Country releases are highlighted by new music from Chely Wright and Chad Brock, an all-star Hank Williams tribute, a debut album by actor Billy Bob Thornton, an all-star Ralph Stanley duet album, an all-star bull-riding compilation and an all-star polka review from polka king Jimmy Sturr.
Rising star Wright began to click when she left Polydor after recording obscure albums in 1994 and 1996. After her MCA Nashville debut in 1997 — Let Me In — she began attracting a much wider audience with 1999’s Single White Female. Her new album, Never Love You Enough, also on MCA, includes several songs she wrote singly or co-wrote, including three composed with Brad Paisley.
Brock won a wide country audience with the hit “Ordinary Life” from his eponymous 1998 Warner Bros. debut. He expanded it with the title song from last year’s Yes! His new Warner album, III, was produced by hitmakers Norro Wilson and Buddy Cannon, whose work goes back to Tammy Wynette and who have had recent success with Sara Evans, among others.
Actor/singer Billy Bob Thornton’s debut album, Private Radio, on Lost Highway, was produced by Marty Stuart and Jim Mitchell. Prominent Nashville musicians who play on it include Stuart, Don Helms (Hank Williams’ steel guitarist), Randy Scruggs and Barry Beckett. Songs include the Mark Collie-penned title track, the Dwight Yoakam collaboration “Starlight Lounge,” Thornton originals (including two written for wife Angelina Jolie) and cover versions of the Byrds’ “He Was a Friend of Mine” and Hank Williams’ “Lost Highway.”
Timeless: Hank Williams Tribute consists of Williams songs covered by Bob Dylan, Sheryl Crow, Keb’ Mo’, Beck, Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris, Tom Petty, Keith Richards, Hank Williams III, Ryan Adams, Lucinda Williams and Johnny Cash.
Bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley pairs with a number of leading women singers on Clinch Mountain Sweethearts on Rebel Records. His partners on 16 bluegrass and mountain-music standards are Iris DeMent (on two songs), Pam Tillis, Patty Mitchell, Gillian Welch, Dolly Parton, Maria Muldaur, Sara Evans, Joan Baez, Kristi Stanley, Gail Davies, Chely Wright, Melba Montgomery, Jeannie Seely, Lucinda Williams and Valerie Smith.
Polka legend Jimmy Sturr’s new Gone Polka on Rounder Records features polka tracks with Willie Nelson and Brenda Lee, among others. Nelson sings the “On the Road Again Polka,” “Yellow Rose of Texas Polka,” “Waltz Across Texas Polka” and “Just Because Polka.” Lee contributes the “Music Music Music Polka” and the “Ricochet Polka.”
The Dancin’ With Thunder compilation on Epic bills itself as “the official music of the PBR,” i.e., the Professional Bull Riders, a rodeo-circuit spin-off. The songs, including tracks written for the album, are performed by Billy Ray Cyrus, Jewel, Toby Keith, Montgomery Gentry, the Charlie Daniels Band, Deryl Dodd, Jack Ingram, David Lee Murphy, the late Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble and Wild Horses.
Also out this week is She Daisy’s The Whole Shebang: All Mixed Up, a collection of radio remixes derived from the group’s 1999 debut, The Whole Shebang.