Recording information: Ardent Recording Studios, Memphis, TN; Dog Town Studio, Nashville, TN; Easy Eye Sound, Nashville, TN; House Of Blues Studios, Nashville, TN; Olympic Studios, Los Angeles, CA; Ronnie's Place, Nashville, TN; The Red Room, Nashville, TN; The Village, Los Angeles, CA.
Apparently ABC is deeply invested in its hit television series Nashville; this soundtrack is the second volume from its first season. Creator and executive producer Callie Khouri's drama about the city's musical and political scenes, wound around and through the intimate lives of country stars Rayna James (Connie Britton) and Juliette Barnes (Hayden Panettiere), are given weight and heft by a stellar cast that includes Charles Esten (Deacon Clayborne), Clare Bowen (Scarlett O'Connor), and Sam Palladino (Gunnar), among others. For those who don't already know, the actors in the series actually perform the songs assigned them. The music is selected, directed, and often produced and performed by T-Bone Burnett and his ace studio band, which includes guitarist Buddy Miller. This second volume features two performances from Britton and three by Panettiere. Of those songs, the standouts are clear, the latter's reading of Patty Griffin's "We Are Water" reveals the deepening of her character and stands in stark contrast to the more pop-oriented offerings on the previous volume, as does her performance of Sarah Buxton and Kate York's "Nothing in This World Will Ever Break My Heart Again," with its well-placed strings and canny drumming by Jay Bellerose. Britton's reading of Lucinda Williams' "Bitter Memory" -- a crunchy rocker produced by the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach -- and her more languid performance of Buxton's and York's "Stronger Than Me" offers an intimate and convincing look Rayna's personal struggles (should Britton choose to become a solo artist apart from acting, she'd have no trouble). Lennon & Maisy Stella, the two young women who play Rayna's daughters, deliver their own intimate, killer take on the Lumineers' hit, "Ho Hey," while the duo of O'Connor and Palladino deliver wonderful duets in "Fade Into You" and "I Will Fall," which may be the album's finest tracks. Like the second half of the first season in this series, this volume has plenty to offer fans of the show, but more importantly, to fans of Americana and non-formulaic contemporary country to boot. ~ Thom Jurek