That’s Been Fifty Years Ago… 50 Years of the CDB Part 26: Fiddle Fire: 25 Years of the Charlie Daniels Band
In 1998, after Blue Hat Records and Anderson Merchandisers parted ways, Blue Hat signed with Navarre for distribution.
Rather than do another specialized niche project, dad and Blue Hat did something very smart. They did an album celebrating 25 years of the CDB called ‘Fiddle Fire’ featuring some of the band’s best-known fiddle songs and re-recording tracks so that we owned the master recordings, as opposed to Sony who owns the masters from 1972-1991 (and 1996’s ‘By the Light of the Moon).
One advantage of this is that it would allow for things like when ESPN’s Monday Night Football approached dad to record a re-written version of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” as “Peyton Went Down to Georgia” when the Broncos played the Falcons in 2012, they had an existing track to work with where dad was able to replace the vocals instead of recording the song from scratch.
Ron Griffin returned as producer and engineer, as did the same band lineup from ‘Blues Hat.’
Of the songs on ‘Fiddle Fire,’ only two had not been recorded before. Some were well-known, some not so well-known.
But let’s go through them.
The album kicks off with a cover of “Texas,” from ‘Nightrider.’ Keeping with the idea of shooting for vocal event nominations, a couple of guests were called upon, both of them from Texas, Lee Roy Parnell and Ray Benson from the band Asleep at the Wheel.
It’s a fun cover of a classic and the music video they shot moved at a frantic pace because I’m pretty sure they recorded the video at a slower speed and then sped it up to match up with the actual speed of the track, so you get frenetic movements, but they all still synch up with the song.
They did change one line, instead of the line, “They just want everybody to leave ‘em alone while they drink their whiskey and roll their own” the second part of the line was changed to “They don’t tell you your business, just mind their own.”
Next up is a little-known song called “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” the arrangement is pretty similar to the original, except for an extended keyboard walkdown before the first verse, and changing “S.O.B.” at the end of the song to “Son-of-a-gun.”
I’ve talked about it before, the original recording had two different versions recorded on the same day, the “S.O.B.” version was the album cut and AOR radio choice, while country and top 40 stations (and some Gospel) played the “son-of-a-gun” version.
“High Lonesome,” a song that was recorded for the album of the same name. I don’t remember much fiddle on the original, it was mostly guitar. I’m guessing they wanted a slower song so they added more fiddle to it in order make it fit onto an album called ‘Fiddle Fire.’
Next is “Fais Do Do,” a song that was recorded for the Capitol Records release, ‘Same ol’ Me,’ and unfortunately, the song had the same ol’ problem. Nothing to do with the Zydeco-flavored song itself, but rather the opening attempt at the Cajun phrase, “Laissez Bon Temps Rouler!” with “Temps” pronounced more like “Ton” and came out “Les le bon Temps Rouler”
It’s still a great song, even if the phrase is wrong, just like the version on ‘Same ol’ Me.”
“Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues” is next up. It’s basically the same arrangement from ‘Homesick Heroes,’ but the guitars sound a little “nastier” and less polished, which isn’t a bad thing.
And of course, the fiddle player isn’t too shabby either.
“South’s Gonna Do It (Again)” is up next. I think it’s one of the few albums that lists the title with “(Again)” since ‘Fire on the Mountain’ which later evolved into adding again at the end. The parentheses might have been the idea of the late Pat Halverson, but I can’t say for sure, but most of the time you see it with the parentheses.
Fun fact about this version of the song, it’s got an up-and-coming guitar player from Australia adding some pretty decent guitar work. He was playing in a band called The Ranch at the time, but they broke up. His name was Keith Urban. I always wondered what happened to him…
And one other notable tidbit about this song, after years and years of talking about how Elvin Bishop “ain’t good lookin’ but he sure can play” he changes it to “downright handsome, something he started doing on stage for a while.
Next, we have a great live version of “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye” which showcases the live sound of the band in all its glory.
I don’t know which show was recorded for the song. I looked through the CD, but I couldn’t find anything.
The album’s title song was written by CDB guitar picker, Chris Wormer. “Fiddle Fire” is a rockin’ instrumental which shows off both dad’s fiddle playing and Chris’ guitar skills.
“The Fiddle Player’s Got The Blues” would have fit right at home on the ‘Blues Hat’ album, it’s about a fiddle player who has had a run of bad luck, and has a bad case of the blues, and playing beer joints is better than hard labor, but not by much these days, because “the fiddle player’s got the blues.”
Next dad covers the Derek and the Dominos iconic “Layla” again, which he did originally on 1991’s ‘Renegade’ album.
This version holds up nicely to the original, but it probably sounds a little less polished and by 1998, the obsession with vocal reverb in the studio had subsided a bit.
He still changed a line either knowingly or unknowingly from “ease my worried mind” to “ease my breaking heart” just like he did on ‘Renegade,’ I always wondered about that.
Next, the Ervin T. Rouse fiddle classic “Orange Blossom Special” gets another live rendition. Come to think of it, I don’t believe dad ever recorded this song in the studio, only live versions going all the way back to the very first Volunteer Jam which is the version on the ‘Fire on the Mountain’ album.
This version adds some of the stage staples that he added to the arrangement over the years. That’s one of the great things about “Orange Blossom Special,” it lends itself to creative arrangements. Over the years dad has added part of ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb,’ and “Dixie,” along with his own unique ending where he brings the song down to just him and the fiddle then creates the slow chug of a train starting to move, getting faster and faster until the speed becomes a fiddle crescendo and then ends.
The last song on the album is another cover from ‘Renegade,’ one of my favorite CDB songs ever, “Talk to Me Fiddle,” it’s basically the same arrangement, but dad changes a couple of words, instead of “talk to me fiddle” when playing the blues it’s “cry for me fiddle,” and similarly Bob Wills style is “Swing for me fiddle” and an old man playing in Kentucky to “Dance for me fiddle” and ends with the iconic outro to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”
It’s a solid album of greatest hits and other songs which deserved a second look.
The album is dedicated to dad’s longtime manager, David Corlew.
Next time, dad gets “covered up” in a ‘Tailgate Party!’
*NOTE* My goal was to finish up all the remaining albums before the end of the year, to make that happen, I’m going to have to double up… prayers would be appreciated!
Check out Fiddle Fire HERE
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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