Why Is The Music Of Nashville So Good? A Look At The Songs And Songwriters From The Show’s First Three Episodes

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Nashville Music
Nashville is a really good show, you guys. If you think it’s going to be like some Country Strong knockoff, or if the thought of Hayden Panettiere singing will make you want to un-save the cheerleader (Heroes callback! Remember Heroes?), I can assure you that neither of those scenarios are the case. Nashville is soapy network TV at its best with unrequited love stories, illegitimate children whose paternity will probably get discovered soon enough, and a rivalry of old talent (well, Connie Britton old, so still youngish and hot) competing with new ingenue (Panettiere, who is younger and by certain Hollywood definitions, hotter). And the music on the show, which is executive produced by T. Bone Burnett, is so, so good. These folks aren’t messing around. Using real Nashville locations (The Grand Ole Opry, The Bluebird Cafe), she show mixes fact and fiction and employs a stable of established songwriters to provide the music for the show. For a list of all the music featured, ABC has created a music page found here.

Each week, I’ll be giving a rundown of my favorite music from the show, and since I’m a little behind, and we’re coming off of episode three, I’ll start with a quick refresher of the best songs so far, and their impressive pedigree.

Episode 1

The series focuses on the tension between two established female stars, but the B-plot revolves around Scarlett (Clare Bowen) and Gunnar (Sam Palladio), the waitress/poet and sound guy/musician, respectively, who work at the Bluebird Cafe. There’s sexual tension between the two, which sucks for Scarlett because she’s dating Avery, an aspiring musician. Scarlett is persuaded by Gunnar to put one of her poems to music and perform it at the Bluebird’s open mic night, and the song that results lands them a demo deal with Nashville’s biggest producer. The song, called “If I Didn’t Know Better,” was penned by John Paul White and Arum Rae and originally performed by VH1 You Oughta Know artists The Civil Wars. Watch the Nashville clip below and then check out the Civil Wars’ version here.

Episode 2
The highlight for me in episode two was yet another duet, this time performed by Connie Britton as superstar Rayna Jaymes and her ex-lover, Deacon Claybourne (Charles Esten), whose denim-clad bones she would still like to jump despite the fact that she’s married. Their song, “No One Will Ever Love You,” is another one that comes from the brain of Civil Wars’ songwriter John Paul White and co-written with Steve McWean. I swear this show isn’t only duets. Some have criticized Connie Britton’s voice as not being worthy of her fictional superstar status on the show, watch the performance and judge for yourself. I’m willing to overlook it.

Episode 3

The song “Undermine” has been featured in two episodes so far and on the show it’s “written” and performed by Deacon and Juliette. Not for nothin’, but Juliette is trying to steal Deacon away from Rayna, both as a band leader and lusty bedfellow. I know I said this show wasn’t just about duets, but this is another example of an amazing pairing, and tell me Panettiere’s voice isn’t surprisingly good, especially when she sings with Esten (who is best known — to me — as the guy from The Office and Whose Line Is It Anyway? before this so that’s also mind-blowing). The song in real life is co-written by Nashville-based songwriters Trent Dabbs and Kacey Musgraves, and was recorded by Musgraves, have a listen to her version here.

Next week: hopefully some solos!

[Photo: ABC.com]