Where’ve You Been? – 2011 Edition

It’s hard to believe that there once was a time that country artists put out two full-length albums a year.  If they were part of a regular superstar duet team, like Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn or Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, a fan might hear as many as four new studio albums from their favorite artist.

By the time that I got into country music – twenty years ago, natch – things had slowed down a bit.  Artists usually released a new album every 12-18 months.  Sometimes they’d push it to two years, but not often.

Those were the days.  Waits between album releases have gotten crazy lately.  I’m all for taking the time to get it right, but once we push past the half-decade mark, things have gone too far.  Sure, we’re given side projects to carry us over, but there’s no substitute for a full-length studio album of all-new material.

Here are five artists who I’d really love to see make a long-awaited return with a new album in 2011, along with a brief rundown of the side projects that they’ve been busy with while we’ve waited for that new album:

Shania Twain

Last Studio Album: Up! (2002)

Side Projects: Greatest Hits (2005), featuring four new tracks; contributions to a Dolly Parton tribute album, a live Willie Nelson album, an Anne Murray duet album, and the Desperate Housewives soundtrack.

It’s been over eight years since Twain released that 19-track opus. It was cool that she released the album in three different mixes, essentially giving us 57 new mp3s for the iPods we didn’t even have yet. Of all the superstar acts, she’s the one who has been away the longest.


Last Studio Album: What the World Needs (2003)

Side Projects: Live album, Christmas album, covers album, Cracker Barrel album…

In a sense, she’s never really gone away. But despite being a fixture in the media and releasing so many other-type albums, we haven’t gotten a real studio set from Wynonna in over seven years. Given that the last one was among the finest in her career, it’s a shame she has yet to craft another mainstream country album.

Dwight Yoakam

Last Studio Album: Blame the Vain (2005)

Side Projects: A Buck Owens tribute album in 2007, Dwight Sings Buck.

The most distressing absence on the list, mostly because he’s been so prolific in the past. Movie appearances are keeping him busy. Here’s hoping that when he does return, we get more than ten songs.

Dixie Chicks

Last Studio Album: Taking the Long Way (2006)

Side Projects: “The Neighbor”, from the Shut Up & Sing documentary; contributions to a Tony Bennett duet project; Emily and Martie’s Court Yard Hounds set; Natalie’s duet with Neil Diamond.

It’s hard to follow up an album that wins a bunch of Grammys, but it’s not like they haven’t done so before. If they’re insisting on writing all of the next album, it could be gestating for a very long time. Can’t we get a Patty Griffin or Darrell Scott covers album to hold us over?

Vince Gill

Last Studio Album: These Days (2006)

Side Projects: A mother lode of duet and harmony appearances on other artist’s albums (Reba McEntire, Charlie Daniels, Amy Grant, Clay Aiken…)

Gill’s last album was a four discs worth of new material, so it’s understandable that it would take a couple of years for him to craft a new one. But we’re going on five now. Since Gill was able to create those four discs a mere three years after his previous studio set (2003’s Next Big Thing), we should be due for a new album soon.


  1. I am getting impatient with Twain (she currently says she’s not in a state to make new music right now,OH! but for the time being, you can watch her new show on the Oprah Winfrey Network AND check out her new autobiography….)…. I have a feeling that maybe Mutt had more to do with the songwriting duo that was Lange/Twain if it is taking her this long to release a new album.

    I second The Chicks (2-3 years would be understandable but over 4 years, come on!) & Judd (her and her mother were supposed to release a new Judds set sometime last year…).

    I want new SHeDAISY (Fortunteller’s Melody, 2006), Faith Hill (Fireflies, 2005), AND Trisha Yearwood (HHPoL, 2007).

    At least Sara Evans’ new album will be out soon (FINALLY), even though it is only 10 songs, and one of them is yet another revamped version of “Born To Fly.”

    Remember in the 90’s where you expected good quality music every year from your favorite artist?

  2. “I have a feeling that maybe Mutt had more to do with the songwriting duo that was Lange/Twain if it is taking her this long to release a new album.”

    I hate to say it, but I’m starting to feel that way, too.

  3. I for one would like to see Linda Ronstadt do just one more album, since it has been four and a half years since her ultra-traditional collaboration with Ann Savoy, Adieu False Heart was released. Unfortunately, that’s probably out of the question now, since, following her appearance on Jimmy Webb’s album Just Across The River, she no longer feels that her voice can hold up after 44 years of use, and she has reportedly retired…for real.

  4. Another act for the list is Alison Krauss and Union Station. They haven’t released an album since Thanksgiving Week 2004. Thankfully, that drought will be over in April.

    I was surprised Faith Hill wasn’t included on the list. Zack mentioned her and it’s time for new music. Six years is too long to wait.Rumor has it, new music is coming this year and I cannot wait to hear what she has in store.

