Kacey Musgraves and Dierks Bentley to tours by Miranda Lambert and Kenny Chesney

2018 Country Music Preview: 30 Most Anticipated Albums and Tours

A new album from Kacey Musgraves and headlining tours by Kenny Chesney and Miranda Lambert are among the anticipated highlights of 2018.

For fans of country and Americana music, 2018 is shaping up to be a bountiful year. Groundbreaking Nashville artists like Kacey Musgraves and Dierks Bentley are returning with new albums, while up-and-comers like Lanco and Devin Dawson unveil debuts that should make them strong additions to the format. In Americana, BJ Barham’s American Aquarium ready their first release with a new lineup, Australian chanteuse Ruby Boots drops an eclectic LP and Anderson East bares more of his soul on his sophomore album. There are also a ton of tours to keep an eye on. Here are the shows and records we’re most excited to see and hear.

John Oates

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John Oates

Album: Arkansas
Release Date: February 2nd
Since putting down roots in Nashville, Eighties pop-and-R&B icon John Oates has carved out a sweet spot for himself in the Americana community. His 2013 album Good Road to Follow was an underrated gem, with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame member (he and Daryl Hall were inducted in 2014) acquitting himself nicely as a roots-music artist. He further mines that genre on the new Arkansas, an LP of mainly covers by Jimmie Rodgers and Mississippi John Hurt, and traditionals (“Stack O Lee” is a highlight). The title track, an Oates original, pays tribute to the state’s musical legacy, informed by its border on the Mississippi River. “My entire musical life has been influenced by the music that has flowed up that river from New Orleans through the Delta,” Oates says. “It occurred to me that Arkansas was the last rural stop on the musical journey northward.” J.H.

12. Brandi Carlile album

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Brandi Carlile

Album: By the Way, I Forgive You
Release Date: February 16th
On her sixth studio album, Americana heroine Brandi Carlile ramps everything up a notch, working with Waylon Jennings’ rebel-yell son Shooter, who co-produced with Dave Cobb. She takes deep dives into her family history (“Most of All”) and offers up an anthem for the downtrodden (“The Joke,” a chin-up call to arms for anyone feeling oppressed, was blasted out in a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!). While largely adhering to her unplugged, modern-Appalachian approach, Carlile also pushes a few musical envelopes: “Harder to Forgive” is swoony, luxurious pop, “Hold Out Your Hand” has a wall-of-drums wallop and “Party of One” wraps up with shivery orchestration. D.B.

Colter Wall

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Colter Wall

Tour: Warping Our Minds Tour
Dates: March 8th – June 8th
This time last year, Colter Wall, still riding high on the standing ovation he’d received from Steve Earle during an appearance on Skyville Live, was getting ready to release the self-titled LP that he’d recorded with Dave Cobb. The game has changed just a little bit since then for the baritone from Saskatchewan, who vaulted onto many best-of lists for 2017 on the strength of the superb Colter Wall. He heads to Europe this month for a four-week overseas jaunt, then returns to North America to start warping minds in earnest. “I’ve been an opening act for pretty much as long as I’ve been out here doing this, so to be able to go out and be a headliner is an adjustment for me,” Wall told Chris Shiflett on the Walking the Floor podcast last year. His stateside dates include a stop at Stagecoach Festival in Indio, California, at the end of April, and guest appearances by Paul Cauthen and Joshua Hedley. J.G.

Randy Rogers

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Randy Rogers Band

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
Last year marked the 10th anniversary of the Hold My Beer and Watch This Tour, the collaboration of Randy Rogers and longtime friend Wade Bowen. Plans are afoot for the pair to record a new LP – “Duets have been going on in country music for a long time and it’s fun to carry the tradition on,” says Rogers – but they’re on hold for the time being while each prepares to release new solo albums. Aside from the fact that it was recorded in Nashville with Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb, details are scarce on the new Randy Rogers Band album, the Texas group’s ninth studio recording and first since 2016’s Nothing Shines Like Neon. What’s safe to assume, however, is that the songs on the project – slated for release in the middle of the year – have already been road-tested during one or more of the freewheeling Hold My Beer shows. J.G.

11. Anderson East’s new album

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Anderson East

Album: Encore
Release Date: January 12th
Two summers ago, Delilah introduced Anderson East as a raspy belter whose songwriting balanced somewhere between Muscle Shoals nostalgia and neo-soul chic. He comes into his own with Encore, a sophomore album that finds a more modern home for his throwback voice. “All on My Mind,” which he co-wrote with Ed Sheeran, was the biggest song on Triple A radio one week before Christmas, while the album’s release loomed less than a month away. He’ll also hit the road in support of the record, bringing his rapturous live show to New York, Nashville and into Europe. “Everything really is just derivative of being a preacher,” he told Chris Shiflett during an appearance on Walking the Floor. “You’re all there to have a collective experience and you’re leading the audience, and that’s what a preacher is.” R.C.

John Prine

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John Prine

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
The prospect of new music from John Prine is something the veteran singer-songwriter’s fans haven’t gotten to look forward to in more than a decade. Prine’s most recent album of original material, Fair & Square, came out all the way back in 2005, so the mere mention of his as-yet-unnamed follow-up is noteworthy enough. “I don’t wanna just sit down and write a little couplet that’s kind of witty, or something. I’ve done that,” he told Rolling Stone last year. Instead, expect real firepower: He recorded with Dave Cobb at Nashville’s RCA Studio A and recruited guests like Jason Isbell, Amanda Shires and Brandi Carlile.

Justin Timberlake album

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Justin Timberlake

Album: Man of the Woods
Release Date: February 2nd
It was easy for fans of Justin Timberlake to guess that the megastar would be releasing new music imminently. He spent his 2016 and 2017 posting studio photos with tried-and-true collaborators Timbaland and Pharrell Williams as well as country stars like Little Big Town. He even had a Number One single with “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” in the time following the release cycle of 2013’s The 20/20 Experience. Though new single “Filthy” is futuristic funk, the Man Vs. Wild aesthetic of his announcement trailer hints at a country-fried new aesthetic – Chris Stapleton is among the album’s special guests. “The music we made? It’s gonna put him on another plateau,” Timbaland recently told Rolling Stone. B.S.

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