No shortage of Texans have been popping up on year-end lists — from veterans like Spoon and Miranda Lambert to relative newcomers like Austin’s Shakey Graves and Denton’s Sarah Jaffe. And while it is clearly too early to guess who might wind up making lists this time next year, our roundup of albums to look forward to in 2015 suggests there is already a strong cast of artists from across the state intending to ring in the first part of the year with new albums. And potential listmakers, take note: Sets from Don Henley, Austin’s Gary Clark Jr., Dallas’s Pat Green and the reliably prolific Willie Nelson, although still unscheduled, are also on the horizon.
“Make Some Room” E.P. (Jan. 20)
THE STORY: Largely on the strength of the huge, but supple, voice of front-woman Kam Franklin and the band’s reputation for high-energy, easy-to-dance-to live shows, this 10-piece Gulf Coast soul collective swept the Houston Press Music Awards with five wins, including Musicians of the Year.
START HERE: The title track of their debut E.P., “Make Some Room,” opens with a blast of classic-sounding R&B horns and spends the next four and a half minutes subtly shifting from slinky to soaring and back again. It also features the memorable promise, “Do you want a sandwich? I’ll make one for you.”
ROBERT EARL KEEN
“Happy Prisoner” (Feb. 10)
THE STORY: After 11 studio albums and six live albums, Mr. Keen is reaching back to the music he grew up on for his first-ever full-length bluegrass album. The source material ranges from Jimmie Rodgers’s “T for Texas” (recorded as a duet with Lyle Lovett) to Richard Thompson’s “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.”
START HERE: The Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines shares vocal duties on a sparsely instrumented but gorgeous read of the gospel classic “Wayfaring Stranger.”
“The Underdog” (Feb. 17)
THE STORY: A proud country traditionalist, Mr. Watson, on his 12th album, mines a song cycle that touches on his faith, the plight of rodeo clowns and, most touchingly, a tribute to a daughter who was born with the condition Trisomy 18 and died shortly after her birth.
START HERE: If the lead single, “That Look,” seems like one of the more wholesome love songs on country radio right now, perhaps it is because Mr. Watson says it is a tribute to his wife.
“Complicated Game” (Feb. 24)
THE STORY: For his first album in six years, Mr. McMurtry of Austin traveled to New Orleans to record with producers C.C. Adcock and Mike Napolitano. While Mr. McMurtry has rarely shied away from writing a damning protest song, this song cycle largely focuses on love songs — in both the doting and defiant varieties.
START HERE: Never mind that “How’m I Gonna Find You Now” features a delivery that is awfully close to rapping: Mr. McMurtry has a reputation for painting vividly detailed images and an opening line like, “I’ve got a cup of black coffee so I don’t get lazy/ I’ve got a rattle in the dashboard driving me crazy” does just that.
ASLEEP AT THE WHEEL
“Still The King: Celebrating The Music of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys” (March 3)
THE STORY: For the third time in their career, the band long considered the pre-eminent torchbearers for Bob Wills’s Western Swing tradition will pay full-length-album homage to Wills himself. The first two tributes earned them a collective four Grammy Awards, and this time around the all-star cast includes George Strait, Willie Nelson, Brad Paisley, the Avett Brothers, Amos Lee, Lyle Lovett and Kat Edmonson.
START HERE: Nashville’s Old Crow Medicine Show turn “Tiger Rag,” from Wills’s time with the Light Crust Doughboys band, into a roaring blitz of fiddles and acoustic guitars, complete with their take on Wills’s trademark “a-haaaa!”
Release date to be announced.
THE STORY: Two years ago, Mr. Frost, 22, of Austin, got a deal with Atlantic Records after seamlessly fusing funk, soul and elegant dance-pop on “White Lies” — a song that topped the Hype Machine’s list of most blogged about new songs. For his full-length debut for the label, Mr. Frost produced and co-wrote all the tracks with a lineup of A-list producers like Benny Blanco (Maroon 5/Wiz Khalifa) and Kid Harpoon (Jesse Ware, Florence and The Machine, Skrillex).
START HERE: “Let Me Down Easy” is a glistening slice of wintry heartache that splits the difference between Stevie Wonder and St. Vincent.
Release date to be announced.
THE STORY: Last June, Austin Jenkins of Austin’s White Denim caught one of Mr. Bridges’s solo gigs at Fort Worth’s Magnolia Motor Lounge and immediately volunteered to produce the young soul singer’s debut. A pair of preview tracks recorded by Mr. Jenkins and his bandmate Josh Block were posted in October by the influential music blog Gorilla Vs. Bear and ushered in interest from major labels and what seem like inevitable Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye comparisons.
START HERE: “Coming Home,” which has racked up over a half-million plays on Soundcloud, is lean and sultry like a mid-’60s Stax single.