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Jake Owen
Michael Loccisano, Getty Images
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Jake Owen, ‘Endless Summer’ – Album Review

The very nature of the EP lends itself more to an artist's most faithful supporters than middling fans looking for an entry point into a new style or sound. Jake Owen's 'Endless Summer' EP allows his warm weather party with Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw to last a little longer, but like summer love, the four songs will be little more than memories by the first yellow leaves of fall. 

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Brad Paisley
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
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Brad Paisley, ‘Southern Comfort Zone’ – Song Review

Brad Paisley's new single 'Southern Comfort Zone' is another socially important song, joining previous hits like 'Welcome to the Future' and 'This Is Country Music.' The singer's voice carries more weight in 2012 than it did in 2008 or 2004, and one senses that he's aware of his influence. This song recorded by someone like Hank Williams Jr. or Toby Keith would be labeled as pretentious or preachy, but Paisley's understated delivery (combined with a lovable personality) allows him to pack the punch he's been working toward.

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Easton Corbin
Mercury Nashville
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Easton Corbin, ‘All Over the Road’ – Album Review

It's easy to heap praise on Easton Corbin's sophomore album for the same reasons fans and critics enjoyed his self-titled debut. 'All Over the Road' -- available in stores and at digital retailers now --is full of traditional country music that goes down like a spoonful of George Strait's sugar. However, Corbin misses an opportunity to identify himself with this 11-song project. 

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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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Kenny Chesney
Donald Bowers, Getty Images
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Kenny Chesney, ‘El Cerrito Place’ – Song Review

'El Cerrito Place' is the signature song on Kenny Chesney's new 'Welcome to the Fishbowl' album. Its release as a single makes certain the direction the singer has chosen for his future. Stadium anthems may be yesterday's news, replaced by revealing ballads that can be uncomfortable to listen to for the very first time.

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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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EMI Nashville
EMI Nashville
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Dierks Bentley, ‘Country and Cold Cans’ – Album Review

EPs are often like movie sequels in that they often feel like a ploy to make a few dollars instead of a chance for an artist to expand upon a theme. Much like ‘Empire Strikes Back,’ and more recently, ‘Toy Story 2′, Dierks Bentley‘s ‘Country and Cold Cans’ proves to be an exception. 

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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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Warner Nashville
Warner Nashville
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The FARM, ‘Be Grateful’ – Song Review

They don’t come more wholesome than ‘Be Grateful,’ the new single from the FARM. The trio once again showcases tight harmonies while trading lead vocals on a song that seems ready-made for a United Way commercial.

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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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Warner Nashville
Warner Nashville
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Gloriana, ‘A Thousand Miles Left Behind’ – Album Review

On their sophomore album, Gloriana lay down 11 tight, polished and harmonious country songs that collectively fall short of providing an identity for a group working through year four together. The trio feels like the shy kid in class who knows all the answers, but doesn’t want to raise his or her hand. 

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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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