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Jason Merritt, Getty Images
Jason Merritt, Getty Images
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Craig Campbell, ‘Outta My Head’ – Song Review

Craig Campbell tries on a more contemporary sound with his new single ‘Outta My Head,’ a song about getting over a lover who won’t leave you alone even though she hasn’t called in quite some time. By leaning away from traditional, the singer aims to please more fans than his last two singles — the edgy ‘Fish’ and a middle finger to bill collectors called ‘When I Get It’ — but the result is a nondescript, mid-tempo country song that could have been recorded by anyone at any time. 

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Dimitrios Kambouris, Getty Images
Dimitrios Kambouris, Getty Images
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Gloriana, ‘Can’t Shake You’ – Song Review

Gloriana’s new single ‘Can’t Shake You’ takes time to build, but by the second verse, the trio is able to put real hurt into a mid-tempo song about failed love and regret. The second-to-last chorus finds a Gossin brother (Tom, Mike… who can tell them apart without looking at them?) digging deep for what may be the most vulnerable moment on their new ‘A Thousand Miles Left Behind’ album. 

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Capitol Nashville
Capitol Nashville
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Darius Rucker, ‘True Believers’ – Song Review

Darius Rucker takes a simple story of two lovers who defy odds and skeptics and places it gently on a cloud in the stratosphere — a place few others can reach. ‘True Believers’ begins as a mild and unremarkable pop-country song before clever production and Rucker’s unforgettable voice find one soaring in the euphoria. 

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RCA Nashville
RCA Nashville
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Joanna Smith, ‘We Can’t Be Friends’ – Song Review

If Joanna Smith‘s new single ‘We Can’t Be Friends’ was released 30 years ago, we might call it a classic in 2012. Since the singer is relatively new, however (the sexy single ‘Georgia Mud’ barely cracked the chart in 2011 ), we’ll restrain ourselves from over-selling this portrait of caged yearning. Smith is the perfect voice to tell the story.

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Rick Diamond, Getty Images
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
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Dustin Lynch, ‘Dustin Lynch’ – Album Review

At his best, Dustin Lynch falls in line with the George Strait tradition of good, solid country music sung with enviable ease. The newcomer doesn’t have a dynamic voice, but he’s certainly not a hum-drum bore. Highlights from his self-titled debut album are melodic and in control. 

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Big Machine Records
Big Machine Records
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Taylor Swift, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ – Song Review

Men and women will be divided on ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,’ Taylor Swift‘s new single. On one (woman’s) hand, it’s an empowering breakup song that slams the door on every no-good loser who’s come crawling back with apologies and “I love yous” (and maybe flowers or a sack of White Castle hamburgers) at all hours of the night. From the male perspective: “Get over it.”

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Frazer Harrison, Getty Images
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images
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Love and Theft, ‘Love and Theft’ – Album Review

For Love and Theft, it’s addition by subtraction. The loss of a record label and a band member resulted in a project that is tighter and more accessible than anything on the group’s 2009 debut album. The best songs on ‘Love and Theft‘ are those that tell simple stories and those that rely on simple melodies. That’s most of the album.

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Rick Diamond, Getty Images
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
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Toby Keith, ‘I Like Girls That Drink Beer’ – Song Review

Toby Keith has found a fast racecar, and he’s not getting out of it until it falls apart. ‘I Like Girls That Drink Beer’ is his 12th booze-fueled single in 20 years, including three recent ones in a row. The man sings what he knows, and it works… mostly.

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Valory Music Co.
Valory Music Co.
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Brantley Gilbert, ‘Kick It in the Sticks’ – Song Review

It’s difficult to overstate how important ‘Kick It in the Sticks’ is to Brantley Gilbert‘s career and the direction of country music. It’s a line drawn in the red Georgia clay — after two releases that held back — to allow those not previously familiar with the Jefferson-born singer to get acquainted with his pacing and style. This is his ‘Free Bird,’ in that it’s the first song fans and critics will mention in association with this talented artist. 

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Frazer Harrison, Getty Images
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images
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The Mavericks, ‘Born to Be Blue’ – Song Review

The Mavericks couldn’t have timed their reunion more perfectly. The ’90s hitmakers bring their familiar sound back to country radio with ‘Born to Be Blue,’ a track from their new ‘Suited Up and Ready’ EP. Too often, getting the old band back together produces tired rewrites of a classic sound. The Mavericks have managed to keep their signature style without alienating younger fans.

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RPM Entertainment
RPM Entertainment
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Maggie Rose, ‘I Ain’t Your Mama’ – Song Review

Maggie Rose’s ‘I Ain’t Your Mama’ doesn’t break the country music dress code, but it comes close enough to be sure that everyone — from buttoned-up stuffies to drooling hound dogs — takes notice. It’s a song that leaves one wanting to see what this singer does next.

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Frank Micelotta, Getty Images
Frank Micelotta, Getty Images
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Chris Cagle, ‘Let There Be Cowgirls’ – Song Review

With singles from his new album ‘Back in the Saddle,’ Chris Cagle is successfully reinventing himself as a country bad boy. ‘Let There Be Cowgirls’ picks up the loud and rowdy that dropped ‘Got My Country On’ in the Top 20. The spirit of this rock-country jam gets one past a clunky melody. 

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