To some, the term "hat act" can be degrading. Back in the early 90s, the term was tossed around to describe the up-and-coming acts that came on the scene wearing a cowboy hat, many of whom were gone in a year or so. But, the "hat acts" listed below are those with staying power. They may wear a hat, but they can also sing their hearts out.
When Alan Jackson releases a new album, you know that you're in for an album filled with traditional country fare. No pop country to be found. On Good Time, Alan wrote all 16 tracks, giving us the playful mid-tempo that spells out what everyone is looking for every weekend, a g-o-o-d t-i-m-e. He includes a biographical song about his father -- the fiddle-soaked "Small Town Southern Man." Add some honky tonk with "Country Boy" and "I Still Like Bologna."
Time Well Wasted is even to this day, one of Brad Paisley's best album releases. It features tracks that will pull at your heartstrings ("When I Get To Where I'm Going" -- a duet with Dolly Parton), a humorous look at the affects of alcohol ("Alcohol"), two tracks about the adorable traits of your better half ("She's Everything" and "Waitin' on a Woman"), and his requisite instrumental, which shows off his talents as one of country's finest guitarists.
From 1989's country waltz "Walkin' Away," to a couple duets from 1999 ("Been There," the jaunty percussive song recorded with Steve Wariner and the power ballad "When I Said I Do" with his wife Lisa Hartman Black), the first dozen songs on the disk are a great mix of hits spanning a decade of fantastic music. Those songs alone would have made Greatest Hits Volume 2 a CD well worth the money, so the bonus tracks are exactly that: a bonus.
This Time was released back in 1993, and even today, it remains one of Dwight's most brilliantly crafted albums of music. The mix here is a little of Bakersfield honky tonk and a dose of southern-fried rock. Dwight is mournful on the track "A Thousand Miles from Nowhere," straight-up honky tonk on "Fast as You" and the swinging "Pocket of a Clown" complete with background singers providing the "ooh-waah, ooh-waah" support.
This is Garth's 2001 released, said to be his last solo album. It's packed full of classic "Garth," with songs that make you think, ("The Storm") songs that make you want to get up and dance ("Rodeo or Mexico"), and duets with George Jones ("Beer Run") and Trisha Yearwood ("Squeeze Me In").
George Strait's 2008 release Troubadour was his 37th studio release. Take one look at some of the songs included on this album, and you'll see why it was named CMA Album of the Year in 2008. He added two more No. 1 hits to his collection (now totalling 57), with introspective look at seeing God in many things, "I Saw God Today," and the island-infused "River of Love." Plus, the title track gives us a Strait a thoughtful performance of a man looking back on the live he's lead, saying that "I was a young troubadour when I rode in on a song. And I'll be an old troubadour when I'm gone."
Greatest Hits 2 takes over where his first Greatest Hits package from 2000 left off. There's a nice mix of songs that are mid-tempo fare, such as the Mellancamp-like "Young" and guitar-driven "Livin' in Fast Forward," to songs looking back at the past like "I Go Back," and the yearning "There Goes My Life," to the introspective "The Good Stuff."
On Let It Go Tim offers plenty of variety, from the soulful Eddie Rabbit cover, "Suspicions," to his yearning duet with Faith, "I Need You," to the playful "Last Dollar (Fly Away)" which features his three daughters on the "1-2-3 like a bird I sing..." ending. Through most of his career, McGraw used songs written by others, but he has a couple co-writes of his own (the pop-sounding mid-tempo "Train #10" and the introspective ballad "If You're Reading This").
Toby Keith's 2008 release, That Don't Make Me a Bad Guy is filled with that typical Toby Keith sound, with a little edge to it. Sometimes, with the songs that are all about macho bravado, you forget what an exceptional vocalist Toby is. Here on songs like the mournful ballad "She Never Cried in front of Me" he gets to show off his tender side. He tells the story about the bad guy that the good girl in town falls for in the mid-tempo country rocker "God Love Her."
Trace Adkins has one of the most recognizable voices in country music today. There aren't many male artists out there that have the deep, clear baritone voice that he does (Josh Turner comes to mind, but that's just about it). Trace is also not afraid to sing songs that have meaning to them, like his emotional steel-infused No. 1 "You're Gonna Miss This." This song really showcases his vocal chops. But, he's not all serious. He's recorded some songs that are just plain fun, like the sexy song that lists the merits of a young woman's backside ("Honky Tonk Badonkadonk"), or the up-tempo mile-a-minute track "Rough and Ready."