Colt Ford, "Declaration Of Independence" (Average Joe's)

Colt Ford's new album "Declaration of Independence" proves that his breakthrough success doesn't mean he'll start playing by contemporary country music's rules. The title not only emphasizes that he records for an independent label, it underscores he has the freedom to speak his mind in ways many corporate-groomed country stars are too cautious to do.

Ford isn't the first to blend country with rap and hard rock, a reflection of what can be found on the iPods of young, rural Americans these days. But Ford flaunts this polyglot style more aggressively, more seamlessly and more entertainingly than others.

His obsessive references to guns, home cooking, mama, moonshine, Republicans and small towns support how often he calls himself a redneck. To his credit, in songs such as "Room At The Bar," Ford reiterates that he embraces all cultures, races, ages and body sizes. It's a point he brings home by including Wanya Morris (of Boys II Men), Darius Rucker and Lamar Williams Jr. among his duet partners (others include Jason Aldean, Laura Bell Bundy and Jake Owen).

In doing so, Ford not only illustrates that country music can continue to draw on other contemporary musical styles, he also shows that modern-era rednecks can mix with the rest of the world, too.

CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: "All In" kicks off with a fiddle, instead of an electric guitar or looped beat, allowing Ford to rap to a more traditional country arrangement in a duet with Kix Brooks that colorfully describes the ingredients for a memorable backcountry party.