Thursday, January 10, 2008

They're picking on Charlie

If you're a fan of bluegrass you've noticed an increase in the number bluegrass covers of pop songs. A band called Iron Horse was the first instance I'd ever heard of such a thing, when this little band replaced Metal with Mando and covered Metallica and Ozzy. The results were strangely listenable, and they've almost created a genre by now covering everything from Van Halen to Kansas.

Their label, CMH, has been in the business of cross pollinating music for a while now, and you can catch just about any twist on pop music there you can imagine.

In their catalogue a number was recently released that provides a bluegrass interpretation of country hits, called "Pickin' On Today's Ultimate Country Hits Volume 3," that contains a cover of a certain song by Mr. Charlie Daniels and his Band. It's an interesting take on an old favorite, and it stands out in the collection. I am not familiar with many of the other songs, but this is an interesting way to check out a song without the interference of celebrity personality to make you cringe and avoid it. Sorry, Bon Jovi, trying to sing country.

Here’s the tracklist:

1 I Love This Town (The Bluegrass Tribute to Bon Jovi)
2 I Told You So (The Bluegrass Tribute to Keith Urban)
3 Love Me If You Can (The Bluegrass Tribute to Toby Keith)
4 Everyday America (The Bluegrass Tribute to Sugarland)
5 Moments (The Bluegrass Tribute to Emerson Drive)
6 I Wanna Feel Something (The Bluegrass Tribute to Trace Adkins)
7 The Devil Went Down to Georgia (The Bluegrass Tribute to The Charlie Daniels Band)
8 Lost (The Bluegrass Tribute to Faith Hill)
9 Proud of the House We Built (The Bluegrass Tribute to Brooks & Dunn)
10 Life Is a Highway (The Bluegrass Tribute to Rascal Flatts)
11 Take Me There (The Bluegrass Tribute to Rascal Flatts)
12 Never Wanted Nothing More (The Bluegrass Tribute to Kenny Chesney)
13 As If (The Bluegrass Tribute to Sara Evans)
14 Online (The Bluegrass tribute to Brad Paisley)
15 All My Friends Say (The Bluegrass Tribute to Luke Bryan)

You can see more information about the album and get it here.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Salinas, California Show

Salinas, California Show
So I was fortunate enough to catch another CDB show, close to home for me this time. It was as usual, excellent and the band was in top form. The set list is posted here, and this is the actual set list that was gaff taped to the floor right where Charlie was playing.

Before the show started I saw Bruce Brown hanging out talking to the guy in charge of merchandise, and spoke to him for a few minutes. He said he had a chance to walk around Old Town Salinas and really enjoyed it. My friend Dan went with me and asked him how long he'd been with the band, and Bruce said 18 years. Wow. I guess he's not really the new guy anymore!

One of the things he mentioned was the set list, and that since they've sort of played the same show since the start of the year, they pretty much don't need it anymore. "I know the first three songs, and after that we just watch Charlie to see what's next." So the actual set list did vary from the one that was taped to the floor.

Here's what I have as the set list from tonight which is only slightly different from the one the band was working from.

  1. Drinking My Baby Goodbye
  2. South's Gonna Do It Again
  3. El Toreador
  4. Trudy
  5. Simple Man
  6. Scarlet Carnival (Taz's song)
  7. Wooley Swamp
  8. In America
  9. The Christmas Song
  10. Easy on the Eyes (Bruce's song)
  11. Floreada Road
  12. Long Haired Country Boy
  13. How Great Thou Art
  14. 1812 Overature (Chris' song)
  15. Rocky Top
  16. Star Spangled Banner
  17. The Devil Went Down to Georgia


Now one of the funny things that Charlie did was throw out a reference that I had to look up in Wikipedia to understand what the heck he was talking about. In the song In America you know he usually throws a little local sports reference in for the local team for the line in the original studio version said "You just go and lay your hand/On a Pittsburgh Steelers fan/And I think you're gonna finally understand."

