In 2005, Nashville hunks-in-arms like Toby Keith tuned down their jingoist jingles, the Muzik Mafia treaded water, and most of alt-country's best contenders simply looked back. But as these 10 albums from country's mainstream and underground demonstrate, these quiet scenes were still full of ferment beneath the surface. Only the top two finishers count as tours de force, and only the Paisley and Larsen albums sold many copies, but all 10 testify to a surge of renewed creativity in these musically conservative heartland genres, even as heartland political conservatism is showing signs of strain. (And with three Chicago entries representing the underground, and Bobby, Brad and Blaine composing their own Killer B's above ground, it's also a World... More >>>