(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.
Here are some moments we can treasure or not from this year:
Alcohol lobby at work: “Alcohol” (Brad Paisley), “Get Drunk and Be Somebody” (Toby Keith), “Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off” (Joe Nichols), “Whiskey Lullaby” (Brad Paisley with Alison Krauss), “Drunker Than Me” (Trent Tomlinson), “One Bud Wiser” (Gretchen Wilson), “Ain’t Wastin’ Good Whiskey on You” (Trick Pony), “Whiskey Do My Talkin'” (Brooks & Dunn), “Keg in the Closet” (Kenny Chesney), “I Drink” (Mary Gauthier, Blake Shelton), “Thunderbird Will Do Just Fine” (1100 Springs), “Domestic, Light and Cold” (Dierks Bentley), “Nobody Drinks Alone” (Keith Urban), “Billy’s Got His Beer Goggles On” (Neal McCoy), “The Bartender” (Blake Shelton), “Not Bad for a Bartender” (Gretchen Wilson), “20 Margaritas” (Big & Rich), “Guitars and Tiki Bars” (Kenny Chesney), “Burnin’ the Honky Tonks Down” (Alan Jackson), “Southern Comfort” (Shooter Jennings), “Scotch and Chocolate” (Nickel Creek), “Strawberry Wine” (Ryan Adams), “I’m Still Drinking” (Stephen Bruton).
Highway lobby at work: “I’m Taking the Wheel” (SHeDAISY), “Jesus, Take the Wheel” (Carrie Underwood), “Who Invented the Wheel” (Trisha Yearwood), “The Road and the Radio” (Kenny Chesney), “The Road to Here” (Little Big Town), “Bless the Broken Road” (Rascal Flatts), “Mud on the Tires” (Brad Paisley), “Fast Cars and Freedom” (Rascal Flatts).
Hick/Redneck lobby at work: “Hicktown” (Jason Aldean), “Kiss My Country Ass” (Rhett Akins), “American by God’s Amazing Grace” (Luke Stricklin), “We’re Country So We Can” (Forty 5 South), “Boondocks” (Little Big Town), “Screw You (We’re From Texas)” (Ray Wylie Hubbard), “I Wanna Be a Hillbilly” (Billy Currington).
New York tourist lobby at work: At the New York City press conference announcing that the CMA Awards would be held in New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg mentioned country stars “Shanaga Twain” and “Tom McGraw”; Cowboy Troy was later thoughtfully provided with hay bales at a New York City appearance. But CMA Awards Week in New York actually turned out to be a resounding success.
Great Nashville concerts: Neil Young at the Ryman Auditorium, a show which was an affirmation of quietly powerful music about the basic building blocks of life and loss and joy and sadness; Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson at Greer Stadium, which was a total adrenaline rush of supercharged music from Dylan and of reassuring songs from throughout Nelson’s sturdy song catalog. These are some long musical careers that still remain total joys.
Great CMT Crossroads shows: Los Lonely Boys and Ronnie Milsap, Lionel Richie and Kenny Rogers, Sugarland and Bon Jovi, Bonnie Raitt and Lyle Lovett.
Success story: Sugarland develops into the great country music success story of the year. And deservedly so.
Most welcome return to country: Trisha Yearwood, with a breathtaking single in “Georgia Rain.”
Record labels or not: Predictions continue to abound that the CD’s days are numbered, but I don’t see it happening anytime very soon. Meanwhile, Sony’s Legacy label should be commended for its continued stewardship of legacy recordings of pioneering artists. This year’s releases included good works from Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash, George Jones, Willie Nelson, June Carter Cash, Charlie Poole, Flatt & Scruggs, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Son Volt and John Denver. Sony BMG Music Entertainment is still under siege for introducing stealth software on some new Sony CDs that installed hidden spyware on users’ computers. There lingers a palpable sense that the record industry continues to regard its customers as its enemies. Many of the labels are themselves their own worst enemies.
During this week before Christmas, all 75 albums on Nielsen SoundScan’s country albums chart show sales increases for the week, some jumping above a 50 percent hike. At a time when overall CD sales are down, that’s very heartening.
Artists at labels or not: Bobby Pinson and Hanna-McEuen — among others — made very solid label debuts and were rewarded by being dumped from their labels.
Club RIP: The Sutler, a Nashville musical landmark for 30 years, closes in December, a victim of urban greed. Buying CDs in a Starbucks is not a worthy substitute for a neighborhood club with real, local musicians.
Some TV talent show graduates are actually country: Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood proved to be stunning debut artists.
Don’t forget New Orleans. And all the Gulf Coast.