    As for Shania, it’s getting a bit ridiculous that she hasn’t released new music. Putting blame for the songwriting aside, can’t a record label put pressure on an artist to speed it up? Let’s hope her OWN reality show will provide some answers…

    I, for one, was looking forward to new music from Sara Evans until I saw the track list. How can an artist be away from the spotlight as long as she has and only have nine new songs? And we don’t need a new version of “Born to Fly.” It just feels a bit skimpy.

    Also, I’m glad someone else agrees about Wynonna’s WHAT THE WORLD NEEDS NOW album. It’s my favorite studio album from her bar none. I love “Flies on The Butter” for bringing classic Judds music to the 21st century and her cover of “I Want To Know What Love Is” blew me away. Wynonna is easily the most underrated female vocalist in country music since Rosanne Cash.

    Plus, a new album from Vince Gill would be a BIG treat. He’s a master at what he does.

    And new music from Trisha Yearwood, Suzy Bogguss, and Pam Tillis wouldn’t hurt either. Their last releases were among, if not, the best of their careers. Also, a new Julie Roberts album would be a welcomed surprise.

  5. I believe another one of the tracks on Sara Evans’ new album is a cover of the Rod Stewart song “My Heart Can’t Tell You Know”. I remember liking his version; I’m interested to hear what she does with it.

  6. I am hoping Diamond Rio returns with a new album of country material. The last country labum they did was Completely in 2002. Since then, we have gotten a second greatest hits, Christmas CD and gospel CD from them.

  7. I’ve been waiting for a new SheDaisy album for at least 3 years. I know they no longer have a label and promotion for them is almost none, but it would be nice if they brought out something new.

    Some other artists I want to see make a return you’ve already named. Not really sure of any others that haven’t been mentioned but SheDaisy and the Dixie Chicks were the first to come to mind.

  8. I actually do have another guy who I just listened to a song from and think he’s not retired. What about Travis Tritt? He hasn’t had an album in years either and unless he’s not doing it anymore, it would be nice to get new music from him.

  9. Am I the only one still eagerly awaiting a new Sylvia record?

    I’ve given up hope on the Shania record. I agree that I’m starting to think Mutt was the catalyst for the hits. All we’ve heard about new music so far were excuses; she’s lost her voice and her desire to perform. One thing I hate is when celebrities bombared us with their emotional bagage. Clearly she’s moved on, is remarried and in a happy place and now we are faced with hearing about her personal life and what’s shes been through with her Oprah show and memorior. For me personally she doesnt owe me any explanation of what happened, just music. It would be great if she spent that time writing and focusing on new music instead but we don’t even know if she’s even thought about that yet.

    Also agree with Sara’s new album, 5 years and only 9 songs. The ‘Born to Fly’ remake would have been better used as a Target exclusive. She likely has a dosen other songs recorded for that record she could have tacked a couple on to make it feel more like a full length record. Does anybody need two ‘Born to Fly’s’ on their iPod? That’s a question her record company should have pondered. I’m quite happy with the one I have already.

  10. …shania twain will not come back. she’s newly wed and has probably other things on her mind than recording, promoting and touring.

    there will be another dwight yoakam studio-album. anything else would be leaving lose ends. that wouldn’t be dwight, would it.

    if there’s ever gonna be a new dixie chicks album, it’ll come out with a bang, when you least expect it – with a past like theirs, future things have to be on the dramatic side.

    i can’t see wynonna still being interested in a full-blown mainstream country project – she’s been there long enough and obviously feels good, where she’s now as an artist. a case of unanswered prayers, this album.

    since aging prevents him from lowering his already impressive golf-handicap even more – a little time in the studio might sound quite tempting to him. there could be something new from him any time, i guess.

    the common denominator with all the above ex-superstars is that times have changed so dramatically that the risk/reward ratio for a new album-release kinda looks not too favourable for them in the eyes of the labels. would any new release of them reach enough sales to make the project profitable, at a time when the biggest consumer target group for country music could easily be their children?

  11. I’m also wanting new albums from the Dixie Chicks, Shedaisy, and Faith Hill…They’ve all been away for too long! I’ll be very interested if Shania does come back with some music.

  12. @ darren mullins

    …this is totally off-topic, but every time your name shows up on one of the threads, i’ll go and click on your song “hiring fair”.

    i’ve been doing that for years now and so i told my shrink about it – he also thinks there’s something very catchy about that tune – now we’re doing it together every once in a while.

  13. Yeah, Faith Hill has been MIA as well. There’s a rumor that she’s been having some vocal health problems in recent years, but I don’t know how true that is. Either way, I hope we get something new from her soon

  14. One more thing, Hiring Fair made it to #17 on the country music chart in Ireland and my original song The Days Of You And Me made it to #10 on The European Country Music Association’s Top 100 chart. That is the last I will talk about it here.

