Nashville Tunes-Up for Season Five

W.G. “Snuffy” Walden is back as composer of record on “Nashville,” which is stacking the playlist for a triumphant season five return in January. (Yes! We argue that it’s more impressive to have loved, lost and regained than to have simply coasted along on cushy broadcast renewals — scrappiness being the very essence of Nashville).

Snuffy Walden was series composer in 2013, when he joined T Bone Burnett and  Keefus Ciancia on score duty, succeeded by A. Patrick Rose.

When CMT and Hulu premiere the two-hour season five opener on Jan. 5 there will be some new characters warbling in the wings. Chanteuse Rhiannon Giddens promises to add a note of tragic elegance with her turn as a social worker Hannah Lee Jordan, who fiddles with our heartstrings even as plucks her banjo. The lovely Ms. Giddens is part of the black ensemble Carolina Chocolate Drops, which won a 2011 Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album with their fifth studio record, “Genuine Negro Jig.” (Interesting aside: as a soloist, she won 2016’s Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass).

Singer-actress Bridgit Mendler (Undateable, Good Luck Charlie) has also been cast in a recurring role as Ashley Wilkenson. Mendler. The Disney Channel alum (“The Wizards of Waverly Place”) is about to release her second studio album, “Nemesis,” the follow-up to 2012’s “Hello, My Name Is…” for Hollywood Records. Since then, she’s released some songs piecemeal, become something of a YouTube sensation (not unlike her new character!) with hundreds of millions of views. Her latest single is “Atlantis.”

The “Nasville” series premiere, entitled “The Wayfaring Stranger,” will be directed by series creator Callie Khouri with a new set of show runners backing her writer-producers Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick (“Thirtysomething,” “My So Called Life,” and a slew of feature films) .

As of Oct. 1, “Nashville” season four episodes began airing back-to-back on AXS TV, the joint venture between CBS, Anschutz Entertainment Group and Ryan Seacrest, in anticipation to the new, and what many believe will be the final “Nashville” season.

In May, ABC cancelled the show at the conclusion of season four — just shy of the 100 episodes needed for syndication. Shortly thereafter, CMT and Hulu announced a 22-episode fifth season commitment  for the Lionsgate and ABC Studios co-production.

Although there has been much speculation as to whether the show’s star, Connie Britton, would stick around for season five, it’s pretty much a given that as a co-executive producer on “Nashville” Britton has a vested interest (literally!) in making it past the syndie finish line, though as she is likely taking a cable-shave in terms of her salary it is not surprising that she is making noise about fewer appearances (i.e., don’t expect her in every episode).

In addition to those dulcet-toned songbirds, the Stella sisters (Maisy Stella as Daphne Conrad and Lennon Stella as Maddie Conrad), series mainstaysHayden Panettiere (Juliette Barnes) and Charles Esten (Deacon Claybourne) are also returning, along with: Clare Bowen (Scarlett O’Connor), Chris Carmack (Will Lexington), Will Chase (Luke Wheeler),  Jonathan Jackson (Avery Barkley) and Sam Palladio (Gunnar Scott)

With retournees Frankie Pine as music supervisor and Russell Scott Zieker as music executive, one can expect the same attention to tuneful detail that made the previous season’s soundtracks strong sellers (and helped to propel a few careers).

The Louisiana-born, Texas bred Walden has scored dozens of TV shows and won an Emmy for  his title theme for “The West Wing.”

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