Husband and wife team Keifer and Shawna Thompson of Thompson Square earned a lot of new fans when they opened for Luke Bryan last month at Huntington Center.
Their hit single, “If I Didn’t Have You,” was the emotional high point of the show and is the first cut off the duo’s new album, “Just Feels Good,” which hit stores this week.
The album not only cements the duo’s place in country music, it also headlines three exceptional albums that music lovers can get a hold of now or will be able to soon.
One week from Sunday, the 48th annual Academy of Country Music Awards will take place in Las Vegas, but new projects from Thompson Square, Kacey Musgraves, and Brad Paisley already have to be considered contenders for album of the year at any of country music’s awards shows. Here’s a closer look.
Thompson Square, “Just Feels Good.” Nobody can write a catchy hook better than this pair, and this feel-good album does something unusual in that the songs get stronger from track to track. Trace Adkins fans will recognize “I Can’t Outrun You,” which was a cut on his album, “X.” It’s always been a personal favorite of mine, and I was a little worried I wouldn’t be able to get Trace’s voice out of my head while listening to it. But the blend and soaring vocals of Keifer and Shawna give it a fresh, appealing feel.
There really isn’t a weak cut on the album, but “Here’s to Being Here,” “Just Feels Good,” and “Run” sound like hits to me.
Kacey Musgraves, “Same Trailer Different Park.” Some people remember Musgraves from the 2007 season of “Nashville Star,” but for most people, she was an unknown until she hit country radio with her debut single, “Merry Go ‘Round.” Powered by that breakout hit, Musgraves’ album sold an amazing 44,000 copies in its first week, topping this week’s country albums chart and putting her behind only Justin Timberlake on Billboard’s all-genre chart.
This album is lyrically driven. Her gift for storytelling and rhyme is amazing. A personal favorite of mine is “Stupid,” a song about being blinded by love, which all too often can wind up all wrong. Country radio fans may not have known her before, but she’ll be a household name by the time she releases three or four cuts from this project.
Brad Paisley, “Wheelhouse.” Paisley cements his standing as country hitmaker with this album, which will be released on April 9. He’s obviously comfortable with his place in country music because he tackles a host of controversial topics, including spousal abuse (“Karate”), slavery (“Accidental Racist”), and nonbelievers (“Those Crazy Christians”).
The latter is possibly the most controversial track that Paisley has ever cut. He’s always freely worn his Christianity on his sleeve, but he writes this song from the viewpoint of a nonbeliever who mocks Christians for condemning those who drink whiskey while partaking in the “Savior’s wine,” receiving their weekly dose of forgiveness before heading off to Applebee’s, and putting their lives in danger by going on overseas missions. But the agnostic offers the ultimate praise by the end of the song: “But if I needed help, guess who I’d call — those crazy Christians.”
Brian Dugger’s column on country music appears in The Blade on the last Saturday of every month. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @DuggerCountry.