You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better country album this year than Starting Over, Stapleton’s fourth studio album and first since 2017’s From A Room: Volume 2. From Stapleton’s ragged, soulful vocals to Dave Cobb’s feral production, Starting Over is all untamed emotion. Whether Stapleton is singing about beginning anew with his love on the title track, expressing his devotion on “When I’m With You,” bitterly addressing an ex-lover on "Cold" or angrily and righteously taking on the Route 91 Harvest Country Music Festival shooter in the blistering “Watch You Burn,” none of the rough edges are sanded off here, and the result is masterful. Stapleton covers John Fogerty’s “Joy of My Life” and Guy Clark’s “Worry B Gone” and “Old Friends” here and he proves that he is as capable a songwriter as these two legends.
Morgan Wallen, "7 Summers"
Wallen, the recently crowned new artist of the year at this week’s CMA Awards, stars in an eight-minute short film that ties in a plot featuring Wallen figuring out how to get out from under his father’s shadow, especially when it comes to pursuing baseball, and plan a future with his girlfriend. It serves as his acting debut and a nice companion to his current hit.
Thomas Rhett, “What’s Your Country Song”
Rhett’s music video for his latest single combines what looks like home footage with scenes of small-town life -- think two-lane roads, Friday high school football games, fishing, cornfields -- as he name-drops classic country songs such as “Mama Tried,” “Dixieland Delight,” “Strawberry Wine,” “Family Tradition” and more. The images evoke as warm memories as the flood of song titles.
Shenandoah, best known for ’80 and ‘90s hits like “Church on Cumberland Road” and “Two Dozen Roses,” returns with a new collection featuring collaborations with some of today’s top hitmakers. Instead of revisiting the group’s greatest hits per usual for such projects, this set features all new music, Shenandoah’s first to do so in 26 years. Producer Buddy Cannon did an excellent job of pairing guests with their songs, including Zac Brown Band on the nostalgic “I’d Take Another One of Those,” Ashley McBryde on the wistful “If Only.” Other standouts include the rollicking “High Class Hillbillies” with Cody Johnson and sweetly swaying “Every Time I Look At You” with Lady A. These projects can be hit or miss, but on this one both T the original artist — Marty Raybon’s voice remains powerful— and the guest artists shine.
Adam Doleac, "Whiskey’s Fine"
As the radio versio of “Whiskey’s Fine” goes for ads on Monday (Nov. 16), Doleac releases an acoustic version for fans already familiar with the original from his EP released earlier this year. His quiet rasp is equally compelling on both versions of the sultry ode to the power of liquor and lips. The acoustic version eliminates the electric guitar solo, but retains the song’s quiet urgency.
Kameron Marlowe, Kameron Marlowe
Season 15 The Voice contestant Marlowe wears his influences on his sleeve whether they be Luke Combs or Travis Tritt on this solid six-track collection that includes the driving “Giving You Up,” the chugging “Sober as a Drunk,” and the shuffling “Burn ‘Em All.” Marlowe wrote or co-wrote four of the tracks here, showing his promise as a songwriter as well as a nascent talent.