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Taste of Country Staff

Cole Swindell, Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan
Michael Loccisano / Jason Davis / Jared C. Tilton, Getty Images
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ToC Encore: Turning Personal Tragedy Into Hit Records

Turning a personal tragedy into a hit record is tricky, and not just for all the normal reasons that it's difficult to make a song into a hit. Artists who write a great personal song may be hesitant to record it for months or years. Taste of Country writer Billy Dukes considers three powerful songs and three artists who dealt with the personal tragedies that inspired them in very different ways. 

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Hank Williams Jr
Terry Wyatt, Getty Images
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Hank Williams Jr., Eric Paslay + More Added to Taste of Country Music Festival Lineup

The superstar lineup at the 2014 Taste of Country Music Festival just got bigger with the addition of Hank Williams. Jr. Eric Paslay, Leah Turner, the Cadillac Three and Jamie Lynn Spears have also been added to the June 13-15 camping and country music festival at Hunter Mountain.

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Dierks Bentley
UMG Nashville
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Album Spotlight: Dierks Bentley, ‘Riser’

The sonic differences between ‘Riser’ and Dierks Bentley’s five previous studio albums (excluding ‘Up on the Ridge’) are subtle, but important. The Arizona-raised singer drops the rumbling, rambling, Bakersfield-inspired licks that made up many of his biggest hits and adds great lyrical depth.

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Cole Swindell
Warner Music Nashville
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Album Spotlight: Cole Swindell, ‘Cole Swindell’

Cole Swindell set out to make a well-rounded album that tells his story, and he succeeded. The 12 tracks on ‘Cole Swindell’ tread along familiar country themes, but don’t run ruts into any one in particular. It’s surprisingly easy to find yourself halfway through the album a second time without noticing.

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JJ Lawhorn
Average Joe's Entertainment
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JJ Lawhorn – ‘Good Ol’ Boys Like Us’ [Listen]

Fans of Justin Moore will really dig JJ Lawhorn and his new song 'Good Ol' Boys Like Us.' The two singers share a producer (Jeremy Stover discovered Lawhorn on YouTube) and -- at least on this song -- share a talent for revealing a country boy's soft side.

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Craig Morgan Guitar
Sara Kauss, Getty Images
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Win a Guitar and Copy of ‘The Journey: (Livin’ Hits)’ Signed by Craig Morgan

a Rafflecopter giveaway

As Craig Morgan's 'Wake Up Lovin' You' climbs its way up the country charts, the singer wants to reward fans for making it a hit. Enter here to win an autographed guitar and a copy of his new 'The Journey: (Livin' Hits)' album. 

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Kellie Pickler
Ethan Miller, Getty Images
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Kellie Pickler, ‘Closer to Nowhere’ [Listen]

Sincere love songs fit Kellie Pickler like a tailored red carpet gown. ‘Closer to Nowhere’ is a big, stirring ballad from the ‘The Woman I Am’ album. Her romantic story talks of getting lost with a lover at the edge of town.

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Alan Jackson, Gretchen Wilson
Jason Merritt / Alan Poizner, Getty Images
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ToC Encore: A Defense for Artists Who Play SeaWorld

Nearly a dozen others refused, but Alan Jackson, Gretchen Wilson and Kid Rock have taken the stage to play SeaWorld's Bands, Brews & BBQ concert series, despite heavy protest from a controversy started after a documentary called 'Blackfish' aired. Should those who play be demonized?

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Blake Shelton, Adam Levine
Noel Vasquez, Getty Images
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Valentine’s Day Kisses – Blake Shelton’s Top 5 Bromance Moments [Watch]

Blake Shelton is perhaps country music's most loving singer. The 'Hillbilly Bone' singer has proven he'll pucker up for just about anyone. His wife, his co-host, a random guy on a red carpet ... Shelton doesn't discriminate with the lip love! Taste of Country's Valentine's Day gift to you is these Top 5 Blake Shelton bromance moments ever.

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Taylor Swift, Laney Brown
Jason Merritt, Getty Images / Facebook
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2014 ToC Awards: Taylor Swift’s Phone Call to Dying Girl Was Most Heartwarming Moment of 2013

Odds were good Taylor Swift would take the 2014 Taste of Country Award for Most Heartwarming Moment of 2013. She had two of the five nominations, after all. The star won a record eighth ToC Award, including her second in this category.

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