I’m intrigued by the ABC’s new dramatic series “Nashville,” not because a soap opera set in Music City is in any way compelling to be (it ain’t) but because said dramatic series has tapped one of the Godfathers of Americana, Grammy winner and Oscar nominee T-Bone Burnett , to be executive music producer for the show.
Isn’t this like the chicken being put in charge of the fox’s den?
Burnett’s stewardship is made even more perplexing when you consider the show also has ties to the Nashville big label system. Big Machine records (Taylor Swift, The Band Perry) will be releasing music featured on the program. First up is the single “If I Didn’t Know Better” co-written by the Civil Wars’ John Paul White (video below)
I imagined Burnett to be the ultimate Nashville outsider. Musician, producer and guiding hand of the neo-rusticity movement stemming from movies (O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Cold Mountain, Walk the Line, Crazy Heart) rock crossovers (Elvis Costello, Robert Plant, Jakob Dylan ) to full on champion of Americana ( Alison Krauss, Gillian Welch, etc., etc. etc.)
Apparently Burnett has ties to the show that begins at home. He’s married to “Nashville” executive producer Callie Khouri ( who won an Oscar for penning the “Thelma & Louise” script. There is also the link from Taylor Swift to the Civil Wars (who she championed early on) to Burnett, who produced the recent Hunger Games soundtrack, which featured both Swift and the Wars. What the hell is gong on here?
Burnett says of music being chosen for the show: “I hope that we become the platform for the people who are writing from their whole hearts.”
Isn’t this exactly what’s wrong with current commercial pop radio? it’s not written from the heart, it’s written from the wallet.
So we have a story about Music City that is given musical dimension by the the more dynamic and emotional genre of Americana. Part of me thinks that the show should be stuffed to the gills with whatever stupid truck song is currently cluttering the airwaves and dare the audience the endure it. Aren’t there any compelling stories of talented musicians struggling to make great music without cutting each others throats to fill arenas that can better fit the greatness of this music?
In the end it’s about artists getting expose and building a fan base to make enough money to focus in their craft. No one has done more for exposing Americana to the broader public AND commercial interests that Burnett, (except perhaps NPR) so there’s no doubt he’s the man for the job. Hell he’s even got Lucinda Williams to contribute songs to the show
And , truth be told, I deeply enjoy the irony of a Music City soap opera being a powerful format for discovering great Americana and roots music. I look forward to hearing Jason Isbell during a love scene and Hellbound Glory during a road race or bar fight.