By age 82, perhaps most people have long settled into their retirement years. But not Charlie Daniels.
This road warrior, frenetic fiddler, and hard-driving lead singer of the Charlie Daniels Band keeps setting new goals and exploring new creative outlets.
In August came Volunteer Jam XX: A Tribute To Charlie Daniels. In November, Daniels released the book Let’s All Make The Day Count: The Everyday Wisdom of Charlie Daniels (Thomas Nelson), which includes a 10-song accompanying CD by the same title.
“The only thing I’ve ever wanted to do was make music and be a professional musician,” Daniels tells musicrow.com. “I’ve been very blessed to get to do that. All the other stuff stems out from that.”
Perhaps his most interesting project came in October, with the release of a new 10-song album Beau Weevils–Songs In The Key Of E. For the project, Daniels teamed with a trio of longtime friends and fellow musicians, including Charlie Daniels Band bassist of 43 years Charlie Hayward, and Billy Crain (whose late brother Tommy was a CDB member) on guitar. James Stroud, who produced several of The Charlie Daniels Band’s hit albums including 1988’s Homesick Heroes, 1989’s Simple Man, 1991’s Renegade, and 1996’s The Roots Remain, spearheads the drums. Daniels, of course, lent his signature, vocals, guitar and fiddle work.
“I love the way James plays drums and the way this whole album is made, I wrote the songs in that framework of the way he plays,” Daniels says. “I call it playing on the backside of the beat, he has a relaxed feeling when he plays drums.”
Stroud was a studio musician when he first met Daniels several decades ago; over time he would also become a producer on those seminal CDB albums, and would spearhead production for artists including Tim McGraw and Clint Black. Later, Stroud made his mark on country music on the label side, spearheading Giant Records, DreamWorks Records Nashville, and serving as co-Chairman of UMG Nashville before launching the indie label Stroudavarious Records and later, R&J Records.
“We became friends through doing all those records and over the years we would talk, and he would say, ‘I wish there was something we could work on together again.’” Stroud says. “Less than a year ago, he called me up and said he had written a couple of songs. I went over to his house and he played me this song ‘Mudcat.’”
The song served as a catalyst for the album (which includes eight new tracks); the project was recorded over the course of three or four sessions at Daniels’ home studio outside of Nashville. As the four-man group would record, the session would inspire Daniels to pen more songs, and then regroup with Stroud, Crain, and Hayward to record more.
As deduced from the album title, all tracks were recorded in the key of E, though Daniels says that wasn’t intentional.
“They just lent themselves to being in that key, with that swampy sound,” Daniels says. “There is something special about the key of E, the way the open strings of the chord sounds. A lot of the old blues players played in that key.”
“We took a song at a time,” notes Stroud. “There is nothing electronic as far as loops or electronic overdubs on the record,” Stroud says. “So we wanted it to be the way we grew up playing music and the way we recorded records. All the overdubs and percussion I did by hand and that’s unheard of nowadays. As Charlie would play the songs for the musicians, we just let ourselves jam like we used to and fool with the music until it felt right. That was what was so much fun on the record.”
For Daniels, the tell-tale sign that it’s a good record comes from repeated listens.
“When I make a record, I usually finish it up and I’m on to something else. I don’t go back and listen to records a lot. But this record I’ve listened to more than any record I’ve recorded in a long time.”
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