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Little Big Town
Tornado
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Little Big Town, ‘Tornado’ – Song Review

'Tornado' is a bold choice for Little Big Town's next single, as it takes on another storm song from a country music superstar with more clout -- Carrie Underwood. As an album, 'Tornado' is sharp and uncompromising, so this brashness should come as no surprise. Few will argue that there isn't room for both of these heavyweights on iPods and country radio.

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Billy Ray Cyrus
Blue Cadillac Music
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Billy Ray Cyrus, ‘Change My Mind’ – Song Review

It's difficult to keep up with Billy Ray Cyrus. The singer clearly has the chops and energy to record relevant country music, but with every new album comes a new direction -- and perhaps a new haircut. 'Change My Mind,' the title track from his new album (in stores this October), finds the singer playing the bad boy, as a storm of edgy banjo and electric guitar playing swirls around him. 

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Little Big Town
Capitol Nashville
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Little Big Town, ‘Tornado’ – Album Review

Little Big Town assert themselves as a vocal quartet with real power and attitude on their new album 'Tornado.' The project -- their most consistent and satisfying yet -- sheds the milquetoast midtempo exercises that bogged down previous albums in favor of ones with true grit. 

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Kix Brooks
Arista Records
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Kix Brooks, ‘New to This Town’ – Album Review

If nothing else, the 12 songs on 'New to This Town' -- the first solo album from Kix Brooks in 23 years -- serve as reminder that we really don't know the mustachioed half of Brooks and Dunn very well. The project is is downright rowdy, and Brooks is a more colorful singer than he showed on songs like 'Lost and Found.' 

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Lucas Hoge
Lucas Hoge
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Lucas Hoge, ‘Do What Makes You Feel Good’ – Song Review

You don’t need a late afternoon cup of coffee to get you through a long work day. Just turn up Lucas Hoge’s new song, ‘Do What Makes You Feel Good.’ The ready-made smile surfs along a funky Caribbean guitar riff, providing a three minute-long (and some change) vacation. 

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RodeoWave Entertainment
RodeoWave Entertainment
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High Valley, ‘Love You for a Long Time’ – Song Review

High Valley‘s tight harmonies and bluegrass influenced pop-country sound will be new to American audiences, but the sibling trio proves that their success in Canada wasn’t just a fluke. ‘Love You for a Long Time,’ the debut single on Eaglemont Entertainment, is a professional recording one usually doesn’t find from a baby act. This group is clearly a seasoned — but still exciting — voice to keep an eye on.

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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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