NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Country’s Future: Shania Twain, Taylor Swift, Don Williams

Plus: One Man's CMA Awards Predictions

Is this in country music’s immediate future?

Shania Twain’s comeback album should be spectacular. Skeptics are already saying that without the guiding hand of guru/former husband Mutt Lange, she will flounder. Knowing what I know about Twain, I suspect her new venture will be successful. Just like Dolly Parton, Shania is a veritable iron butterfly. Deceptively wispy but with a steel backbone and with shrewd intelligence. Shania will triumph.

Don Williams’ new comeback tour will be a minor sensation. Unlikely? Stranger things have happened, and Williams’ song catalog is one of the strongest in modern country music. In the ’70s, he was a mainstay. He more or less disappeared from modern country music in the early ’90s, but a man who has had 17 No. 1 country hits should never be counted out. Consider some of the songs he made famous. Eric Clapton recorded his “Tulsa Time” for a pop hit. “Amanda” was also a hit for Waylon Jennings and still resounds in clubs and honky-tonks. Prominent Nashville bass player Dave Pomeroy has signed on for the Williams tour, which began this week and runs through the end of October.

Taylor Swift will endure. Despite the constant and furious attacks from naysayers, Swift is a genuine music pathfinder in songwriting and in speaking for her generation. When the greatest living songwriter on earth, Kris Kristofferson, endorses Swift as he did at the recent All for the Hall benefit at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theater, you know you have a gold chip stock. Sayeth Kristofferson in response to an interviewer asking him if Swift might someday aspire to membership in the Country Music Hall of Fame, “She’s already in the Hall of Fame!”

Jamey Johnson will continue to reign as country music’s shining beacon of musical integrity. He kisses no ass and takes no prisoners, and his music blazes with an intensity like nobody else’s in any musical genre these days. Lyric of the year: “It might be lonely at the top, but it’s a bitch at the bottom.” The most important thing to realize about Jamey is that he is the key to Nashville for the national and international media. He is the magical link between the gritty, golden past of Hank Williams and Waylon Jennings and today’s pastel, pastoral country.

Carrie Underwood will graciously serve as co-host of the CMA Awards show despite being continually ignored for the nomination for the CMA entertainer of the year award. Several other artists I know would scorn the show given the same circumstances. Underwood has endured all of this with great patience and serene poise.

Record labels will continue to throw beautiful young male and female aspiring artists at the wall to see if any will stick. It’s a desperate attempt to capture the elusive youth market Taylor discovered. Thus far, not many are sticking to that wall.

This week’s predictions for the winners at the 2010 CMA Awards:

Entertainer of the year — Lady Antebellum Female vocalist — Miranda Lambert Male vocalist — Brad Paisley Album of the year: Lady A’s Need You Now
Musical event — Blake Shelton and Trace Adkins“Hillbilly Bone” New artist — Zac Brown Band Vocal group — Lady A
Single — Lady A’s “Need You Now” Song — Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me” (written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin)
Music Video: “The House That Built Me” (directed by Trey Fanjoy)

We will be subjected to more and more songs about Georgia clay and Georgia mud.

Every country artist who looks camera-ready and is capable of being vocally auto-tuned will appear in a movie.

Despite my best efforts to stomp such songs out, mediocre country songwriters and singers will continue to churn out the “I’m so country” songs, full of grocery lists of stuff that they think defines country. There is still hope, though. We pretty much ran off all the redneck songs.