Three highly-anticipated, Nashville-made albums are being released today: one from a stadium-packing, chart-topping country guy, another from a Grammy-winning, country-gone-gospel (at least for a side project) singer and another from one of country music’s most celebrated songwriters, who’s also a Grammy winner.
Jake Owen’s American Love finds the Florida native using music as therapy to get him through a divorce. It’s an upbeat, positive record for the most part, with romance taking center stage. (Four of the LP’s tracks also have the word “love” in their titles.) Owen, who co-produced about a third of the record, says a moment of self-realization helped his confidence in making this, his fifth studio album. For years, the Florida native was worried about being pigeonholed as the beach bum, good-time guy who “wasn’t country enough.” But then he realized his image and signature sound actually sell a lot of records, so why shy from what his fans want?
“The music is not about giving the middle finger,” he tells Rolling Stone Country. “It’s an art form. You don’t ever walk by someone’s painting or into someone’s home and go, ‘Who did that painting? Why would you want to put that on your wall?’ They like it, and they want to live with it, and they want to walk by it every day. And that’s what music is. If someone accepts it and puts it on their so-called wall or CD player and lives with it, that is a pretty awesome compliment!”
Also today, Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum releases Love Remains, a spiritual album recorded with her mother (and fellow Grammy winner) Linda Davis, along with father Lang Scott and sister Rylee Scott. Produced by bluegrass legend Ricky Skaggs, the LP is a mix of hymns Hillary grew up singing in church and original songs.
“The process of making this album has not only been creatively inspiring but I’ve also really been able to grow as a person,” Hillary shares. “With all that we’ve gone through, we have been able to process everything together while solidifying the strong foundation that we have in our family.”
Hillary Scott & the Scott Family’s first single, “Thy Will” is about how faith got them through hard times, including the loss of Hillary and Rylee’s grandfather and Hillary’s recent miscarriage. The song has already hit the top of Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs chart.
A songwriter who’s also familiar with owning the chart’s penthouse, Lori McKenna releases her new LP, The Bird and the Rifle today. While she may be best known for penning huge hits for others — like her Grammy-winning “Girl Crush” for Little Big Town and Tim McGraw’s smash hit, “Humble and Kind” — the Massachusetts native is a seasoned entertainer herself, and Rifle marks her 10th studio album.
McKenna includes her own version of “Humble and Kind,” which she wrote as a letter to her five children, on the Dave Cobb-produced project, along with a track list full of cinematic story songs. She admits she consciously went ballad- and heartbreak-heavy on the project, because Cobb convinced her she shouldn’t worry too much about balancing it out with uptempos or love songs.
“I do, and I don’t know why!” McKenna exclaims when asked if she has a penchant for sad songs. “I think it has to do with my voice and where I normally go to melodically. If I could sing differently, I’d write differently. But with the voice as the vehicle … I keep the melodies very simple, so the words need to be really bright. I think that’s why I’m drawn to ballads. “
The Bird and the Rife‘s title track is equally sad and redemptive but was inspired by comedy: McKenna got the title from dialogue on an episode of Modern Family.