That’s Been Fifty Years Ago… 50 Years of the CDB Part 20: America, I Believe In You
In 1993, the CDB – or technically, just “Charlie Daniels” – released their first album not on Epic Records.
After the disappointment of ‘Renegade’ dad wanted off the label that had been the band’s home since 1975, and made what seemed like a potentially lucrative move to EMI Music and their Nashville-based Liberty Records.
After the success of Capitol’s Nashville label, Jimmy Bowen, head of the Nashville branch of Capitol wanted the label to have its own identity, so it became Liberty Records.
Dad found an ally in Jimmy Bowen, an industry veteran who had success across many genres of music since the 1960s.
He gave dad the freedom to make the album he wanted to make, not the album the label wanted him to make, like had been the case with the Nashville Epic offices.
This would be both a good thing and a bad thing.
But, this is one of my favorite CDB albums, even if it wasn’t marketed with the band name.
Before I get into the pitfalls that the album had, let’s start with the songs.
The album starts off with a bang, with “All Night Long,” which – in my mind – should have been the first single.
This song is rockin’, pure old-fashioned CDB magic.
It’s an underrated classic, and others seemed to love it as well. In 1999, the up-and-coming Montgomery Gentry recorded the song, and released it as a single with a certain long-haired country boy and simple man lending his voice to the project.
Almost two decades later, dad would rerecord the song for a video and audio which would run when the Nashville Predators hockey team won their home games. To this day, the Preds still play the customized “All Night Long” after home wins, although the video – which sadly, I never got to see – has since been retired.
But the song is still rockin’ almost 30 years later.
Next up is “Troubles of My Own.” It’s about a man who seems to be pretty bitter in life and basically just wants to be left alone.
He gives his last $20 to a guy who just got thrown out of his house by his woman, but he doesn’t want to get involved, just to be left alone, because “I don’t want nobody cryin’ on me, I’ve got troubles of my own.”
Later he runs into his ex-wife at a bar who tells him he’s six months behind on his alimony payments and she’s going to call the law on him. He skips out the back door when the cops come in. He jumps on a freight train to St. Louis and asks a friend of his to let him lay low for a while, because he’s broke. Turns out his “friend” – much like him – just wants to be left alone and pulls a gun on him, which causes our protagonist to flee, fearing for his life.
It’s a bit of a morality play, if you don’t really want to help someone out, or if you shirk your responsibilities, it will come back to bite you.
Then we have “Tennessee Two Step” which would have been another choice of mine for a single.
It’s actually a much more rockin’ song than one would normally expect from a song about doing the two-step.
According to the song, “It’s as simple as one two three,” and to do it, you put your left foot forward and your left foot back, and start a little wiggle in your sacroiliac.”
And everyone from Memphis to Chattanooga to the Smoky Mountains does the dance.
It’s not particularly deep, or anything, but it’s just a fun song.
“The Girl Next Door” is about a man who had been looking for love in all the wrong places, and instead found the love of his life in the girl next door who got back from college “to get herself some knowledge” to find that she was no longer a “freckle-faced tomboy.”
Swearing off “bright lights, single bars and wild nights” and says “goodbye all you partying girls.”
Sounds like he made the right call.
It’s a sweet mid-tempo love song.
Next up is the title track, “America, I Believe in You.”
I really like the song, it exemplifies dad’s love of country and his patriotism. I was even working for a video production company and we did a music video for the song which had a lot of elements to it. We were the first non-corporate film crew to shoot in GM’s Saturn car plant in Spring Hill, TN, and we brought in a lot of little vignettes of Americana to make a video we were very proud of.
It's a musical sibling to “In America,” with similar themes.
My biggest problem with the song was the choice to use it as the title track. To me, it stereotyped the album as a strictly “patriotic” album.
In fact, a few years later when he was writing liner notes to dad’s boxed set called ‘The Roots Remain,’ Nashville music writer, Robert Oerman, characterized the album as “a patriotic album,” based on the title alone.
Dad had some ideas for the title, but I think it came down to Bowen deciding that they were fighting against the song as the title track when they should embrace it instead.
