New, Hot and Old-Fashioned

Long Black Train –
Josh Turner

South Carolina native Josh Turner is part of a welcome breeze in country, weaving his standard with dobros, banjos and songs with old-fashioned lyrics – even gospel leanings. Thanks to the path blazed by fellow Carolinian – albeit one from North of the border – Randy Travis, Turner’s first single, “Long Black Train,” is an instant smash.

Turner’s voice is deeper than the holler, and the sound that comes out of this guy is every bit as dynamic as Travis. “In My Dreams,” “She’ll Go on You” and “Unburn All Our Bridges” are some of the cool cuts on the train voyage. Josh admirably covers Jim Croce’s “You Don’t Mess Around With Jim.” Turner has been a big hit at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry all year, and this debut album suggests a striking new country talent has arrived. We’re glad Josh’s locomotive has pulled into the station with Long Black Train. A

Shock ‘n Y’all –
Toby Keith

Few folks in the whole entertainment biz are getting headlines quite the same as Toby, “Mr. All-American” Keith. But, then again, for the most part, Toby writes, sings and records at a different level than most of the people working out of Nashville’s Music Row these days. The boy’s a consistent hitmaker.

The Y’all fun begins with “I Love This Bar,” which has quickly become an anthem crowed out by anyone who loves their own special watering holes. T.K. turns up the rock with “Baddest Boots,” a Southern stomper that Bocephus would tip his hat to. “Whiskey Girl” is a gleeful showcase of a fast and rough woman. Keith chooses to end the album with two of his self-described “bus songs,” ditties that were written with fellow singer/songwriter Scotty Emerick on the tour bus and that are delivered here as live recordings, “The Taliban Song” and “Weed With Willie.” This album is a high time. A-

Wildwood Flower –
June Carter Cash

The country music world mourned the losses of June Carter Cash and her husband Johnny Cash in 2003. Before country music was a commodity and a category, it was a family affair – and no other family stood out like the Carter family. They were truly the First Family of country music.

Recorded in the living room and on the porch of the Carter’s Maces Spring,Va., family fold, surrounded by photos and relics of country music’s first family, this is a document of a historic moment even more than an album. June’s voice is aged but also infinitely spirited and poignant. Stepdaughter Rosanne Cash’s liner notes are inspiring, and the songs, mostly by June or her influential uncle A.P. Carter – including “Keep On The Sunny Side,” “Wildwood Flower” and “Storms Are On The Ocean” – will never sound the same with her gone. B

Greatest Hits –
LeAnn Rimes

You know you are getting old when you look at LeAnn Rimes and remember her as the cute, teeny “Blue” singer that caught the nation by storm some seven years back. Today, Leann, 21, has a husband and a slew of hit records under her belt, and she’s poised for more. Blessed with an amazingly well-balanced, toned, incredibly alluring and gifted vocal instrument, Rimes’ talented wisdom in song selection is also well beyond her years.

This 19-track LeAnn encyclopedia begins with where it all started, “Blue.” Other memorable hits from the years include “One Way Ticket, “The Light In Your Eyes,” “How Do I Live” and “Nothin’ New Under The Moon.” Fans of LeAnn’s holiday style will enjoy “O Holy Night,” where she belts out the yuletide classic with all her oomph. Some new material is also packaged here, including “We Can” and “Last Thing On My Mind.” B-

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