It's all good when he references a different local football team, such as the Dallas Cowboys when he's playing in Dallas, or the 49ers when he's in San Francisco. This time around, instead of the Pittsburg reference, he said, "Rainbow Warrior fan." Well, turns out the Rainbow Warriors are a fleet of tugboats that Greenpeace uses to generally pirate the oceans for environmentalism. So I guess that the Raiders didn't get their shout out, but in retrospect, you can't blame him for the potshot. This is probably as close to Santa Cruz as Charlie will get and it is probably just as fitting as anything around here.


Salinas is more of a cowboy town than a hippie haven, though, so when Charlie started the Star Spangled Banner, an interesting thing happened. First a big guy in front of me -- listen to "Play Me Some Fiddle" from Simple Man to get a lyrical visual -- took his hat off respectfully, then the guy next to me took off his ball cap. One by one, people stood up and put their hands over their hearts, and by the time the band joined in the fiddle solo for the crecendo, every one stood up. It was funny because there wasn't a flag in sight but the song is so patriotic - it's our National Anthem, for pete's sake - people were looking around for a flag to salute. Of course, the only flag in sight was the rainbow flag. Just kidding.

I should also mention that the venue was a good place to catch a show. It's a recently renovated venue and they are making an effort. There's a lot of potential there, if they can attract big shows like this one again.I brought a friend of mine along, who has only had the sort of pop culture exposure to Charlie that most of the world has had, and he went in knowing about three songs by the band, but like I figured, he was sold. How could you not be? It's a world class band with more talent than all the rest (this is a fan site, so I'm allow to be at least somewhat biased). If anyone missed a note, I didn't catch it. Last but not least, we did meet Charlie before the show and he was kind and gracious as usual, and we got our picture taken with him. I'm on the left, Dan's on the right, and Charlie's in the middle. Dan just let me know he's going to spring for a bow signed by Charlie now.

All is good in CDB land.

The lady in the front row took some pictures and posted them on Picasa, and since she put the link the comments section, I'm including it here!

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

CDB Volunteer Jam 2007 - Shoreline Amphitheatre Recap

I just returned from the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California and here is the recap. I was able to go with three friends of mine, which was great, since originally I was only going with one. Thanks to Ginger Ambrose from the CDB Volunteers, who sent me a couple of extra meet and greet passes, there was room for more so my buddy Mike and his wife Melissa went along with Scott, who had never had the privilege of seeing the CDB. It's always fun to bring a newcomer to the music, because they inevitably become fans, and even better when they get to meet Charlie. It's like never having tasted chocolate then getting to meet Willie Wonka at the factory.

The show started at six and right on schedule the Outlaws opened up the show with Ghost Riders in the Sky. They played a few of their hits including Green Grass and High Tides, along with a new one called Rippin through Kentucky, Almost Home, and Trail of Tears. They closed their set with Hurry Sundown. It was a great set, although it seemed short, and I may have missed a song or two from the set list. Hughie Thomasson and company were in great form, and were joined on two songs by David Muse from The Marshall Tucker Band and Pat McDonald from the CDB, who added two the drum corps (they play with two sets) by banging on the bongos. This is a great guitar band, and worth catching these guitar virtuosos play it like they meant it. It was cool to see Hughie Thomasson leading his own band, since the only time I'd seen him before was as a sideman for Skynyrd. Check out Outlaws tour dates at their website, Outlawsworld.com.

Next up was the incomparable Marshall Tucker Band, who started their set with This Ol' Cowboy. Doug Gray was on vocals and in between songs joked with the sizable crowd about his age (59) and his ex-wives (>1). They have a new album coming out June 19th called The Next Adventure. This is what was posted from a similar set on the MTB message boards, and it seems to jive pretty well with what we heard:

This Ol' Cowboy
Dog Eat Dog World
Fire on the Mountain
Hillbilly Band
Georgia Moon
Can't You See

Chris Hicks played guitar and sang on a solo song he has worked up called Dog Eat Dog World for an album to be released by Sony. He's an outstanding musician, with a real feel for the blues. We had to leave right after Fire on the Mountain to go backstage and visit with Charlie, so unfortunately missed some of the MTB set.

