View the CMT Crossroads flipbook.
"All I can say is, look out Conway
humorous warning during a recent television taping with Lucinda Williams. The two songwriting
icons achieved their own Conway-and-Loretta-style chemistry, singing together, backing each other, swapping stories and talking
about their country influences for what will become the first installment of a new series, CMT Crossroads, airing Jan.
13 on CMT. Stan Lynch, former drummer for Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, will host.
Taped Nov. 5 in New York, the hour-long
show is in post-production now. Editing decisions will determine the song sequence and final contents of the show, but by
all accounts Costello and Williams gave producers plenty to choose from.
The CMT Crossroads series seeks to
demonstrate the intersection of country music and other genres such as rock, rap and pop, by bringing together artists who
come from diverse musical backgrounds. Hank Williams Jr. and rap-rock star Kid Rock
will collaborate in mid-December in Nashville for a future episode.
Lucinda Williams is best known to mainstream country
fans for writing Mary Chapin Carpenter's "Passionate Kisses," which earned Williams
a Grammy for best country song in 1993. She also has penned songs for Patty Loveless
("The Night's Too Long"), Emmylou Harris ("Sweet Old World," "Crescent City") and Tom
Petty ("Changed the Locks"). As a recording artist, Williams won the Grammy for best contemporary folk album for her breakthrough
1998 CD, Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.
Highly respected in roots and rock music circles, Williams mostly has
been a Music Row outsider. Her sound is too raw and edgy for today's refined country airwaves.
"I do write
country songs," she insisted at the taping, following a performance of "Blue," a quiet weeper from her current album, Essence.
"I just don't write country songs that get played on country radio."
Costello jumped in with his own assessment of
contemporary country radio: "Yeah, they sort of have forgotten what they are."
"See, that's the whole point of [this
show]," Williams replied, "how you define country music. In my mind it's Hank Williams
[Sr.] and Loretta Lynn."
During the shoot, Williams cited Bobbie Gentry as an early influence. Gentry is the writer
and performer of the 1967 country-pop smash "Ode to Billie Joe," which features vivid, haunting Southern imagery, a characteristic
that also has become a trademark of Williams' work.
"It was really original stuff, the stuff she was doing," Williams
said of Gentry. "She was writing her own songs. She was one of the first female singers I was influenced by who sang in a
lower register. I felt real comfortable with that, because before that I was listening to singers like Judy Collins, Joni
Mitchell and Joan Baez. They all had these beautiful high voices. Then here comes Bobbie Gentry, and she had this lower, kind
of smoky voice. It was kind of country, but it wasn't typical country. It was a blend. I just really identified with it."
Costello, a native of Liverpool, England, lives in Ireland and is hardly a country artist. The singer-songwriter long
has had an affinity with Nashville, however. He recorded his 1981 country covers album, Almost Blue, there with legendary
country producer Billy Sherrill.
During the taping, Costello also recalled meeting and working with Johnny Cash and George Jones, who have recorded his songs, and he talked
about his own admiration for Hank Willams Sr., praising "the economy of expression in his songs and the true, soulful feeling
that comes in them."
Costello covered "Wild Horses," a country-flavored Rolling Stones number, for possible inclusion
in the show. He also treated the New York audience to a pair of his own songs -- "Indoor Fireworks" and "Poisoned Rose" --
from his rootsy 1986 album, King of America, and he debuted a new, unfinished song that he said he is writing for Lucinda
Williams to sing someday.
Inevitably, however, not all performances will make it into the show's final cut. More details
about the actual contents of CMT Crossroads' first installment will be available closer to air date.
- All-Star Cast Featured on Ghost Brothers of Darkland County
- Vince Gill, T Bone Burnett Honored at T.J Martell Foundation Benefit
- NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Jamey Johnson's Big Risk
- HOT DISH: Alison Krauss Shares Details of Upcoming Letterman Appearance With Jamey Johnson
- ACM Honors Trailblazers and Pioneers at Ryman Ceremonies