Turner’s steady baritone is the perfect match for this collection of classic country tunes. It’s his first country album in three years and the set marks a welcome return, especially since it finds him paired with some of his musical heroes and contemporaries. John Anderson joins Turner for a remake of Anderson’s 1993 common-man theme on “I’ve Got It Made,” as does Kris Kristofferson on his standard “Why Me,” which is bolstered by an especially moving performance by Turner. Randy Travis, who lost his singing voice following his stroke years ago, shows up for Turner’s loving take on “Forever and Ever, Amen.” Maddie & Tae, Runaway June, Allison Moorer and Chris Janson also join Turner. Expertly curated selections and Turner’s rock solid vocals make for a winning set from start to finish.
Brothers Osborne, “Skeleton”
The title track from the duo’s upcoming album is a rumbling, swampy country rocker that you feel to your toes. “I heard you’d been creeping round about the time that sun goes down,” sings T.J. Osborne before the guitars and organs come wailing in. Try to find a better line this year than “You’ve got skeletons in your closet and I’ve got bones to pick with them.”
Dolly Parton, “Mary, Did You Know”
The thermometer is busting three digits across much of the country, but Parton instantly transports the listener to wintertime with her uplifting, emotional take on Christmas classic, “Mary, Did You Know,” from A Holly Dolly Christmas, out Oct. 2. The first third features Parton before exploding into into a choir before going into a spoken interlude with Parton speaking directly to and blessing Mary. A beautiful interpretation.
The second installment of Beathard’s 20-track album (the first half arrived in 2018 and was released independently) arrives with 13 new songs that show off his songwriter prowess on such tracks as “You Would Think” (co-written with his hit songwriting father, Casey), the clever, story-telling “One Upper,” the regretful "Miss You Now," the driving "Only," and searing "Find Me Here -Broke Down." Beathard is in full command of his craft throughout here, sounding confident in his own voice both vocally and stylistically. At 25, Beathard has already been through plenty, including getting out of a failed record deal, founding out he was a dad, and, the horrible murder of his younger brother in December. The latter event plays out in set closer, the moving “I Ain’t Without You.”
Gary Allan, “Waste of a Whiskey Drink”
Allan convincingly sells this cautionary tale as he tries to warn off a poor sucker from buying a woman a drink because Allan already knows how it’s going to end… with her stealing his Pearl Jam shirt, sleeping with his friends, ruining his favorite song and a world of hurt. Part of the allure is there’s no way the barfly is going to listen. In part because Allan leaves just a hint that he might go down the road again given half a chance.
The Dillards, Old Road New Again
The Dilliards were a pivotal peg in intersection between bluegrass, country and rock in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, influencing a legion of artists, including Elton John. Rodney Dilliard is the only surviving member of the original outfit, but he’s joined by a robust unit on the new set as well as famous fans Don Henley, Ricky Skaggs, Sharon and Cheryl White, Herb Pedersen, Bernie Leadon and Sam Bush. Not available on Spotify, but worth seeking out on Amazon Music or the iTunes Store for their bluegrass remake of “Save the Last Dance For Me” featuring Sharon and Cheryl White alone) and the moving “My Last Sunset” with Henley and Pedersen.