(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
With summer fading, it’s a good time to look ahead to new music that’s here and is coming soon. Here’s some music I’ve been enjoying lately.
• Miranda Lambert probably doesn’t want to be forever categorized as the kitten with a whip, or the spitfire who’ll take gunpowder and lead and kerosene to your sorry ass if you ever cross her. Of course, Lambert is much more than that, as she shows on her third CD, Revolution. She still recorded “Time to Get a Gun” here, but listen to “Makin’ Plans” or “The House That Built Me” or “Love Song” for the more introspective and thoughtful Miranda. She will preview the entire album at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium Sept. 24, before its release on Sept. 29. I would not have picked “Dead Flowers” as the first single release from the album, as was done, but — no one asked me.
• Reba McEntire is back to just being “Reba,” as she has done with the Reba Duets album and other projects. The new CD is Keep On Loving You, and she once again rambles through the musical spectrum, offering a variety of songs. Good for her for straightforwardly choosing to sing mature songs such as “She’s Turning 50 Today.” No sense pretending you’re a kid anymore. Country music audiences actually like grown-up people.
• Several years ago, the R.J. Reynolds tobacco company mounted an elaborate campaign aimed at what they considered to be an untapped consumer market: women of a certain lower economic class who were the female equivalent of the Marlboro Man. Reynolds referred to them as “Virile Women.” Reynolds didn’t realize that “redneck women” were really their target. The campaign didn’t work. What Reynolds actually had in mind was a true virile woman, although they didn’t realize it. By that, I mean a woman such as Terri Clark. A stand-up, ballsy woman, I mean. Clark is back, after taking a sabbatical to care for her ill mother, and she’s got a collection of uncompromising songs on The Long Way Home. It’s good to see Clark again and to hear her in fine voice, with 11 new songs she wrote or co-wrote.
• Jack Ingram has traveled a long road from his sort of cult following in Texas to gain a national audience. His new Big Dreams & High Hopes builds on that ascendency. “Barefoot and Crazy” from the album is turning into a major hit. I especially like his duet with Patty Griffin on “Seeing Stars.”
• John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival fame has returned with his Blue Ridge Rangers — the name he adopts when he records country and other favorite songs. And The Blue Ridge Rangers Rides Again is another good ride through a few of his favorite songs, some at full-throttle Fogerty express attack and some almost surprisingly soft-voiced. In the latter category, you might have your eyebrows raised by his treatment of John Denver‘s “Back Home Again.” Hey, it’s a good song and Fogerty’s a great singer.
• Ricky Skaggs, the skilled and seasoned bluegrass and country veteran, steps out by himself with a flourish on Ricky Skaggs Solo: Songs My Dad Loved. Hobert Skaggs taught his son the deep, deep roots of bluegrass and Appalachian music, which Ricky quickly picked up on as a child prodigy — picking with Bill Monroe at age 5 and making his Grand Ole Opry debut at 7. Now Ricky re-introduces some of the music here in rich detail. He plays all the acoustic instruments himself. It’s very charming and uplifting music from long ago.
• Radney Foster remains one of Nashville’s best singer-songwriters that not enough people appreciate. He was one-half of the wonderful Foster-Lloyd duo with the equally delightful Bill Lloyd, and now Foster, with his band the Confessions, steps out with an especially bold solo CD. Revival contains 12 songs (plus a reprise of the song “A Little Revival”). There are songs about sin and forgiveness, about God and angels, about love and hope. And they rock out. It takes more than one listening to absorb it all.
• I’m still regularly listening to Loudon Wainwright III’s High, Wide & Handsome, his Charlie Poole project, and now I’ve found a great companion package. The Red Fox Chasers were contemporaries of Poole in North Carolina, and there’s a new double CD set of their music — I’m Going Down to North Carolina: The Complete Recordings of the Red Fox Chasers (1928-31). This four-piece group recorded only 42 songs before disbanding, but they left some remarkable examples of stark, unpolished mountain music. Not surprisingly they shared some tunes with Poole and with the Carter Family.