    Back on topic now, I just hope Diamond Rio releases another country CD soon.

  15. I’d like to see new secular albums from Tracy Lawrence, Ray Price, Lane Turner and Faith Hill (if she does one in the vein of FIRE FLIES)

  16. In the past, for the REAL superstars like Buck Owens or Merle Haggard, four albums a year was possible without duet albums being in the mix

  17. Shania Twain is at the top of my wish list as well, but I admit I’m starting to lose hope. I would also die for new music from the Chicks, as well as the aforementioned Tillis, Hill, and Yearwood.

    And while I am very excited over the prospect of getting a new album from Sara Evans, I’m pretty sure I could easily devour more than just nine new tracks and a new version of “Born to Fly” (though I do look forward to hearing that bluegrass version). Ten tracks can hold me over for now, but I sure hope she doesn’t go another six years before she releases her seventh album.

  18. I am excited for the prospect of a Bluegrass version too, Ben….

    I guess that with 6 years between Real Fine Place and Stronger we might have expected a little more tracks from Sara’s new CD….. Particularly since we are in an era where artists generally release 12-14 song albums to fully be considered an album in today’s world. In short, I am JUST THRILLED that Evans finally has new music out, just LOVE her.

    I wonder what is up with this thing, is is just Sara and McEntire doing the 10-song albums, or are there others? (Though, McEntire’s did come out a little more than a year after her last album).

  19. Re: Shania Twain – I want her to release a new, successful and (most importantly) rewarding album without Mutt for the same reason I really wanted to see Joe Torre win a World Series with the Dodgers: to prove that the detractors were just haters. Maybe it’s better this way, though; I don’t have to rationalize my appreciation of The Woman in Me as a great album against a stack of subpar releases.

    I wouldn’t characterize Dwight Sings Buck as a “side project.” Dwight’s discography has been very concept-heavy over the years and I see this as no more of a deviation from his norm than dwightyoakamacoustic.net or Dwight Live. In any event, I believe I read that he’s got an album in the works for release sometime in the late Spring. Definitely looking forward to new tunes from him.

    It’s funny you included Vince Gill; just three nights ago I re-ripped These Days to my iPod at a higher bit rate and realized it’s about to turn five years old! I was never a huge Gill fan (I liked him, but rarely bought his music), but I’d be game for new release if he can be talked into making it.

    As for the general idea of this list, I’m afraid for once I can’t really think of anyone I’m aching to hear from that’s been absent for any significant length of time. Mostly right now I’m trying to catch up on early Waylon albums that have gotten a CD release in the last two years. I kind of got behind and now there are about six of them in circulation I don’t have! They’re not new recordings, of course, but most of the songs will be new to me and that’s as good as it gets when you’re a fan of the deceased.

    (Along those lines, I’m also excited about next month’s Johnny Cash Bootleg, Vol. 2, a companion piece to Personal File.)

  20. Re: Faith Hill – In the latest issue of People (Nicole Kidman on the cover), there’s an interview with Tim and it’s mentioned that Faith is preparing a new album for this year.

  21. i dont know about the rest of you but from my understanding the SHania Twain OWN show is her going around to help get ideas flowing for music and numerous sources have said she strated with the wedding as a new beginning for everything. Also with the book and TV show it is likely a plan to have a media blitz where she is everywhere around the realease.

    Besides that I would love new Dixie Chicks but Faith kinda has the ups and downs for me because a lot of the time her music appears to only sound good when she is pleading for something which gets annoying but i would like to see her again.

  22. I wish Shania would come out with new music but at the same time and I think she has even admitted that she has lost a lot of her singing voice. So that’s kinda a mixed bag for me, I don’t want her to put out an album that is just to make money and quality wise is bad.

    I think Faith actually has done a very smart thing by waiting. Her last regular-studio album (she did have that Christmas one in 2008) was Fireflies and while it had some hits, she still had some backlash like she had with Cry. I think now is the best time for her to release an album because the public has renewed interest in her.

  23. I agree that I would love to hear some new stuff from the Dixie Chicks. But will people embrace it? Are they ready for more Dixie Chicks? I worry that their shenanigans from so many years ago might still be keeping people away. I wish people would just get over it already and admit that they want to hear Natalie’s voice all over the radio again! They really are long overdue for a comeback, IMO.

  24. Another artist who needs to put out new music is Clint Black. He’s one of the best neotraditional artists to come out of that era, and KILLIN’ TIME is what every artist should strive for with their debut album (as previously stated in the best debut albums of all time countdown Kevin did).

    He’s one of the best and has been absent for far too long

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