(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
During this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I would like to reflect on a few musical blessings from this year for which we may be grateful. I personally am thankful for:
• Barry Gibb, for buying the Johnny and June Carter Cash house in Hendersonville and vowing to restore and protect it. That’s one historical building here that we now know will not be razed to make way for more condos.
• Willie Nelson, for recording his superb album of Cindy Walker-written songs, You Don’t Know Me, and especially for recording it so that the Country Music Hall of Fame member could hear it before she died this year. Thanks also for the single, “Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth.”
• Josh Turner, for returning with a marvelous second album. Your Man fulfills the potential suggested by his 2003 debut, Long Black Train. He is demonstrating remarkable musical growth.
• Guy Clark, for his razor-sharp album Workbench Songs and also for his inspiring performances as the Country Music Hall of Fame’s artist-in-residence for 2006. His night of playing with old friends Vince Gill and Rodney Crowell, in particular, was a poignant reminder of how much the country artist community was once indeed a united family.
• Little Big Town, for a truly remarkable return with a second album that so far transcended anything they had done before as to be …transcendental. Road to Here signaled that this group is deadly serious about striking out in unmarked musical territory. Also for their remarkable CMT Crossroads performance with Lindsey Buckingham, which recalled but then raced beyond Fleetwood Mac references.
• The Johnny Cash legacy for hanging around in very pleasant form with two new Cash works. My favorite is Personal File, Cash’s aural workbook that he had kept private for many years. It’s not every day you can virtually sit alone in a room with a modern master and listen to his musical musings. That’s what this is. His final, agonized work, American V: A Hundred Highways, is justifiably getting as much, if not more musical attention.
• Nashville’s Martha Ingram for building the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, our majestic new temple to music. Nashville needed this.
• Reba McEntire, for continuing to be everything that is good about country music.
• George Strait, for continuing to do what he seems to effortlessly do: make confident, fresh-sounding, authoritative country recordings year after year. He’s the Ted Williams of country music, a supremely gifted lifetime hitter — except that he strikes out fewer times than Williams did.
• Vince Gill and Alan Jackson for doing what they do. Which these days is listening to their musical consciences and recording what their hearts told them to. In Jackson’s case, it was his gospel album, Precious Memories, that he originally recorded only for his mother to hear and his serious and mature work Like Red on a Rose. Gill decided, what the hell, he’d just cut four albums at once. He did so. And the resulting, rewarding These Days is a modern-day Cabbage Patch doll or Tickle Me Elmo — can’t find a copy on a store shelf anywhere.
• Rosanne Cash for Black Cadillac, an elegant reminder that beautiful music is its own justification for existing.
• The Waylon Jennings legacy, for returning with the long-overdue boxed set, Nashville Rebel. Waylon at his best is untouchable by any artist, past or present.
• Solomon Burke, for reminding us with his stirring album, Nashville, that country sentiments are universal and also for his stunning concert at Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre. Now and then a musical performance is so gorgeous that it puts tears in your eyes. This was one of those.