NASHVILLE SKYLINE: New Music Coming From McGraw, Wilson and Wagoner

Willie Nelson Also Has a Message About the War

(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)

Now that it looks as if some decent country CDs are beginning to be released again, let’s think about some albums that may well be highlights of the first half of 2007. Because, so far this year, it’s been pretty bleak on the country music horizon.

Looking ahead, these are some releases that I’m optimistic about.

In March, the two most awaited CDs are coming from Tim McGraw and from a trio of old farts who are still manning the fort for strong traditional country music. McGraw’s Let It Go, due March 27, seems very strong, from what I’ve heard from it. The album’s first video is, of course, out now and that’s the Big Kenny song “Last Dollar (Fly Away).” The song I’m most curious about and still haven’t heard is “Kristofferson.”

March 20 will also reveal the collaboration by Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Ray Price. Last of the Breed is exactly that and is a marvelous document of these three old country cats still hanging on and still sounding like themselves and sounding good. Highly recommended.

April brings new music from, among others, Alison Krauss, LeAnn Rimes, Martina McBride (Wake Up Laughing), the Nashville Star winner and Live at Texas Stadium from George Strait, Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson. On the McBride album, listen for the killer cuts “Tryin’ to Find a Reason” and “Anyway.”

Blake Shelton’s Pure BS bows May 1, and it’s very good. That same day, Miranda Lambert’s sophomore effort Crazy Ex-Girlfriend also arrives, and I like it from early listenings. The title cut’s obviously a radio hit, but I especially like the small-town songs “Dry Town” and “Famous in a Small Town.”

May 15 shows Gretchen Wilson’s The Girl I Am. I have heard samples of all the cuts, and I have to say in all frankness that what I heard was erratic — some good songs, but I’ll reserve judgment until I can do some extensive listening. I think the current song selection for Wilson does not always suit her well and that the attempt to present her as a sexpot serves her poorly. She is, for God’s sake, a blue-collar single mother in real life. That was the strength of her career breakthrough identity, and that’s how she should be seen. That video of her trying to be a beach babe in “California Girls” was, I think, beneath her. I’m looking for her to rise above that. John Anderson’s Easy Money also comes out on May 15, and it’s like putting on a comfortable pair of favorite shoes: very nice and good to have back.

On June 5, one of the old pro Porter Wagoner’s most interesting albums ever is coming out on the L.A. hipster label Anti-. Wagonmaster is a fascinating piece of work that sums up part of a long and equally fascinating career. Perhaps the most interesting thing about the album is the song “Committed to Parkview.” Johnny Cash wrote it about a Nashville institution where both he and Wagoner spent time. He gave Marty Stuart, who was in his band at the time in the early ’80s on tour in Europe, a cassette of the song and asked him to pass it on to Wagoner. Well sir, in 2007, when Stuart produced this album for Wagoner, he remembered the song, found the cassette and presented it to Porter. For a singer well-known for his classic “Rubber Room,” “Committed to Parkview” was a perfect fit.

June will also bring new works from Big & Rich (Between Raising Hell and Amazing Grace), Brad Paisley, Terri Clark, Luke Bryan’s debut, the June Carter Cash tribute Anchored in Love, Sarah Buxton’s debut, Bon Jovi’s Nashville album and Billy Currington’s latest.

And, Willie Nelson has a single that addresses the war. Sales of the online downloads will benefit the National Veterans Foundation. Here are his lyrics to “What Ever Happened to Peace on Earth”:

There’s so many things going on in the world
Babies dying
Mothers crying
How much oil is one human life worth
And what ever happened to peace on earth

We believe everything that they tell us
They’re gonna kill us
So we gotta’ kill them first
But I remember a commandment
Thou shall not kill
How much is that soldier’s life worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

And the bewildered herd is still believing
Everything we’ve been told from our birth
Hell, they won’t lie to me
Not on my own damn TV
But how much is a liar’s word worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

So I guess it’s just
Do unto others before they do it to you
Let’s just kill em’ all and let God sort em’ out
Is this what God wants us to do

And the bewildered herd is still believing
Everything we’ve been told from our birth
Hell, they won’t lie to me
Not on my own damn TV
But how much is a liar’s word worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

Now you probably won’t hear this on your radio
Probably not on your local TV
But if there’s a time, and if you’re ever so inclined
You can always hear it from me
How much is one picker’s word worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

But don’t confuse caring for weakness
You can’t put that label on me
The truth is my weapon of mass protection
And I believe truth sets you free

And the bewildered herd is still believing
Everything we’ve been told from our birth
Hell, they won’t lie to me
Not on my own damn TV
But how much is a liar’s word worth
And whatever happened to peace on earth

God bless Willie Nelson.