2012 is only a few days old, but there are a few things that we are really looking forward to in the world of country music. There are some big tours and quite a few big albums coming down the turnpike, and it's already looking to be a banner year. Here are ten things to look forward to:
Kellie Pickler: On Jan. 24, the singer releases her third disc, 100 Proof. In our ears, it's one of Nashville's top albums since Lee Ann Womack's "There's More Where That Came From" some seven years ago. The disc is a nod to Kellie's more traditional side, and after you've heard cuts like "Little House On The Highway," "Stop Cheating On Me," "Where's Tammy Wynette," and the poignant "Mother's Day," we think you'll be very impressed!
Tim McGraw / Kenny Chesney: This has the potential to be one of the biggest country tours of the year. These two have been the best of friends long before they became household names, so one can only imagine that it will be a fun time for all. Chesney's duet partner from "You And Tequila," Grace Potter, will be along for the ride, so it figures to be a tour to remember!
Lee Ann Womack: According to the word on the street, she and husband Frank Liddell have already started work on her first new album in four years. When you consider the quality of her albums, any time Womack releases a new album is truly an event!
Dailey and Vincent: While you won't find them on country radio, this super duo have won just about every award that is imaginable in the world of bluegrass music. Their last disc, a Cracker Barrel exclusive tribute to the music of the Statler Brothers, stayed atop the bluegrass albums chart for quite a while, so don't be surprised if their latest - The Gospel Side of Dailey and Vincent -- due out January 9 does the same!
Dixie Chicks Reunion? No, there has been no announcement of this. It's purely conjecture. However, when we talked with member Martie Maguire a few weeks ago, she said she and sister Emily were ready to get back in the studio and on the road -- they were just waiting on Natalie! So… Ms. Maines, come on back!
Buy The Book: This looks to be an interesting year for country acts in the literary world, with artists such as Kenny Rogers, Ricky Skaggs, Jean Shepard planning their autobiographies.
Grand Ole Opry Inductees: There is no exact recipe for what warrants induction as a member of country music's top club, as last year's selection of Rascal Flatts and the Oak Ridge Boys showed, but I would not be surprised if 2012 brought invitations to bluegrass queen Rhonda Vincent or possibly her brother Darrin - as part of Dailey and Vincent.
Hank Williams, Jr.: After the September controversy that resulted in his "Rowdy Friends" theme being pulled from "Monday Night Football," Hank and the song are free agents for next season. Where will they land?
Taylor Swift... The Year of, Part Two?: It's hard to believe that 2012 could be any bigger for Swift than 2011, but between a new album in the works for the fourth quarter, and a new collaboration with the Civil Wars, she continues to shine brightly as the head of the class!
Country Music Hall Of Fame: There's no word as to the exact date of the announcement of the 2012 class, but it usually happens CRS week - which is in February. There has been quite a bit of speculation as far as this years' inductees. In the pre-1980 class, strong arguments have been made for acts such as Ronnie Milsap (who could also be included in the post-1980 class) and Jerry Reed. Post 1980, could it be Garth? Alan? Or maybe Ricky Skaggs? We'll find out soon. I'm working on an article with my thoughts on this, but I do hope that in the Musician category, the voters go outside of Nashville and induct the man who put the "Bakersfield Sound" on the map, the legendary Don Rich!