(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
In thinking about some recent music I have greatly enjoyed, one factor becomes all-important. Often, the best music does not come from a record label or from a successful producer or from the songwriting factory.
It is organic music, true roots music, that comes from the ground up, that comes from artists acting on their own musical inspirations. Think about recent arrivals such as the Pistol Annies and the Civil Wars. In both cases, that music was not expected and fit nothing else that had been successful recently. Neither group is a new version of any group that had been working before in the music. Their music copied nothing that had been successful recently. By all commercial standards, they should have failed. But they didn’t. Because they found an audience. Or an audience found them.
Remember after Taylor Swift hit it really big? Record labels were running around frantically, trying to find the next young Taylor Swift. Nashville was flooded with beautiful teenaged and even pre-teen girls, all seeking to be the next Taylor. Where are they now? Gone. All gone. None of them hit. Because the audience didn’t need or want another Taylor Swift. They already had the one they wanted.
I am sure there are record labels and producers scouring Nashville and indeed the entire South right now in a search for another Pistol Annies and for another Civil Wars. But you know what? We don’t want or need them. We already have the real thing.
Here are some hopes for the music in 2012:
To all artists and songwriters and producers striving to create new music this year: Please endeavor to remember and honor the spirit and the fervor of such works as Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me,” Brad Paisley and Alison Krauss’ “Whiskey Lullaby,” the entire O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack album, Jamey Johnson’s “In Color,” Dierks Bentley’s “Home,” Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance,” Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” and Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus, Take the Wheel.”
And also: Matraca Berg’s “You and Tequila,” Ronnie Dunn’s “Cost of Living,” Taylor Swift’s epic videos, the Pistol Annies’ debut album, the Civil Wars’ debut album, Dailey & Vincent’s new gospel album, Willie Nelson’s epochal album Red Headed Stranger, Waylon Jennings’ Dreaming My Dreams, Eric Church’s “Homeboy,” the Avett Brothers’ “I and Love and You,” Solomon Burke’s soul country, Ray Charles’ Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, the spirit and soul of the movie Crazy Heart and Laura Cantrell’s Kitty Wells Dresses: Songs of the Queen of Country Music.
And that’s to name but a few of many worthy works that have come before.
It was upon bricks such as those that this house was built. And it will not stand without its foundation being constantly strengthened and renewed.
As a final note, attention, all you young punk-ass would-be countrier-than-thou aspiring country artists and songwriters: If you want to know what a real country song sounds like, harken back to the rowdy, swaggering ex-convict David Allan Coe and his definitive this-is-country song. Never mind the fact that Waylon Jennings once famously said Coe’s idea of being an Outlaw was double-parking on Music Row. Coe did indeed walk the walk and talk the talk.
If you’ve never listened to Coe’s “You Never Even Call Me by My Name,” it’s time you checked it out. He modestly admitted in the song that — once he took Steve Goodman’s original song and added the requisite country elements of mama, prison, trains, trucks and getting drunk — he had indeed created the perfect country song. And it still stands up very well on its own two feet today.
Now, that is a by-God country song worthy of the name. That’s a song that can fairly well jump out of the speakers and thoroughly kick your ass. It is way more country than just about anything that I heard last year.
I suppose I should be proud that Coe once wrote a song for me titled “I’d Like to Kick the S**t Out of You.” Quite an honor.