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Reviews

Blackberry Smoke
Jason Merritt, Getty Images
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Blackberry Smoke, ‘Pretty Little Lie’ – Song Review

There's a genuine honky tonk feel to Blackberry Smoke's new single 'Pretty Little Lie.' The song is short on polish and long on lugubrious love. While honest and heartfelt, it's a story that's difficult to embrace.

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Kenny Chesney
Donald Bowers, Getty Images
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Kenny Chesney, ‘Pirate Flag’ – Song Review

From the first note, one knows the new single from Kenny Chesney's upcoming album is filled with more hope than much of the pensive material on 'Welcome to the Fishbowl.' 'Pirate Flag' opens softly -- with strings and a bouncy mandolin -- before Chesney begins to tell his story. 

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Chris Janson
Bigger Picture Music Group
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Chris Janson, ‘Better I Don’t’ – ToC Critic’s Pick [Listen]

Chris Janson's new single comes at you like a Mack Truck with a wild-eyed driver -- and it never lets up. 'Better I Don't' delivers in every way imaginable. It's a pure country original that promises to break the Missouri native's career like 'All My Friends Say' did for Luke Bryan in 2007.

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Greg Bates
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
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Greg Bates, ‘Fill in the Blank’ – Song Review

Greg Bates flashes a mischievous sense of humor in his new single 'Fill in the Blank.' The 'Did It for the Girl' hitmaker is proving to be from the George Strait school of music, but he must have taken a Master Class on Tracy Byrd somewhere along the way.

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Gary Allan
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Album Spotlight: Gary Allan, ‘Set You Free’ – ToC Critic’s Pick

Gary Allan delivers the emotionally rich album his fans expect while stretching his sound in multiple new directions on 'Set You Free,' the singer's ninth studio album and first in three years. The songwriting is strong from the first track to the last, with Allan mixing moments of joy and hope within his familiar anguish.

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Lady Antebellum
Capitol Nashville
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Lady Antebellum, ‘Downtown’ – ToC Critic’s Pick [Listen]

Lady Antebellum have never been funkier than on their new single 'Downtown' -- the first from the trio's upcoming fourth studio album. A guitar lick postmarked 1962 steers the song and pushes the band in an exciting new direction.

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Randy Houser
Stoney Creek Records
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Randy Houser, ‘How Country Feels’ – Album Review

Randy Houser comes in from the edges of country music with his third album 'How Country Feels' -- his first on new label Stoney Creek Records. The singer wrote just seven of the project's 15 cuts, but employed many of Nashville's top songwriters to help with the others.

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Jake Owen
RCA Nashville
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Jake Owen, ‘Anywhere With You’ – Song Review

Jake Owen found his niche with songs from the 'Barefoot Blue Jean Night' album, but the unidirectional theme is wearing thin with the arrival of his new single 'Anywhere With You.' There's a thread of spontaneity and nostalgia throughout all of Owen's most recent hits. He is the essence of carefree, which is refreshing... but no longer surprising. 

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Katie Armiger, ‘Fall Into Me’ – Album Review

Katie Armiger's new album, 'Fall Into Me,' features 14 songs that describe love's highs and lows. It's a rollercoaster ride that at times feels like that line from Taylor Swift's 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,' i.e., "I say 'I hate you,' we break up, you call me, 'I love you.'" Fortunately, Armiger's way with words is more debonair.

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Eric Church
EMI Nashville
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Eric Church, ‘Like Jesus Does’ – Song Review

Eric Church has released his most devoted love song from 'Chief' as the album's fifth single. 'Like Jesus Does' reveals the singer's vulnerabilities in a way none of his previous ballads have done. Like 'Springsteen,' reference is made to famous classic rock standards, giving the song some familiarity even before a first listen is finished. 

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Billy Ray Cyrus
Slaven Vlasic, Getty Images
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Billy Ray Cyrus, ‘Hillbilly Heart’ – Song Review

Billy Ray Cyrus evokes sounds of the Mississippi Delta with his new single 'Hillbilly Heart.' The song leans against a big, bad, foot-stompin' guitar lick before the singer reveals his best blues voice. The result is ugly ... in a good way. 

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Kip Moore
MCA Nasvhille
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Kip Moore, ‘Hey Pretty Girl’ – ToC Critic’s Pick [Listen]

'Hey Pretty Girl' is the signature track from Kip Moore's remarkable 'Up All Night' album. The singer slows down the tempo and proves himself to be one of the most emotionally complete artists in the genre.

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