Sons Of The Desert Make Change After Song Dispute

Texas group returns with new album, new label following rift over 'Goodbye Earl.'

NASHVILLE — It's been a roller-coaster year for Texas

quintet Sons of the Desert, who

release their MCA Nashville debut, Change, this week, after

leaving Epic Records over a couple of song disputes.

The band claimed "creative differences" with Epic and parent label Sony

Music Nashville on their unreleased sophomore album, citing issues

involving their losing the single release of the song "Goodbye Earl"

(

HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Dixie_Chicks/Goodbye_Earl.ram">RealAudio excerpt of Dixie Chicks' version) to the

COLOR="#003163">Dixie Chicks — who posted a #2

Billboard hit with it — and their own song "Albuquerque"

(

HREF="http://media.addict.com/music/Sons_Of_The_Desert/Albuquerque.ram">

RealAudio excerpt). The Sons felt they'd been given short shrift

on "Albuquerque," owing to a produced version they didn't like.

The Sons had been singing "Earl" in concert, and they recorded it for

their second album. The Chicks began playing it live and recorded it on

their album Fly. But when it came time for choosing singles, Sony

gave permission for the Dixie Chicks — not Sons of the Desert

— to release the song.

After the male-bashing brouhaha surrounding "Goodbye Earl," the Sons

find it interesting to note that men originally recorded the song, which

has a "Thelma and Louise" theme.

"We've been told when we sing it, it's taken like a story — an

audio movie — but that when females sing it, it's taken literally,"

Sons frontman Drew Womack said.

His brother, guitarist Tim Womack,

further explained: "We played the song for several radio stations, and

we never received comments calling it male-bashing."

Representatives for Sony Music Nashville and the Dixie Chicks declined

comment.

A New Day With MCA

The group said goodbye to these woes, however. When MCA Nashville

recruited the Sons for its roster, the quintet parted with Epic.

"[MCA Nashville President] Tony Brown was a fan of our first album and

said he wouldn't try to change us; he just wanted to get us out in front

of more people," bass player Doug

Virden said.

"We've really gained a new sense of respect and confidence with this

change," added Drew Womack, who co-wrote five of 11 songs on

Change, compared with three on the unreleased project.

"The same goes for the studio," Virden continued. "We were recording

within two or three weeks of signing our deal, and we had a lot more

input with this album." Tim Womack also appreciated the rush into the

recording process, as "we had started second-guessing ourselves."

Besides their MCA debut album, the Sons also recently provided

background vocals on unrelated Lee Ann

Womack's hit "I Hope You Dance." When we first heard this

song, it was magic," Drew Womack said. "We've been fortunate to be a

part of some great songs."

They also backed Ty Herndon on his

#1 hit "It Must Be Love," and Drew Womack co-wrote the

COLOR="#003163">Kenny Chesney chart-topper "She's Got It

All."

Their own material becomes more rocking on Change, a switch from

their ballad-heavy debut that spawned the hits "Whatever Comes First,"

"Hand of Fate" and "Leaving October."

But their emphasis on strong lyrics and harmony continues, and the aptly

named title track seems as if it were written for them. "Tony called us

and said, 'We found the title track and first single.' It had to be,

because of what we've been through," explained Drew Womack, who even

changed his physical appearance by cropping his long locks.

What's more, the album sounds more like their live-performance style

— down to "Real Fine Love," a song by John

Hiatt, whose songs they frequently draw upon in concert.

"[Hiatt] is one of my biggest influences," Drew Womack said. "But we

took out one verse, to shorten it, so you'll have to buy the Hiatt

version for its entirety."

A new version of "Albuquerque" is edgier than the slower counterpart

previously released as a single. "We wanted to cut it again, to sound

like our live performance," Drew Womack said. "Albuquerque" was written

by tunesmiths Chris Lindsey and

Stephonie Seekel, who also

contribute "Everybody's Gotta Grow Up Sometime," which tells a tale

about GI Joe ditching the IRS by hiding out in Mexico.

Other highlights include the textured cut "From Goodbye to Hello," which

marks the first song finished by co-writers Drew and Tim Womack and

Virden, and "Too Far to Where You Are," which finds Drew Womack wrapping

his pipes around a soaring pop melody originally on hold for country

superstar Tim McGraw.

"We wanted to do something like some of the '80s bands we liked, and

this one reminds of Squeeze," Drew

Womack said.

Takin' It On The Road

Sons of the Desert will hit the road in support of the album on the

Spare Change Tour, beginning June 16 in Hastings, Neb., through Sept.

16, when they'll wrap up in Hutchinson, Kan.

According to Virden, the tour will be a return to their club-circuit

roots. "We'll be playing some free shows at smaller venues, which feels

good because that's where we came from."