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Who to Watch in 2011

The year 2010 in country music can be seen as sort of a changing of the guard.  With Kenny Chesney taking time off the road, the emergence of Lady Antebellum and Zac Brown Band thickening the pool of groups, making it more crowded for Rascal Flatts, and power couple Blake and Miranda taking major awards away from mainstays like Kenny, Brad, Taylor, and Carrie, the country music scene is making new stars.  Which stars will be the focal points of the coming year?  I’ll give my best guess.
Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan

These touring buddies have been bringing in sell-out crowds, including the one at Roberts Stadium.  2010, could have been the year for Jason Aldean to take home some big awards, considering his recent success, but Blake was more overdue than him.  If Jason doesn’t watch out, he’ll have Luke nippin’ at his heels.  Both these guys should get their nominations in Male Vocalist categories if not a win or two!


It happened in the early 90’s.  The Judds were no more and another duo had to fill the gap.  That duo was Brooks and Dunn.  Now with Kix and Ronnie going their separate ways, country is filling up with new duos just itching to take the throne.  While Sugarland looks to be the front runner, and Montgomery Gentry dealing with Eddie Montgomey’s health issues, twosomes like Steel Magnolia, JaneDear Girls, Thompson Square, and LoCash Cowboys all seem poised to make big hits in the new year.

Ronnie Dunn
Rusty Russell/Getty Images

Ronnie Dunn

Speaking of Ronnie, will anyone notice that Kix isn’t on the CD, or will it be just too strange hearing Ronnie by himself?  We’ll find out soon, as Ronnie is scheduled to release a solo project in early 2011.


Mike, Tom, Rachel, and Cheyanne debuted in 2009 with an opening role on the Taylor Swift Fearless Tour and hit single, Wild at Heart and have been pretty quiet ever since.  They will be releasing a new album in 2011 featuring some great Nashville songwriters.  I predict a big year for these guys and girls.

Joanna Smith

This spunky Georgia native stopped by the WKDQ studio in 2010 to play a couple tunes.  One of those songs

Eric and Joanna
Me with rising star JoAnna Smith

was Georgia Mud which is set to be her follow-up to Gettin’ Married. This single might be the one that makes her a star.

More American Idols

Country music has benefited from the popular TV show in the form of stars like Carrie Underwood, Kellie Pickler, Bucky Covington, Josh Gracin, Danny Gokey, and even Kelly Clarkson.  A lot of people are predicting the downfall of American Idol now that Simon has exited, but Mr. Cowell’s last class of contestants will be making their way to country in 2011.  2010 runner-up Crystal Bowersox is making her debut this week with Farmer’s Daughter(no relation to Rodney Atkins).  Later in 2011, another Idol alum, Casey James and the Casey James Band will release their first single on BNA, home of Kenny Chesney.  My prediction is that both these Idols will see significant time on country radio!

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