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Gary Allan
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Album Spotlight: Gary Allan, ‘Set You Free’ – ToC Critic’s Pick

Gary Allan delivers the emotionally rich album his fans expect while stretching his sound in multiple new directions on 'Set You Free,' the singer's ninth studio album and first in three years. The songwriting is strong from the first track to the last, with Allan mixing moments of joy and hope within his familiar anguish.

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Parmalee
Stoney Creek Records
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Parmalee, ‘Carolina’ – Song Review

"Polished" is not a word one would have used to describe Parmalee after the North Carolina foursome shared their debut single 'Musta Had a Good Time' in 2012, but the rowdy country rockers' follow-up single 'Carolina' is as radio-friendly of a track as you'll find. It's not clear that either style is a perfect fit for the Thomas brothers and their bandmates.

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Lady Antebellum
Capitol Nashville
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Lady Antebellum, ‘Downtown’ – ToC Critic’s Pick [Listen]

Lady Antebellum have never been funkier than on their new single 'Downtown' -- the first from the trio's upcoming fourth studio album. A guitar lick postmarked 1962 steers the song and pushes the band in an exciting new direction.

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Randy Houser
Stoney Creek Records
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Randy Houser, ‘How Country Feels’ – Album Review

Randy Houser comes in from the edges of country music with his third album 'How Country Feels' -- his first on new label Stoney Creek Records. The singer wrote just seven of the project's 15 cuts, but employed many of Nashville's top songwriters to help with the others.

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Jake Owen
RCA Nashville
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Jake Owen, ‘Anywhere With You’ – Song Review

Jake Owen found his niche with songs from the 'Barefoot Blue Jean Night' album, but the unidirectional theme is wearing thin with the arrival of his new single 'Anywhere With You.' There's a thread of spontaneity and nostalgia throughout all of Owen's most recent hits. He is the essence of carefree, which is refreshing... but no longer surprising. 

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Eric Church
EMI Nashville
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Eric Church, ‘Like Jesus Does’ – Song Review

Eric Church has released his most devoted love song from 'Chief' as the album's fifth single. 'Like Jesus Does' reveals the singer's vulnerabilities in a way none of his previous ballads have done. Like 'Springsteen,' reference is made to famous classic rock standards, giving the song some familiarity even before a first listen is finished. 

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George-Strait11
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George Strait – 2013 New Album Preview

Superstar George Strait may be retiring from the road, but we expect to see a new album from the 60-year-old entertainer in 2013. Though Strait has announced that his concert dates in 2013 and 2014 will be the last of his career, he is working on songs for a new studio record, and he plans to continue recording an album every year.

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Gangster Squad review
Warner Bros.
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‘Gangster Squad’ Review

Dirty Harry would love 'Gangster Squad,' a movie about cops who operate so far outside the law they make Clint Eastwood's signature detective look like a pencil-pushing dweeb. Assembled by LAPD police chief Bill Parker (Nick Nolte), and supposedly inspired by a true story, the members of the so-called Gangster Squad operate as judge, jury, and executioners. They don't arrest their targets; they "wage war" against their enemy, mob boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn). In their quest to bust up Cohen's rackets, the Gangster Squad brandishes about a billion guns and not a single badge. Hell, even Dirty Harry waited until the end of his movie to toss his away.

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Miranda Lambert
Mark Davis, Getty Images
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Miranda Lambert, ‘Mama’s Broken Heart’ – Song Review

Dark and volatile are this year's black in country music, and Miranda Lambert reminds fans she is still the lead diva of danger with a new single called 'Mama's Broken Heart.' Her performance is every bit as enjoyably unstable as previous hits like 'Kerosene' and 'Gunpowder and Lead.' When she's mercurial, she's magic. 

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Darius Rucker
Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images
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Darius Rucker, ‘Wagon Wheel’ – Song Review

On 'Wagon Wheel,' Darius Rucker brings his signature sense of urgency to a modern classic that has been living just beneath the surface of mainstream success for nearly a decade. Old Crow Medicine Show turned the song into a gold single. Rucker's version -- although more polished than the original -- will have equal success in a fraction of the eight years it took OCMS.

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Train Ashley Monroe
Jason Merritt / Theo Wargo, Getty Images
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Train (Feat. Ashley Monroe), ‘Bruises’ – Song Review

Train's collaboration with Pistol Annie Ashley Monroe feels random, but the marriage of two very different vocal styles makes 'Bruises' a captivating listen. The forever sympathetic Monroe was a perfect choice for this class reunion-type song. While it might not be the official reason her solo album was pushed back to 2013, it's certainly a good reason.

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Nashville
Big Machine Records
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‘The Music of Nashville: Season 1, Volume 1′ – Album Review

Without the expressions and the palpable tension between characters, songs from 'Nashville' lose their edge. Flaws otherwise hidden by the drama step forward to dilute your favorite moments from the ABC drama.

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