We lined up by one of Charlie's tour buses called the TPR II (Twin Pines Ranch, I guess) and waited in line for a while with other lucky folks, to meet Charlie and get some pictures signed that were handed out by none other than Mr. Dean Tubbs. There was a a curtain opened to the stage, so we had a glimpse of the MTB playing Can't You See.

We were moved to a crowded trailer to wait to meet Charlie as the MTB played for the masses, and slowly made it up to Charlie, who was kind enough to sign the pictures Dean had presented us. We snapped a quick picture and made it out of there with just a little bit of chit-chat with Charlie. I mentioned how I was sorry I hadn't made it to the fan club party last week, and Charlie said I should come next year, something I really hope to be able to do one of these days. Mike wished him a happy birthday, and Charlie thanked him and pointed out that his birthday had been in October, but he'd been out of the country and they just celebrated it at the fan club party. A side note here, that if you ever want to go to a BBQ and private party with the band, that it would be possible if you would join the fan club. It's every year in June in Charlie's hometown. That kind of accessibility is one of the many reasons I love the CDB and try to keep this site up.

After that, we were shuttled out, and Mike was able to snap a picture of the Marshall Tucker Band finishing their set.

By the time we got some garlic fries the show was about to begin, and it opened with a bang with Drinkin' My Baby Goodbye. Here's the complete set list:

Drinkin' My Baby Goodbye
El Toreador
Money
Simple Man
Wooley Swamp
Trudy
The Pledge of Allegiance and In America
Floreeda Road (with David Muse from the MTB on Sax)
Long Haired Country Boy
How Great Thou Art
Rocky Top -- Charlie on Fiddle
The Devil Went Down to Georgia
The South's Gonna Do It Again (with the Outlaws and the Marshall Tucker Band)

Notice that Charlie played a few songs from the Full Moon album, including Money, which was a first for me to hear in concert.

Also worth mentioning was the incredible drum solo by Pat McDonald in Floreeda Road. Pat is a maniac and it is amazing to see him work the skins in such a large venue that seemed to tax their ample sound system. Not to take anything from the rest of the band, but to see people unable to keep their seats for a drum solo was quite something. It proved why the CDB doesn't need two drummers when this one can play as well as any three, and stats from the US Geological Survey registered it a 4.7 on the Richter Scale. Fans are looking forward to the release of the CD with a studio version of Floreeda Road and another Chris Wormer vehicle -- The Flight of the Bumblebee. That should be interesting!

The show wrapped up with Charlie bringing all three bands together to play the CDB standard The South's Gonna Do It Again, and it was like watching a nuclear bomb detonate with all the musicians playing at once.

It was the closest thing to a Southern Rock Symphony that Northern California has heard.

Hopefully, it won't be the last.

More pictures of the event. are available here.

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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Volunteer Jam DVD Review

Music DVD Review: The Charlie Daniels Band Volunteer Jam

Written by Richard Marcus
Published May 04, 2007

Back in the early 1970's there was a rebirth of sorts that happened in Rock and Roll music in the United States. Rock and Roll got its birth in the United States in the South when people like Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis started to combine the country music they grew up listening to, with the Blues music that Black people were playing all around them.

The resulting Sun Records recordings were nothing short of revolutionary in the impact they had on popular music in the States. In those days the business of Rock and Roll was still pretty innocent. There weren't many marketing executives around then packaging performers and pasting label on their music. I mean how could you have a cross over hit between Country and Rock and Roll when that's exactly what you're playing, Country and Rock and Roll.

