That’s Been Fifty Years Ago… 50 Years of the CDB Part 4: Way Down Yonder/Whiskey - Soapbox Jr.
‘Way Down Yonder’ was released on Kama Sutra Records in early 1974.
It’s a very personal album for several reasons. First of all, it was dedicated to my grandfather, William Carlton Daniel(s) who passed away in April of 1973, shortly before I turned seven years old.
Dad dedicated the album to Grandpa Carlton with this, which also decorates his gravestone:
“Tall, Whispering Long-Leaf Pine Trees Sing His Song.”
Carlton was in the telephone pole business, so he knew his long-leaf pine trees.
It’s personal for another reason, but I’ll get to that in a little bit.
This album featured a shuffle in the band’s lineup, bass player Earl Grigsby was replaced by Mark Fitzgerald, Barry Barnes joined on guitar and drummer Gary Allan was added to keep the dual drummer sound that dad really liked.
First up, “I’ve Been Down” marks the return of Taz as a main vocalist, after being primarily a backup vocalist and trading vocals with dad on… on ‘Honey in the Rock.’ With this track you start to see the band’s style evolving into the southern rock groove with dual lead guitars and rockin’ groove.
Next up is “Give This Fool Another Try” which at over 8 minutes is the longest song on the alum, and is a bluesy desperate plea from a man who regrets breaking up with his lady accented with lots of weeping guitar and plenty of Taz’s keys setting the mood.
Accentuated by screaming guitars and some nice fiddle licks, “Low Down Lady” is another song about a relationship which has gone bad, in this case, in this case the song’s main character’s infatuation with a woman who can’t seem to decide what she wants and then “the low down lady is gone again.”
“I know she’s mean and low down. I see it in her eyes. I know I oughta leave her alone, but I love to see the little girl lie.”
I think I might have known her at one time.
“Land of Opportunity” is a special song, and a little different from what we’ve heard so far on the album. It’s more uptempo, and more acoustic guitar than electric, and it’s a commentary about the times – back in 1974 – but still holds true, those who are rich, powerful and politically connected can get away with criminal behavior through bribes and campaign contributions while those of lesser means don’t get such special treatment.
And it also features a little 7 or 8-year-old me. Dad asked me if I would read the first line of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, “Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that All Men Are Created Equal.”
I was some kind of excited. Here I was a mere child sitting in front of a recording studio microphone and was going to be on a record, of my dad’s no less. Super exciting!
Then a while later I heard the final mix. My excitement faded as the only thing that really remained of my “performance” was “that all men are created equal” which dad had me repeat over and over to get the effect of it echoing, everything else was still there, but you couldn’t hear It from the backup singers dad was using – who were added after my reading - who’s vocals were up in the mix, while mine was barely audible until the echo.
I feel bad mentioning it, but my feelings were hurt. Being a kid, I had no idea of what the creative vision for the song was, it’s possible that the echoing of “that all men are created equal” was all dad really planned on using all along, but since I read the whole thing, I was a bit sad that I was drowned out by the backup singers for the most part.
I think that made dad feel bad about not pushing my reading up in the mix, but it was already pressed.
In hindsight it was silly, but I was just a kid. It’s still a great song.
Side 2 kicks off with “Way Down Yonder,” a rockin’ tune with a mid-tempo groove. It’s an ode to the South and he mentions many southern towns and states, and the song also features some hot fiddle licks by the man himself.
Even though I was just a kid when it came out, “Whiskey” was always one of my favorite songs. The guitar work and grove show the influence that the Allman Brothers were having on bands from the South. I particularly liked Taz’s echoing of lines that dad sang and Taz also shines on the B3 solo.
“I’ll Always Remember That Song” shows dad’s softer side, one that would surface from time to time even though the majority of his catalog tends to be more rockin’, but this is a pure country ballad, complete with pedal steel guitar.
In the song, a jukebox song brings back memories of a lost love prompting a late night phone call to his former lady trying to mend fences, because “nobody else can fill this empty place here in my heart.”
“Looking for Mary Jane” is a bluesy rockin’ number that completes the second side, and the album. It’s a song that is definitely a double entendre, which is saying that the song has multiple meanings.
When I was a kid, I had no idea that Mary Jane was anything other than a woman’s name, I didn’t have a clue that it was also a slang term for marijuana – which I had no concept of at that age either.
It’s very possible that the man is searching the country looking for a woman who has taken his “Mary Jane” rather than her name being Mary Jane. Several other clues “She took my stash and my money too” and “I can’t get high so I sure feel low.”
If it’s worth chasing her across the country and possibly to Canada, it must have been a large amount rather than just a bag, indicating that the character telling the story was trafficking, but that’s just speculation, but it would have had to have been a LOT in order to feel the need to track it down.
Dad would re-record this for 1997’s “Blues Hat” album, and the marijuana references were changed.
On a side note, I've dabbled in the loosest sense of the word in art over the years. There's probably something there that could have been developed at one point, but my art career has been sporadic at best. But in high school art class, I did a pen and ink reproduction of the album cover which isn't too bad, if I say so myself... I did make dad a silhouette instead of trying to draw him, but it works.
And in 1976, the album was reissued with a different cover after CBS/Epic purchased the CDB catalog from Kama Sutra.
It’s a good album, dad was finding his style, but still hadn’t completely found his own voice, but that would change with the next album, “Fire on the Mountain” which also came out in 1974.
That album changed EVERYTHING.
What do you think?
Pray for our troops, our police, the Peace of Jerusalem and our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
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