NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Time for a Country Gratitude Day, Vol. III

Gazing Down the Tunnel at the End of the Light

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

Things that I’m expressing thanks for this Thanksgiving weekend, while waiting for the new Trader Joe’s to find a way around local Boss Tweed liquor laws in order to start selling Nashville some Two Buck Chuck wine:

• Economically, we can finally see the tunnel at the end of the light. Unfortunately, it’s like peering down the wrong end of a gun barrel. Now that the enormity and magnitude of that tunnel can be fully understood, I think it’s time to quit bitching and moaning and time to pitch in and start doing some hard work. You don’t have to have gotten accustomed to commuting on a Gulfstream IV private jet to fully realize how austere things are getting and how much worse they will become. And it’s time to realize that we need to concentrate on ways to save and conserve what’s good and to start building what can be built, to plan what can be realistically planned. I don’t want to hear any more pie-in-the-sky music business visionary pitches about enhancing revenue streams. Show us the money. Cold, hard cash in hand.

• I’m thankful that we still can savor the legacy and heritage of artists such Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn and their peers while welcoming such talented newcomers as Ashton Shepherd and Jamey Johnson. And that a bright and gifted young singer-songwriter like Taylor Swift can come along and energize and revitalize an entire music genre, with her impact traveling far beyond.

• I’m glad that King Kong and Godzilla, along with some other Hollywood movie giants, have held off on going country and recording country albums. Although the posters and T-shirts for Godzilla: I Was Always Country and Kong Kountry! would be pretty awesome.

Willie Nelson keeps rolling along, God bless him.

• Country music retains a strong hold on its audience, which shows no signs of letting go of the music it loves. Although that audience is increasingly making noise about not always being offered what it really wants to hear. Nothing much new about that, really, come to think of it.

• People with strong musical backbones still show up in country music. Miranda Lambert, for one.

• I haven’t heard any really fresh and original, genuinely new complaints about country music this year. Kind of disappointing, really. I guess I expected more from the opposition. The same complaints keep rolling around, year after year: too commercial, too young, too old, too political, not political enough, too much sex and rock ’n’ roll, not enough sex and rock ’n’ roll, too much Kid Rock, not enough Kid Rock, not enough real country, not enough young country, too much young country, where are the good old days, too much good old days, too much Idol music … and so on. One interesting complaint this year said in so many words: “Why at all these awards shows do we see all these gorgeous young women singers wearing designer gowns and expensive jewelry, being accompanied by scruffy, unshaven guys with unwashed, uncombed hair wearing scruffy jeans? What’s with that?”

• Unexpected strong hit songs and new singers and groups still happen, as with Randy Houser and “Anything Goes” and the Zac Brown Band with “Chicken Fried.”

• Good to see that country music is at last taking notice of Trace Adkins. He’s kind of hard to miss, though.

• I’m glad for new institutions to be taking hold, such as the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, which made a huge splash recently with its second annual awards show. The big evening showcased artists from across all genres, from country’s George Jones to rock pioneer Keith Richards, to Booker T and the MGs, to Duane Eddy to Buddy Holly’s Crickets.

• Some of the memorable songs from over the past year: “Letter to Me,” “Small Town Southern Man,” “You’re Gonna Miss This,” “Just Got Started Lovin’ You,” “Better as a Memory,” “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It,” “Cowgirls Don’t Cry,” “Every Other Weekend,” “Gunpowder & Lead,” “In Color,” “Johnny and June,” “Muddy Water,” “Watching Airplanes,” “Stay.”

Count your blessings.