flattsBased on this week’s articles so far, you might think we’ve turned into a country website. Never fear, the cowboy hat is only temporarry, but country music informs this week’s new release column as well.

Fresh off their ACM win for Best Country Group (unseating Brooks & Dunn after something like 14 straight wins), Rascal Flatts release their new album, “Unstoppable”, today. Now, I don’t have a problem with these guys per se. Let’s face it, most modern country acts are pretty vanilla. But, as I’ve said in a column before, Rascal Flatts is basically *Nsync with tight jeans and cowboy boots. I’ve honestly got no desire to seek out music by them, but if something’s playing, I won’t change the station. Nevertheless, these guys sell kajillions of records without my help. Watch for them to challenge U2 for the best-selling first week of the year so far.

Here are some of today’s other hot releases:

Billy Ray Cyrus “Back to Tennessee”– Talk about improbable comebacks. Turns out all Billy Ray Cyrus had to do to remain relevant was cut his mullet off and have a kid. Since Miley’s career blossomed two or three years ago, Billy Ray has undergone a career resurgence. “Back to Tennessee” is poised to continue that hot streak. Not so coincidentally, it contains duets with Miley, as well as a song that will be featured in Miley’s upcoming “Hannah Montana” movie.

Fat Joe “Jealous Ones Still Envy 2”– Fat Joe is one of those guys who has just kinda stuck around for no good reason. A couple of catchy singles here and there shouldn’t take away from the fact that Mr. Cartegena is pretty much a one-note rapper. A head-scratcher in my eyes is how he seemed to improve as a rapper as soon as Big Pun came on the scene. While I believe that the man hires some solid ghostwriters, that has yet to be proven. “J.O.S.E. 2” features guest appearances by (surprise) Akon, (bigger surprise) T-Pain, and (oh my God!) Lil’ Wayne

Jadakiss “The Last Kiss” -Five years between albums for a moderately successful rapper should be a career-killer, and I don’t think anyone expects the former LOX member to break any sales records with this album-he’s simply been away for too long, and as everyone knows, the tastes of rap fans are very fickle. “The Last Kiss”, his first album for Roc-a-Fella Records (does Jay-Z even have anything to do with this label anymore) thankfully does not feature Akon, T-Pain or Lil’ Wayne, but does feature Ne-Yo, several members of the Wu-Tang Clan, and Faith Evans on “Letter to B.I.G.”, which was released earlier this year on the “Notorious” soundtrack.

Jason Aldean “Wide Open”– Quiet as kept, Aldean’s career has gotten off to a pretty solid start. His 2005 debut went Platinum, and the follow-up went Gold. Current single “She’s Country” has blasted up the charts, which augurs good things for his third album. Will this album bring Jason up to the ranks of guys like Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley? Hard to tell, but this is one to definitely keep an eye on. He’s pretty easy on the eyes, too.

James Taylor “Other Covers”– I love JT. Really I do. But damn man, think of some more original album titles, PLEASE. His first covers set, released last year, was called simply “Covers”. So he’s releasing a follow-up EP and what does he call it? “Other Covers”. Maybe his next album will be called “Album”. Or “Songs”. Anyhow, Taylor’s getting a little soulful here. Among the songs he tackles are Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour” and Eddie Floyd’s “Knock on Wood”. I just got a mental picture of JT doing “Knock on Wood” in disco style a la Amii Stewart. Gave me a little chuckle. Ha.

You can get a full list of today’s releases here.