NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Presidential Politics Call on Country

John Edwards Is First to Enlist Country Music Support

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

So, the first signs of the country music element in presidential politics for the election of ’08 are starting to be seen.

To be sure, Merle Haggard has been sowing seeds by chipping away at the Bush administration’s credibility with such songs as “That’s the News” and “Rebuild America First.”

Then his song “Hillary” showed up recently. It reads in part:

If we don’t elect Hillary, then we’ll never know/She is the right lady, and her husband’s a pro/Eight years in the White House with the know-how we need/When you walk with a leader, you learn how to lead/And who kept her head high when it could have been down?/And who ran the show when the scandal hit down?/This country needs to be honest, changes need to be large/Something like a big switch of gender/Let’s put a woman in charge.

The song is available on Haggard’s Web site as a $1.99 MP3 download.

During the ’04 presidential campaign, one of the more interesting events was Brooks & Dunn’s performance of “Only in America” at the Republican National Convention — interesting mainly because Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn co-wrote the song with Don Cook, one of the founders of the Music Row Democrats.

Remember when Hank Williams Jr. amended the lyrics of his song “Young Country” to read thusly: This is Bush-Cheney country/’Cause we’ve got our pride/And we don’t believe in more taxes and lies/Get out of our schools/Big government leave us alone/And with George W. president/Take your OWN money home!

This week, candidate John Edwards’ campaign announced that a new country CD will be sent out to anyone who donates $50 or more to his campaign. The CD, Moneyland, includes a number of country artists. Here’s his campaign message about it:

“If you chip in $50 or more, you’ll receive a free advance copy of the not-yet-released CD Moneyland. Moneyland tells the story of the plight of rural America, through a collection of recordings, both old and new, from legendary country and bluegrass recording artists, including: The Del McCoury Band, Merle Haggard, [Gillian] Welch, Marty Stuart, Emmylou Harris, Bruce Hornsby & the Fairfield Four, Mac Wiseman, Patty Loveless and more.”

You can hear the songs from Moneyland on Edwards’ official Web site. (That is, you can hear them if you pay before you play.) Edwards is very smart for including the great song “Farmer’s Blues” sung by Stuart and Haggard. It is a very effective presentation of what rural America — or what’s left of it — is facing.

When Edwards made an appearance at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium recently, the night concluded with McCoury, Rodney Crowell, Sam Bush, Chely Wright and actress Ashley Judd joining Vince Gill, who led the audience, his fellow performers and Edwards in singing “Amazing Grace” to mark the Virginia Tech massacre. Edwards also recently spoke at Ralph Stanley’s free concert in Roanoke, Va. I hear that Edwards’ “rural strategy” is in full swing, being directed by his senior strategist Dave “Mudcat” Saunders, who lives in Roanoke County and who was instrumental in former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner’s “rural strategy.”

John McCain’s musical moment, meanwhile, came at an appearance in Murrells Inlet, S.C. When asked whether he believes the United States should send “an airmail message to Tehran,” McCain joked, “That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, ‘Bomb Iran.’” Then, he sang: Bomb, bomb, bomb/Bomb bomb Iran.

For the upcoming Democratic National Committee winter meetings, some of the candidates have listed their theme music preferences for their appearances. Gen. Wesley Clark wants Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down.” Joe Biden prefers John Fogerty’s “Centerfield.” Hillary Clinton favors “Right Here, Right Now” by Jesus Jones and “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive. Dennis Kucinich, who picked John Lennon’s “Imagine” in 2004, now has selected “America the Beautiful.” Edwards, who chose John Mellencamp’s “Small Town” in 2004, now leans toward Mellencamp’s “Our Country.”

Hillary once took her lumps when she criticized Tammy Wynette for the sentiments in her song “Stand by Your Man.” If Clinton has any political moxie at all now, she will appropriate Elizabeth Cook’s feisty new song, “Sometimes It Takes Balls to Be a Woman.” I mean, hell, go all out. It will be a down-and-dirty, vicious, dog-and-cat fight to the bitter end. Might make a good country song.