That’s Been Fifty Years Ago… 50 Years of the CDB Part 8: High Lonesome
‘High Lonesome’ was the CDB’s second album of 1976, and it definitely complements its previous entry, ‘Saddle Tramp.’
The same personnel and producer and studio were involved, so it makes sense that it was a continuation of the same sound, and a couple of Tucker boys helped out again, George McCorkle and Toy Caldwell.
The album also introduced the band’s most enduring logo, forever referred to in CDB circles as the “High Lonesome logo,” and has been in wide use ever since 1976 on album artwork, concert ads and posters, merchandise… you name it.
The album begins with “Billy the Kid,” based on the legendary outlaw.
“Poor Billy Bonney, you’re only 21,
Pat Garrett’s got your name on every bullet in his gun.
Every notch you carve on your six-gun has a bloody tale to tell.
You’re a mile ahead of Garrett and a step outside of hell.”
Dad was always a great storyteller and the fact that he could do it to music was impressive, and "Billy The Kid" tells the story of one of the old west’s most famous outlaws, and dad loved his westerns. It made for a great song.
Next up is “Carolina” which is the first of several songs that the CDB recorded about dad’s North Carolina home.
It’s about a man who left his home in North Carolina for New Orleans to play guitar at the ripe old age of seventeen, and wants to return but worries that he might have been gone too long.
Interestingly, this song was reworked for the 1990 ‘Christmas Time Down South Album’ as “Carolina I Hear You Calling” which added a new verse (the original only had one) and the new first verse framed it as a return home at Christmas.
Next up is the title track, “High Lonesome,” which is what dad called the homestead on Twin Pines Ranch. Lots of beautiful dual lead guitars by dad and Tommy and inspired piano from Taz.
The line about “Just you and me and a little white pup” was a reference to a white toy poodle we had that I named Toulouse, after a cat character from the movie The Aristocats, yes, cat, dog… but it fit him.
There’s also a line about “Watching my son growing honest and tall.” That one brings a tear to my eye.
Once again, I’m trying to keep dad’s ideals and his legacy going for many years to come.
“Running With the Crowd” is a rockin’ tune with an older cowboy dispensing wisdom to the younger ones, don’t cheat at poker, don’t think that a man’s size makes him small, do an honest day’s work, and don’t get easily teased into a fight because the other cowboys have guns too and it’s a short trail to nowhere. Some of these could just about be reworked into one of dad’s “Let’s all make the day count” tweets.
“Right Now Tennessee Blues” is an uptempo ode to the Volunteer State, and how much he wants to get back home when he travels. Some friends of his moved out to the West Coast and wanted him to see the blue sky and ocean, to which he replies “There’s too much town and not enough ground, and the ocean ain’t blue, it’s green.”
Our adopted hometown of Mt. Juliet, TN gets a shout-out, along with Memphis, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Nashville.
Next is “Roll Mississippi” which features Taz on vocals, and the phrasing on the verses is reminiscent of Shel Silverstein’s “The Cover of Rolling Stone” - yes, that’s the actual title, not “The Cover of THE Rolling Stone” even though some digital platforms list it that way since that’s how it is sung – about a Mississippi riverboat card game with a “six-foot black-haired green-eyed woman” the “devil’s daughter.”
“Slow Song” is one of those rare CDB ballads, soft and tender, but this one is about a love that is ending because he wants to chase his dreams out on the road. It’s a bittersweet song, but beautiful.
The next song features Tommy Crain, “Tennessee” as in “we got all we need, we got Tennessee.” It’s a fun song to sing along to, and Tommy was the only native Tennessean in the CDB at the time, so if anyone could sing a song about Tennessee, it would be John Thomas Crain, Jr.
The last song is “Turned My Head Around,” which contains one of my all-time favorite CDB lyrics. “Treat a woman like a lady and your lady like a queen.” It’s a song about a man whose head gets turned around the other way – figuratively - by seeing what the world was like after his father gives him advice, then again by an older woman who takes him in to “educate” him, and finally -and probably most literally – in a bar fight.
The album was dedicated to photorealistic western artist, James Bama, and prolific western author, Louis L’Amour.
“To Louis L’Amour and James Bama
Here’s to gut rotting whiskey and Saturday night
And pistols and poker and hellacious fights;
Here’s to cowboys and trappers and mountains and woods
And “Slim With A Saddle” and “Rose Plenty Good”;
Here’s to hard-living men who took care of their own.
Like Chantry and Sacket, Catlow and Kilrone;
From the lowlands of Texas to high Tennessee,
What a hell of a fine place this world used to be.
My sincere appreciation for the hours of honest pleasure you’ve both given me." – Charlie Daniels 1976
I don’t know if dad ever met James Bama, but the dedication to Louis began a decades-long friendship that led to a home in Colorado near the L’Amour’s ranch and a dedication to mom and dad for Louis’s book, “Jubal Sacket.”
Come to think about it, with western-themed songs like “Billy The Kid” and “Running With the Crowd,” dedicating the album to a western artist and writer makes total sense.
Louis even had a book called “High Lonesome” back in 1962, and I have no doubt that dad read it and enjoyed it.
Louis passed away in 1988, but the Daniels have remained friends with the L’Amour family ever since.
The next album, "Midnight Wind," has several interesting stories behind the title and the album artwork, which was dad's least favorite cover of all the CDB albums. We'll talk about it next time.
What do you think?
Let’s all make the day count!
Pray for our troops, our police, the Peace of Jerusalem and our nation.
God Bless America!
— Charlie Daniels, Jr.
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