(As part of the upcoming CMT documentary, 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music, Steve Wariner will take on duties as the musical director when Vince Gill, Martina McBride, Kenny Chesney and others perform June 4 at Nashville’s Gaylord Entertainment Center. Tickets to the concert taping go on sale May 10. Click here to view an alphabetical list of the 100 greatest songs — and to let us know your favorites.)
What are the qualities of a great country song? Even if you ask a dozen musicians, you’re likely to get a dozen different explanations.
Admitting that it’s difficult to offer a definitive answer to the question, Steve Wariner tells CMT.com, “In my opinion, it’s something that strikes a chord … something that hits you within and just sticks with you. Some of the greatest songs hit me just as hard today as they did when I first heard them as a young boy. I think it’s something that’s timeless, it’s something that’s common among us. For me, it’s just a gut kind of a thing. It’s like the chill bump factor. Those Hank Williams songs are so real, you can feel the pain in them. Great songs just have that extra thing that normal songs don’t have.”
Wariner will serve as the musical director for a June 4 concert of the Top 12 titles from 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music, a CMT documentary set to debut June 8. Keith Urban and actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley (According to Jim) will count down from numbers 100 through 13 as musicians from the country and rock worlds talk about the importance of each song. The program climaxes during the concert that reveals the Top 12 songs. Wariner will direct the band for the concert featuring Vince Gill , Martina McBride , Kenny Chesney , LeAnn Rimes , Deana Carter , Sara Evans , Marty Stuart , Glen Campbell and George Jones .
Bassist Glen Worf, who will be the bandleader, is working with Wariner to finalize the lineup of session musicians who are all-stars in their own right, too. “It’s going to be stellar, top-notch guys,” Wariner says. “A couple of these guys that are going to play with us might have played on the original records. I wanted to have that thread of having some of the young, hot guns, but also to have some of the veteran guys.”
Wariner hasn’t seen the Top 12 list from the 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music selected by music industry professionals. However he says, “Without even knowing the titles, we could probably play all 12 of these songs without even a musical chart. We could probably just count them off and everybody could do them. We’ll probably know them that well. It’s gonna be a great crew and a great bunch of songs.”
Even once he’s told which songs will be performed, Wariner says there’s still room for some surprises. He explains, “I’ve got a feeling there will be some artists who are gonna want to do their own takes on these songs. It won’t necessarily be exactly like the original hit, so that’s going to make it interesting, too.”