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Country's New Tune

Country music prides itself on being the voice of red-state America. So it's hardly surprising that, in the years immediately following September 11, country music artists came out loud and proud with a variety of fightin'-mad anthems. But, sometime around 2004, the in-your-face calls to arms faded, and the war-themed offerings coming out of Nashville started taking on a more somber tone.

In 2004 girl-group SheDaisy produced the hit single "Come Home Soon," which focuses on the pain of separation felt by soldiers and their loved ones, climbed the country charts to number 14:

John Michael Mongtomery's "Letters From Home," released the same year, made it all the way to number two:

Darryl Worley's 2003 "Have You Forgotten?" is often held up alongside Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue," as evidence of country's deep-seated, reflexive patriotism. But his 2006 hit, "I Just Came Back from a War," is more ambivalent. The story is told from the perspective of a recently returned vet sitting in a bar, trying to explain to his buddies why he seems different:

Even a stiff-upper-lip tribute like Trace Adkins's 2005 "Arlington," in which a soldier tells of his pride in making the ultimate sacrifice for his country and of his thankfulness to be among the "chosen ones" who "made it to Arlington," is nonetheless a doleful ballad about a dead boy coming "home" to the country's most famous cemetery: