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Dave Cobb explains 'Southern Family'

‘The pleasure was a selfish one: it was great to get to know people I didn’t know and hang out with old friends,’ producer Dave Cobb says of working with the all-star cast.

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Get ready for the biggest country blowout of 2016. Producer of the format du jour Dave Cobb has helmed the latest records from Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, and Chris Stapleton, and now he’s rounded up some of Nashville’s biggest stars for Southern Family, a concept album about family life in the South.

Zac Brown, Miranda Lambert, Jamey Johnson, Shooter Jennings, the aforementioned Isbell and Stapleton, along with R&B-ist Anderson East, and more are contributing their own new songs to the 12-track set. “There are some tracks that are deep and slow and brooding,” Cobb tells EW, “and some that are really powerful and upbeat. People came in and wrote about their grandparents or where they grew up; things that have been there their whole lives or tragic things that happened along the way. It’s alive.”

The idea for the collection was inspired by Cobb’s affinity for a particular 1987 release. “I always loved White Mansions,” the encyclopedic producer says. “It was written by Paul Kennerley and produced by Glyn Johns. Waylon Jennings and Jesse Cutler [sing] on it and the landscape and cinematic quality — the feel— of the record has always stuck with me.”

The final push for starting the record came from a phone call with a friend. Cobb was on a work trip in New York when the other end of the line said, “You should do a concept record.” His reaction? “I kind of laughed and said, ‘Come on, man. Whose going to buy a concept record?”

With a roster that features the artists mentioned above and sprawling songs steeped in Southern mythology, Southern Family keeps the odds in his favor.

Southern Family is due out March 18 on Cobb’s Low Country Sound.