NASHVILLE SKYLINE: New Sounds From Holly Williams and Del McCoury

Plus the Tractors, Oak Ridge Boys, Steve Earle, Steve Wariner and More

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

This has been a listening week for me. Here are some of the sounds I’ve been enjoying.

Del McCoury, Del McCoury: Celebrating 50 Years: The great bluegrass innovator celebrates his 50th year in music with a nice, thick boxed set of 50 of his favorites from over the years — most of which he recently re-recorded. Richard Thompson’s great song “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” will endure forever.

Holly Williams, Here With Me: This CD is growing and growing on me. Holly has an indefinable quality to her voice that can intrigue and then hook you. Hank Williams’ granddaughter has an elegant clothing store in Nashville and records music that is just as elegant. How wonderful.

The Tractors, Trade Union: How about some pure blue-collar, meat-and-potatoes, good-time music with a strong backbone? This is serious music. The world needs more Tractors and Leon Russell boogie. Head Tractor Steve Ripley reminds everyone that Oklahoma does rock.

Kenny Chesney, Greatest Hits II: Kenny is getting this youth-romantic-angst-thing down into a nice groove. “Anything but Mine” remains a personal favorite. I ran into some Parrothead friends the other night who said they’re shifting their allegiance from Jimmy to Kenny.

Scott H. Biram, Something’s Wrong/Lost Forever: Alt-country’s great musical misfit has a whole album full of satisfying musical rants. “Still Drunk, Still Crazy, Still Blue” is a song I play often. I still haven’t caught him live in concert, but I will.

The Oak Ridge Boys, The Boys Are Back: It’s always risky to shift musical direction, but the Oaks are headed there, and the audience jury is still out on this new CD. I especially like the Jamey Johnson composition, “Mama’s Table.”

Ray Charles, Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music: This re-issue of one of the most important and influential country records ever made is a cause for celebration. If you’ve never heard it, you’re in for pure musical pleasure. First released in 1962, this music is so rich and textured, it serves to remind you that in the pre-digital age, artists paid careful attention to what they were doing, and great care was often taken with the recording. And it shows in the grooves.

J.B. Beverly & the Wayward Drifters, Watch America Roll By: Without trying to sound retro, Beverly manages to evoke the musical spirit and legacy of the late Hank Snow. Which is a very good thing.

Steve Wariner, My Tribute to Chet Atkins: What a musical treasure in hearing one great guitarist salute the greatest country guitar player ever. Wariner is one of only four guitarists that Atkins honored with his title of “c.g.p.” (“certified guitar player”). The other three are Tommy Emmanuel, John Knowles and the late Jerry Reed.

Steve Earle, Townes: A music master’s nod to his own musical master, Townes Van Zandt. You can listen to this for weeks on end and discover new twists and turns in Townes’ lyrics.

Johnny Cash, Original Sun Singles ’55-’58: Twenty-four musical gems, from “Cry, Cry, Cry” to “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” in this new CD package. This amounts to a lifetime of music … until you remember what Cash did later in his career.

Jonell Mosser, Trust Yourself: She may be Nashville’s best pure singer, and she torches every living creature within a one-mile radius. I want to hear the title cut (a Bob Dylan composition) at least once a day.

Felicity Urquhart, Landing Lights: She’s one of several very talented young Australian singer-songwriters who are making a name for themselves. Urquhart wrote or co-wrote all 12 cuts here. She sings with a deceptively understated style that I think could build an audience. I certainly like her.

Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, Tell ’Em What Your Name Is!: The Austin-based blues band brings back the grand tradition of a high-octane, kick-ass blues outfit that’s chock full of horns and energy. The current CD is a good introduction to their music.

I’m also liking what I have heard so far in advance music from the Parks, a father-son honky-tonk duo originally from Borger, Texas. You can hear some strains of Southern rock and even the WaylonHank Jr. thing in there. They have released a single, “As Long as You’re Going My Way.”