That’s Been Fifty Years Ago… 50 Years of the CDB Part 31: Redneck Fiddlin’ Man
2002 was a “three-fer” year of CDB music. First, the mega Gospel collection, ‘How Sweet the Sound: 25 Favorite Hymns and Gospel Greats,’ ‘Redneck Fiddlin’ Man’ was the second, and ‘A Merry Christmas To All” – which we’ll be reviewing next time – was the third.
If the title ‘Redneck Fiddlin’ Man’ sounds familiar, it’s because it was a song from 1977’s ‘Midnight Wind’ album.
Once again, dad produced, Patrick Kelly engineered and co-produced and the lineup stayed constant with newest member Mark “Sparky” Matejka holding over from the past two records.
Onto the music.
‘Redneck Fiddlin’ Man’ begins with the sounds of a vehicle coming to a stop while longtime friend and radio personality, Carl P. Mayfield announces that the CDB will be performing tonight at a venue called the Dew Drop Inn, a nod to the bar in “Uneasy Rider.” The listener’s footsteps on gravel continue until the doors open and the band kicks off with “Rock This Joint.” It’s a song that shares DNA with “All Night Long,” it’s a rockin’ “we’re here to entertain you” kinda song, with dad sawing hard on his fiddle.
There’s an instrumental break which is reminiscent of “The South’s Gonna Do It (Again),” And it had been a while since I had listened to it, I had forgotten that they added crowd noise throughout to make it sound like a live recording.
Next up is “Waco,” which is one of the best songs on the album.
Whereas “Rock This Joint” feels a little recycled, I don’t remember dad ever doing something like “Waco” before. It’s country with a bit of an outlaw feel to it. It’s got a hard driving midtempo beat and if the voice singing along with dad sounds familiar, that’s because it’s Garth Brooks. Yep, THAT Garth Brooks.
It’s about a man who’s got the blues, is broke and is stuck in the big city after a run of bad luck and he just wants to go home to “Waco.”
In a different age, this could have been a big hit.
“Little Joe and Big Bill” is a song first recorded for the ill-fated “Same Ol’ Me” album, it’s about a bar known for its food, dance floor, music, and the owners who will put you in your place if you try to cause any trouble.
It was a great song in 1995, and it’s still a great song in 2002
The haunting “Last Fallen Hero” is up next. It was the second song dad wrote after 9/11. It’s less angry than, “This Ain’t No Rag, it’s A Flag,” but still powerful describing the hijackers as “the devil and his angels,” and describes the aftermath of the "firey hell" by just saying “brave heroes fell.”
The final verse is a rallying cry for us to stand together to defeat this enemy, although the post-9/11 unity didn’t last.
One more quick note about the song. On July 4, 2002 – the first Independence Day celebration after 9/11 – the CDB was booked to perform on PBS’s annual “A Capitol 4th” special. The show was normally very “Yankee Doodle Dandy” with lots of stars and upbeat patriotism. Dad planned on playing “In America” most likely, but he also wanted to perform “Last Fallen Hero” as a tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11. PBS rejected the song as being too solemn for their “rah rah” show.
Dad pulled out at that point, feeling that if PBS didn’t want to take time to honor those we lost on the first 4th of July after 9/11, then he didn’t want to be a part of it.
But there is more to the story.
Dad, Sparky, Bruce Brown and Charlie Hayward went to the local PBS affiliate in Nashville and recorded an acoustic version which they planned on running before the “A Capitol 4th” broadcast. They did, and so did a lot of other affiliates.
That performance is on YouTube.
“Southern Boy” is next and it’s a killer song. It’s got great fiddle and a pounding beat, and it was co-written with – and performed with – Travis Tritt.
Dad and Travis got together and wrote a couple of songs in 2000 and one of those songs – “Southbound Train” - appeared on Travis’ album, ‘Down the Road I Go,’ “Southern Boy” was the other one.
Dad decided to record “Southern Boy” and Travis came in to do some guest vocals and even appeared in the music video for the song.
It’s just about southern pride, and nothing more, but it sure packs a punch.
The NASCAR-themed “High Speed Heroes” is a song that dad didn’t write. It was written by Tom Snyder who now goes by Tommy Snyder and is part of The Country Network.
Tom(my) was writing for dad’s publishing company at the time, and wrote “High Speed Heroes.” Dad liked the song, made some suggestions on some changes to the song, and then cut it.
It’s about a young driver who is finally racing against his heroes. In the original version, the rookie ended up taking the checkered flag, and dad thought that just being competitive was more realistic.
Next up is dad’s third recorded version of “Fais Do Do.” First was on ‘Same Ol’ Me’ the second was ‘Fiddle Fire’ and both of those he butchered the Cajun phrase, “Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler!”
This time, bless his heart, he got it right, and pronounced “temps” as “ton” which is the way it is supposed to be.
Third time’s the charm.
Each version has been good, but this one a coonass can listen to in good conscience, and I say “coonass” with all respect to those Cajuns who embrace it.
“Muddy Mississippi” is about a man from Memphis who is singing the praises of his hometown and highlights the city, its music, food nightlife and being the home of Elvis.
It’s a solid song and fits well with the rest of the collection
Next up is dad’s redux of “Redneck Fiddlin’ Man.” While there wasn’t anything wrong with the original recording, like I mentioned, many songs were re-recorded so we owned the masters on them instead of Sony/Epic. But it also wouldn’t have made sense to release an album called ‘Redneck Fiddlin’ Man’ without that track on it.
It’s about a fiddle player – imagine that – who plays in a local bar in a small Mississippi town. One night, some city folk come in and criticized him for not being with the current styles since he didn’t play rock ‘n roll, but he shows them up by playing rock, mountain soul, blues, jazz which no doubt shut them up.
It goes without saying that there’s a lot of mighty fine fiddle playing on this song, thanks to the extended instrumental section present in both the original and the cover.
He really could play that fiddle.
“Crosstown Traffic” is a jazzy instrumental that the band played in live shows to showcase the entire band from dad’s fiddle playing to Taz’s keyboards, to Charlie Hayward’s bass playing, Pat McDonald’s drumming as well as Bruce and Sparky’s guitar licks and what sounds like a vibraphone.
Much of time dad is playing along with the guitars much like the dual lead guitars that the Allmans were known for, or some of the earlier CDB stuff, but with the fiddle on top.
“My Baby Plays Me Just Like A Fiddle” is a second attempt to fix a great song. As I laid out in my breakdown of “Same Ol’ Me,” for some reason, the producer added Dixieland Jazz horns to a song about being played like a fiddle, but with very little fiddle on the song.
This version is much more straightforward than the original. I have to admit that I like the groove of the original better, but the horns really seemed out of place in a fiddle song.
Had he lived longer, he might have revisited this one as well like he did “Fais Do Do.”
The album wraps up with dad’s haunting instrumental version of “The Star Spangled Banner.” The instrumentation is very sparse, just a smidgen of acoustic guitar, and dobro.
There was a video for this version that was shot in the Middle East during one of the USO/Stars For Stripes tours that the CDB performed on, it’s a great tribute to our men and women who were serving at the time.
And ending with our national anthem takes us directly into the dedication.
“This work is dedicated with love, respect and prayers to the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America. These brave ones who stand between us and the enemy and preserve our liberty and the American way of life. – Charlie Daniels July 4, 2002
Within the controversies and guest stars, is a solid album from the Blue Hat Records era, and dad was having fun making the music he loved so much.
Next time, A Merry Christmas to All!
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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