It was being readied shortly after the 1992 election, and I think Bowen and some others at the label thought it would capitalize on the hopes for a new presidency.
But it’s still a great song, and years later, it was covered by Trace Adkins for a conservative-themed reworking of Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” called “An American Carol.”
As a single, it didn’t perform as the label hoped. I never thought it should have been the lead single, myself.
It was also 5:17 long which meant it needed to be trimmed down for a single, and the edit made for a weaker song because it didn't just remove instrumental parts, it also removed part of the chorus.
Personally, I thought “All Night Long” was a better title track, for what it’s worth.
“Oh Juanita,” is the second song dad wrote with my mom’s middle name in it, the first being “Juanita” from ‘Powder Keg’.
As opposed to the negative hook of the previous song, “you been cheatin’ again, Juanita,” this is another midtempo love song about a boy in love with a girl named Juanita, who promises to “never let you down” despite her mama thinking he’s “lazy and no good” and her daddy thinking he’s “crazy and if he could, he’d run me right on outta town.”
Dad would record this song for his last album of new music, Beau Weevils – ‘Songs in the Key of E’ in 2018. The funky groove fit well with the swampy stylings of that album.
“Sweet Little Country” girl is a rockin’ uptempo love song. His sweet little country girl is a “little biddy booger” who “stands about five foot four” and has “country in her soul, but she loves to rock and roll.”
It’s a song that is probably better musically than lyrically, but still enjoyable.
“Alley Cat” would have fit well on the ‘Powder Keg album. It’s contemporary, but still feels like the CDB starting off with some nice keyboards from Taz, and great guitar work from dad and Bruce.
As opposed to the other love-themed songs on this album, this one is more of a warning, “she’s evil and she’s mean like a misery machine,” and “trouble is the lady’s middle name.”
“If she ever gets them claws into you, she’ll turn you every which a way but loose.” Sounds like this woman will rip your heart out of your chest.
“What You Gonna Do About Me” is another cool CDB groove that echoes some of the early Kama Sutra albums,
It’s a love gone wrong song. His woman has casual flings, borrows his car and takes off for a month to L.A. and even pawned her engagement ring which he planned on retrieving, but she keeps stringing him along, and he tells her that “There’s gonna come a time you’ll realize a good man’s hard to find.”
Amen to that.
“San Miguel” is probably one of the best songs on the album. Musically, it has that “Caballo Diablo” or “El Toreador” Spanish feel to it, but also has echoes of “Birmingham Blues” in the intro.
The song tells the story of a gringo cowboy who falls in love with Maria Consuela Manuel, the daughter of a powerful landowner. The two make a plan for her to escape with him under the cover of night, but her father sends his cowboys – vaqueros in Spanish – after them.
They fire at the cowboy, but ultimately shoot Maria by mistake.
Dad the powerful storyteller strikes again, and the song also has an extended instrumental section, which rocks.
The dedication was to Homer Dean Tomlinson, who was a dear friend of ours. He was my principal at Mt. Juliet Jr. High, and one of the “Mt. Juliet Mafia” which was just Homer and his brothers – all very large guys - and a couple other Mt. Juliet natives who would show up at dad’s concerts or appearances in cowboy hats, leather vests and Mt. Juliet Mafia T-shirts. Homer passed away in 1992.
“Dedication to Homer Dean Tomlinson
He was a big man with a big heart and I was proud to call him friend. The young lives that he touched and helped to direct are a living monument to his love for young people. He shall be missed.
Charlie Daniels 1993”
‘America, I Believe in You’ is a really good album, but in what was becoming a trend, good music doesn’t necessarily equal a successful album. And being that the aim was radio success, I don't think it was focused on what was going on in country music at the time. Bowen let dad make the album he wanted to make, but that didn't lend itself to Country radio success.
It was another disappointment, but there was an advantage to the EMI Music signing, one of their labels was Christian label, Sparrow Records.
And that would open “The Door” to a world of new possibilities, and being able to spread the Gospel in a unique way.
Check out ‘America, I Believe in You’ Here: https://smarturl.it/CD_America
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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