I don't think those original Sun Record touring shows of Elvis, Jerry Lee, Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, Johnny Cash, and whoever else they crammed into the cars and buses that took them around, were even called Rock and Roll shows. If anything they toured under the banner of Sun Records and the name of the sponsor.

Even though all of them were from well below the Mason Dixon line, calling what they did something like Southern Rock was as alien to them as calling it Afro-Cuban. Twenty years later one could see how much the industry had changed when a group of bands who had far less in common musically than the groups from Sun Records did, were lumped together as Southern Rock.

Charlie Daniels, of The Charlie Daniel Band, in an interview done this year for the release of the DVD of his 1975 Volunteer Jam, made the same point. He said that while they may all have been born in the same part of the world, The Marshall Tucker Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Allman Brothers, and Z. Z. Top never played music that could have been call similar. He could never understand why they were all called Southern Rock.

That being said, because they were all from the same part of the world, friendships struck up between the bands. So when the Charlie Daniels Band was doing its second "Volunteer Jam" in 1975 the invited guests included The Marshall Tucker Band, a couple of friends from the Allman Brothers and a variety of friends from other bands like Wet Willie.

In 1974 the Charlie Daniels Band needed to record a couple of songs for an upcoming album in a live situation, so they rented a small hall in Nashville Tennessee, invited some of their friends along to have fun after they had laid down the tracks they needed for the album. They called it Volunteer Jam in honour of the state of Tennessee whose slogan is, The Volunteer State.

That first one was so successful, that they decided to do it again in 1975, this time in their hometown of Murfreesboro Tennessee. The concert was made into a feature film and released in 1976 called Volunteer Jam. Now twenty – one years later it is being released on DVD for the first time.

In 1975 Charlie Daniels and his band were riding high on the strength of their hits "Long Haired Country Boy", "No Place To Go", and "The South's Gonna Do It (Again)" and were able to attract large audiences, especially in the South. So when the Volunteer Jam was announced it quickly sold out a 14,000-seat arena

For anybody who wants to see the epitome of good classic 70's rock roll, watching the DVD Volunteer Jam should be required viewing. Multiple guitars, keyboards, elaborate bass playing, and lots of drums were all staples of the period. The music is loud, rowdy, and live; you won't see any sign of a drum machine or tape loops on this stage.

The only costume anybody is wearing is blue jeans and the occasional cowboy hat. There's no elaborate stage show, only stacks and stacks of speakers. The music is being played by people who love what they're doing and it shows in how much they appreciate each other's efforts and the amount of pure fun that they're having.

What was even better was that nobody fell into the Rock God trap that was too common in those days and went off into twenty-minute solo. Everybody, including the special guests, played like they were members of a band, and the band's performance was the priority not their own egos.

It doesn't mean that these people aren't gifted players, because they are, in fact, I had forgotten how good the members of The Charlie Daniels Band are. From the bass player who can play any style demanded of him, the guitarist who can somehow make his instrument sound like a fiddle without a synthesizer so he can do a fiddle duet with Charlie, the piano player who plays piano not keyboards, the drummers who can keep time and be elaborate, and Charlie who plays an amazing violin and not bad slide guitar.

If there's a drawback or an unfortunate part of this disc it's the fact that it was originally shot on film back in 1975. There's only so much you can do with digital transfer techniques for sound and picture quality, so occasionally neither are what you'd what them to be. But considering the fact it was a live concert twenty-two years ago you can't really complain.

The one thing that did bother me was nowhere on the packaging, or on the disc are there band credits. They list the names of all the performers, but I couldn't have told Dru Lombar from Jimmy Hall if my life depended on it. At the least they could have supplied a song-by-song breakdown of who did what in the liner notes, or added on credits at the end of DVD to that effect.

But aside from that, there isn't much to complain about with Volunteer Jam; it may not be Southern Rock, but it sure is a great example of classic 1970's Rock and Roll.

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