To the world at large, no musician epitomizes country music more than Charlie Daniels. His name is shorthand for epic fiddle playing. His albums are country music classics. Not only is “Devil Went Down to Georgia” one of the most widely recognized country music songs in the world, it is the most celebrated face-off between an American musician and infernal powers since Robert Johnson made his alleged trip to the crossroads.
Still going strong, Daniels will soon release an album celebrating a topic with which he has become inseparably associated — patriotism.
Titled, Land that I Love, the album is a compilation of Daniels’ previous patriotic work as well as some new material. Released on the Blue Hat Records label, the new album hits stores in August 2010.
Daniels says that Land that I Love was born out of a mix of practicality and passion. His record company was asking for a new album. Few musicians are as well known for their love of country, either in their personal life or their music, as Daniels and he felt that it was the perfect time for a compilation of patriotic music.
“They say necessity is the mother of invention,” Daniels explains, “and that’s exactly what this was.”
Once the decision was made, Daniels ran into an unexpected problem. His previous body of patriotic work was so large that choices had to be made about what to include on the album. “I just didn’t realize how many of these songs we had done in the past,” he says.
THE LAND THAT HE LOVES
Land that I Love includes some new and revisited tracks as well. One of the most striking of these is “Iraq Blues.” Daniels has made multiple trips to Iraq to perform for American troops there, something he sees as his patriotic duty. On these trips, Daniels was so moved by his interactions with the men and woman in uniform, and by what he saw and experienced there, that he felt he had to write a song about it. Each verse in “Iraq Blues” captures a moment in time, reflecting a separate trip by Daniels to Iraq and his experiences during that visit.
While Daniels hopes that everyone will enjoy “Iraq Blues,” he is clear that the song was written and recorded especially for the men and women of America’s military. “I was trying to communicate with them,” he explains, “All these people who are serving or who have served in Iraq, most of them are just kids really, they are such great people. They are great Americans and great patriots. They have a real sense of mission and are doing an important job in a hard and desolate place. But they don’t complain and every day they take their lives in their own hands. I wanted them to know that we appreciate that.”
“(What the World Needs Is) A Few More Rednecks 2010″ is a song which Daniels fans will recognize as an update of his 1990 hit, “A Few More Rednecks,” a celebration of hard working, no nonsense, proud Americans from all regions and walks of life. Before the discussing the updated version, Daniels felt it was important to defend and define the term “redneck” itself.
“‘Redneck’ has assumed some really negative connotations in our culture,” Daniels says, “There’s this perception that a redneck is someone who drives around in his truck, throwing beer bottles out of the window while looking for homosexuals to beat up. That’s not a redneck, that’s an idiot.”
For Daniels, “redneck” has a broader, warmer, prouder connotation, representing the mass of hard working people who make America work and who bring common sense and practicality to their every day lives. He feels that these kinds of rednecks can be found anywhere, not just in the archetypal rural, southern environment with which the term is often associated.
“I’ve always liked this song,” Daniels said, “I like the people it represents. These are my kind of people, the people I hang out with.”
Asked why he felt it was time to update “A Few More Rednecks,” Daniels said that, when the song was first recorded, it was very specific to the world of 1990. “For example, there was a line in the song about Gorbachev, and he doesn’t really come up much any more,” Daniels comments. So the song’s lyrics have been updated with personalities and issues contemporary to the world of 2010.
While the new album is not out until August, Charlie Daniels is not someone who would let the Fourth of July pass unnoticed. Both “Iraq Blues” and “(What This World Needs Is) A Few More Rednecks 2010″ were made available as digital downloads on (when else?) July 4th. The singles will be available through major online retailers.
CHARLIE DANIELS MEETS THE (NEW) LIZARD KING
For such an iconic figure in American music, Charlie Daniels has been getting a lot of recognition and exposure recently from an unlikely source — a TV commercial he recorded for auto insurance company GEICO. In the commercial, Daniels shows a violin player at an upscale restaurant the ‘proper’ way to play his instrument, quipping at the end, “That’s how you do it, son.” How has the commercial been received? Daniels answers the question like this:
“I wish had a song that played on the radio as often as that spot plays on TV,” he jokes. Daniels says that, since that commercial debuted, it has come up repeatedly in his conversations and been referenced in almost every interview he’s done. [Although this particular writer hates feeling like a conformist, I am obviously a case in point].
According to Daniels, based on previous experience, he was expecting filming the commercial to be no fun at all. “Usually, something like this takes all day and is very repetitive. You do it, you do it, you do it, you break for lunch, then you come back and do it some more.” However, he says that the stagehands, crew, and director on the GEICO commercial were all very nice people, who knew how to laugh and joke and we’re fun to work with, “It’s still not my favorite way to spend a day,” he says, “but they all made it very pleasant.”
Daniels admits that he did not get to meet GEICO’s ubiquitous Gecko but that, when he became ill shortly after the commercial was filmed, the Gecko sent him a nice card (through GEICO’s ad agency).
DON’T FIDDLE ABOUT
A career spanning half a century, in which he’s become a musical legend without compromising his outlaw status, has given Daniels a perspective on American music that is both long and deep. He is delighted by all the interest in fiddle playing in recent years. Asked what advice he would give to young fiddle players just starting out, Daniels has two recommendations. The first is simply “practice.”
The second is for players to develop their own style. “Don’t look at me,” he cautions. “I have a very personal style of playing and frame of mind for my music. It works for me, but I do everything wrong, I press wrong, hold the instrument wrong, hold the bow wrong. If you’re going to look at someone, look at Johnny Gimble or Mark O’Connor. But make your own style.”
With such a remarkable career under his belt, Charlie Daniels is doing what he loves best — making music that celebrates the land that he loves and the men and women who help keep it strong, whether it’s soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines or farmers, factory workers, and mechanics. If history offers any guide — the land is going to keep on loving him right back.