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Fall 2014’s 20 Must-See Country Tours and Festivals

From Eric Church’s metal-country mashups to Brandi Carlile’s unplugged trek, a guide to this fall’s hottest tickets

Must-See Fall Country Tours

Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood perform in Oklahoma

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Nobody on the road. Nobody on the beach. The summer is winding down in a series of BBQ bashes, pool closings and lingering Labor Day hangovers, and it's taking some of the year's best-attended tours with it. As one concert season dies, though, another is reborn. Behold: the rise of a music-packed autumn, filled with enough country tours and festivals to give the warmer months a run for their money. Bring on the falling leaves.

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell performs in Cambridge, United Kingdom.

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Jason Isbell

Punctuated by a sold-out, three-day stand at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium in October, Isbell's fall tour feels like a victory lap for a songwriter who's spent the last year and a half touring his absolute ass off. To add some sweetness to an already happy ending, Southeastern his first record as a sober singer — is up for several trophies at the Americana Music Awards, proof that former hell-raisers can lay off the hard stuff without going soft.

Zac Brown Band

Zac Brown of the Zac Brown Band performs in Birmingham, Alabama.

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Zac Brown Band’s Southern Ground Music & Food Festival

Dates: October 11-12
Before wrapping up their Great American Road Trip Tour, Zac Brown and company will headline Southern Ground Music and Food Festival, a two-day eats 'n' beats festival organized and curated by Brown himself. The festival touched down in Hershey Park last weekend, packed with heavyweights like Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson. Next month, the operations move to South Carolina, bringing more than 20 artists — including Ashley Monroe, Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Secret Sisters and the Old 97's — to a soccer stadium in Charleston.

Eric Church

Eric Church performs onstage during day 1 of 2014 Stagecoach: California's Country Music Festival.

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Eric Church’s Outsiders World Tour

Starts: September 11
Even Chiefs get by with a little help from their friends. Brandy Clark, Halestorm and the Brothers Osborne are all slated to open a handful of shows on Church's upcoming Outsiders World Tour, which kicks off in one week. Better still? Dwight Yoakam will be around for the whole thing, playing the middle set every night. At the top of the musical pecking order is Mr. Church himself, who'll keep the cold ones flowing through mid-December.

Miranda Lambert

Miranda Lambert performs during the 2014 CMA Festival in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Route 91 Harvest Fest

October 3 – 5
Like CMA Fest transported to Las Vegas, this three-day festival focuses on the megastars of country music. Miranda Lambert, Blake Shelton, Brantley Gilbert, Dierks Bentley, Jason Aldean and Dustin Lynch are included in the top-heavy lineup, as are Nashville co-stars Charles Esten and Clare Bowen.

Del McCoury Band

Del McCoury Band

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Bluegrass Ramble and Wide Open Bluegrass

September 30—October 4
Think South by Southwest, but with a lot more banjos. The IBMA's five-day World of Bluegrass event in Raleigh, North Carolina, will include performances by a who's-who list of the genre's greats, including the Del McCoury Band, Ricky Skaggs, Steep Canyon Rangers, Jim Lauderdale, the Grascals, Abigail Wasburn, Bela Fleck, and dozens more. The Bluegrass Ramble includes 30 acts in various restaurants and venues, while the Wide Open Bluegrass event takes place on three main stages.

David Nail

David Nail performs on stage during Keith Urban's Fifth Annual 'We're All 4 The Hall' benefit concert.

Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum)

David Nail’s I’m a Fire Tour

Starts: September 11
Fueled by a Top 5 record and a handful of chart-climbing singles, Nail launches his I'm a Fire Tour in a week. The short tour — which features Native Run in the opening slot — focuses on cities the powerhouse vocalist has visited before, like Boston and New York. First stop? Oxford, Mississippi.

Sturgill Simpson

Sturgill Simpson performs in Century City, California.

Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for Annenberg Foundation

Sturgill Simpson

Simpson heads across the pond this Fall, crooning his way through five European countries before returning to the U.S. for some of the biggest gigs of his career. Included in the mix are a pair of shows with Jason Isbell and a three-show run at the Fillmore in San Francisco.

Garth Brooks

Musician Garth Brooks performs onstage during the 51st annual ASCAP Country Music Awards.

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Garth Brooks World Tour Featuring Trisha Yearwood

Seven years ago — almost to the day — Tim McGraw and Faith Hill wrapped up their Soul2Soul II Tour, the highest-grossing tour in country music history. Now, with Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood's world tour officially underway, the crown is in jeopardy. Shows are selling out in minutes, as the country star announces one city at a time. Brooks' new single, "People Loving People," hits the radio this week, and a new record is due out in November, just in time for Black Friday.


Sons of Bill

Sons of Bill

Sons of Bill

Starts: September 19
Fresh from the recording studio with producer (and Wilco co-founder) Ken Coomer — and armed with a lush, lovely album called Love & Logic, which hits stores on September 30th — the Virginia boys will travel far beyond the Old Dominion State this Fall, starting with a showcase at the Americana Music Fest on September 19th and ending with a late November gig in Bozeman, Montana.

Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves peforms during the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival in San Francisco, California.

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Kacey Musgraves’ Same Tour Different Trailer

Starts: September 25
After opening for Katy Perry earlier this year, Musgraves will headline her own shows during the upcoming Same Tour Different Trailer Tour. The merry-go-around kicks off September 25. John & Jacob, who joined Musgraves on her 2013 European tour, will open the shows.

Shovels & Rope

Folk duo Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst of Shovels & Rope perform in New Orleans, Louisiana.

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Americana Music Festival

September 17 – 20
When the Americana Music Festival launched in 2000, it felt like a small-time celebration of a niche genre. Fourteen years later, it's one of Nashville's biggest festivals, filled with 160+ performances from heavyweights like the Avett Brothers, rootsy vets like Buddy Miller and up-and-comers like Shovels & Rope and Lera Lynn.

Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams performs during the 2014 Newport Folk Festival.

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Ryan Adams

Starts: October 1
After wrapping up a handful of European dates later this month, Ryan Adams rolls his winding wheels back to the U.S. for a theater tour in support of his self-titled release. Fellow underrated guitarslinger and musical Renaissance Man Butch Walker joins him for most of October. Gimme something good, indeed.

Brandi Carlile

Musician Brandi Carlile performs onstage at the 2nd Light Up The Blues Concert - An Evening Of Music to Benefit Autism Speaks.

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Brandi Carlile’s Pin Drop Tour

Starts: October 1
Looks like the utility bills are gonna be cheap on this one. Brandi Carlile will leave her guitar amp at home for the Pin Drop Tour, a series of unplugged shows featuring little more than Carlile, her two bandmates (brothers Tim and Phil Hanseroth, who've been with the singer/songwriter since her 2005 debut) and a handful of acoustic instruments. No microphones will be allowed… and given the ballsy boom of Carlile's voice, we doubt they'll be missed.

Little Big Town

Little Big Town performs during the First Annual Florida Country Superfest.

Rick Diamond/Getty Images for 2014 Festival Productions Inc.

Little Big Town’s Pain Killer Tour

Starts: November 8
With their sixth album, Pain Killer, due out October 21, the country coeds in Little Big Town are hitting the road this November. Brothers Osborne will open the shows, rounding out a tour-heavy season that also includes a spot on Eric Church's Outsiders World Tour, while Brett Eldredge takes the middle slot. The tour stops around Christmas… but don't be surprised if LBT kicks up the tornado once again after the holidays are over.

Joe Fletcher and J.P. Harris

Joe Fletcher and J.P. Harris perform during the Americana Music Festival in Nashville.

Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Americana Music Festival

J.P. Harris & the Tough Choices

We've never taken a look at J.P. Harris' tour luggage, but we're certain his bags include zero razors and an astounding amount of old-school honky tonk CDs. The rough-and-tumble, blue-collar foil to the pomaded pretty boys who play a similar style of throwback country music in Nashville's Lower Broadway bars, Harris will spend the autumn zigzagging across the American heartland, racking up another 10,000 miles or so on the road that goes on forever.

Martina McBride

Martina McBride performs at the C2C Music Festival in London.

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Martina McBride’s Everlasting Tour

True to its name, the Everlasting Tour — which kicked off in May, one month after Everlasting's release — will run through the end of the year, with a pair of dates already announced for January 2015. To help recreate the R&B standards that filled the album, McBride is bringing along an 11-piece band, including a horn section and a trio of backup singers.

Justin Townes Earle

Justin Townes Earle performs in Santa Monica, California.

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Justin Townes Earle

Starts: September 5
Sober, married and armed with one of his best albums in years, Earle is hitting the ol' Copperhead Road this fall, with roughly 50 shows scheduled between now and Thanksgiving. Highlights? The Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco, a homecoming show at Nashville's Ryman Auditorium and a headlining slot at Australia's newest Americana festival, Out on the Weekend.

Sarah Jarosz

Sarah Jarosz performs during the 2014 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival.

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The Milk Carton Kids & Sarah Jarosz

Starts: October 17
Fresh from a collaborative appearance on Austin City Limits, the Milk Carton Kids and Sarah Jarosz will bring their flat-picked folk music to 16 different venues across the Midwest and East Coast. They'll be using just one microphone, too, a tip of the proverbial cowboy hat to the folkies than came before them. The kids are all right.

Gary Allan

Gary Allan performs at CRS 2014 at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Gary Allan

Allan is all over the map this Fall, playing gigs in Australia, Texas and the Midwest before capping off the year with a two-night stand at the House of Blues in Las Vegas. Meanwhile, he's been working on a self-produced follow-up to last year's Set You Free, testing some of his new songs out on the road.

Brad Paisley

Singer/songwriter Brad Paisley performs on ABC's 'Good Morning America.'

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Brad Paisley’s Country Nation World Tour

Paisley didn't play any shows in April. Apart from that short spring break, the Twitter-happy guitar slinger has been been hitting the road every single month since January, playing 24-song sets during the evenings and tightening up the mixes for his new album, Moonshine in the Trunk, during the afternoons (or, as he recently told Rolling Stone Country, during international flights on Air Force 1). After a handful of shows in Texas, North Carolina and Virginia, he'll round out the Country Nation World Tour with a few weeks in Canada.