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Toby Keith
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
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Toby Keith, ‘Hope on the Rocks’ – Song Review

The title track to Toby Keith's 'Hope on the Rocks' album shows the singer's genuine understanding of the nuanced relationships between bartenders and their regulars. But it's not just barkeeps that will relate to the ballad. Servers, liquor store clerks, the dry cleaner, radio DJs... anyone who provides a service and a set of open ears will appreciate his story.

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Jana Kramer
Jason Kempin, Getty Images
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Jana Kramer, ‘Whiskey’ – Song Review

With her second single, 'Whiskey,' Jana Kramer proves the vulnerability she showed on 'Why Ya Wanna' was no fluke. It's tough to turn away from her hurt, which on this song is aided by a tight lyric and sensible mix of pop and traditional country styling.

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Toby Keith
Rick Diamond, Getty Images
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Toby Keith, ‘Hope on the Rocks’ – Album Review

Toby Keith's new album 'Hope on the Rocks' is a loud and sudsy collection of songs about beer, barrooms, heartbreak... and beer. Much like a Saturday night out at your favorite watering hole, it's rowdy and fun, but difficult to remember the next morning.

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Aldean
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Jason Aldean (Featuring Luke Bryan and Eric Church), ‘The Only Way I Know’ – Song Review

Jason Aldean's new single 'The Only Way I Know' weaves from the same spool as his biggest hits. Themes of hard work, loyalty and small town values have been at the core of hits like 'Fly Over States,' 'Tattoos on This Town,' and most recently, 'Take a Little Ride,' even if you need to look beyond the cutie in the passenger seat to find them. On the new single from 'Night Train,' Aldean's message is more direct. but no less effective. 

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Kelly Clarkson
Michael Loccisano, Getty Images
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Kelly Clarkson (Feat. Vince Gill), ‘Don’t Rush’ – Song Review

How do you convince a skeptical country audience that you're country? You get Vince Gill to sing and play guitar on your first true country single. That's what Kelly Clarkson did with 'Don't Rush,' a song she'll perform at the CMA Awards on Nov. 1. The pairing is magic. 

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Carrie Underwood
Arista Nashville
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Carrie Underwood, ‘Two Black Cadillacs’ – Song Review

Carrie Underwood used Twitter to announce that her new single would be 'Two Black Cadillacs,' the darkest song on a delightfully stormy new album called 'Blown Away.' The lyric pushes the normally plucky country superstar to the edge of evil. It's as far as she can go without falling off the cliff of believability. 

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The Band Perry
Stephen Lovekin, Getty Images
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The Band Perry, ‘Better Dig Two’ – Song Review

Two notes and two hand claps into the Band Perry's new single 'Better Dig Two' and one finds assurance that the sense of drama and danger the sibling trio infused into the best songs from their self-titled debut album will be back on album No. 2. Some ambient knocking combined with thin, haunting plucking make this song an instant soundtrack for Halloween. But it will likely have legs long after Oct. 31.

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Geroge Strait
MCA Nashville
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George Strait, ‘Give It All We Got Tonight’ – Song Review

With George Strait announcing a retirement from the road after his next tour, it's tempting to gush all over his new single 'Give It All We Got Tonight' like a school girl going on about a cute new teacher. A wave of nostalgia threatens objectivity, even though Strait will still be recording after 2014. The first song from his upcoming new album can be summed up in three words...

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Thompson Square
Stoney Creek Records
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Thompson Square, ‘If I Didn’t Have You’ – Song Review

Thompson Square's new single 'If I Didn't Have You' is the fifth straight love song from the married country duo. While some may yearn for more varied subject matter from Keifer and Shawna Thompson, an easy argument could be made for the "If it ain't broke ..." philosophy of life and country music. 

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Lady Antebellum
Capitol Nashville
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Lady Antebellum, ‘On This Winter’s Night’ – Album Review

Lady Antebellum are practically built for Christmas albums. There's a Captain and Tennille quality to their partnership that's made hip by youth and intriguing subject matter. The trio's take on standards like 'I'll Be Home for Christmas' and 'Silent Night' are timeless, in that they could really be transported to any decade of country music. For them, covering yuletide hits is as easy as looking good. 

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Jerrod Niemann
Arista Nashville
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Jerrod Niemann, ‘Only God Could Love You More’ – Song Review

'Only God Could Love You More' is a song that doesn't leave many places for Jerrod Niemann to hide. The second single from 'Shinin' on Me' is vulnerable a la 'Stay' by Sugarland. Niemann steps up to the challenge and delivers what should be his biggest hit. This could be a career-defining song.

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Taylor Swift
Big Machine Records
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Taylor Swift, ‘Red’ – Album Review

Taylor Swift's new album, 'Red,' doesn't provide much to quiet the haters who will forever accuse her of being "too pop." It's inaccurate to say she leans that way on most of the 16 new songs. That tower in Pisa leans. Swift is in a pike position diving toward sugary waters. 

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